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Survey: UK ISPs still failing to connect with customers

March 25, 2019

The latest Which? broadband satisfaction survey reveals that customers with the UK’s largest providers are the most likely to be getting a bad deal. BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media supply almost nine in 10 broadband customers, yet year after year these are the providers that occupy the bottom of the consumer champion’s league table.

TalkTalk and Sky are rooted to the bottom of the latest rankings – with both firms earning only a 50 per cent customer score. Despite having a reputation for cheap deals, TalkTalk was panned for the quality of its customer service and tech support and failed to score well in any category, including value for money.

TalkTalk customers were also the most likely to suffer from very slow speeds (27 per cent) and frequent connection dropouts (21 per cent) in the last 12 months. Sky fared slightly better than TalkTalk in most categories, but more than two-thirds of Sky customers (67 per cent) surveyed told Which? they were likely to switch broadband provider.

More than one in five (22 per cent) Sky customers also said they had experienced issues with very slow connection speeds. BT also received a dismal score (51 per cent), with customers particularly unimpressed by the value for money they were getting. The UK’s biggest broadband provider also offers disappointing customer service – and one in five customers experienced problems with very slow speeds (20 per cent) or connection dropouts (20 per cent), according to the Which? survey.

Virgin Media fared only slightly better, with a customer score of 58 per cent. But Virgin customers were by far the most likely to complain about price increases – with more than half (54 per cent) highlighting this as a problem.

Virgin customers were also most likely to say they had been left without a connection for hours or days at a time (17 per cent), or have had problems with their router (21 per cent).

The sharpest fall in the rankings came from Vodafone, which earned a customer score of 58 per cent but crashed into the bottom half of the rankings, having been joint fourth in the consumer champion’s spring 2018 survey. It returned mediocre ratings across the board and was also recently named the most complained-about broadband provider between July and September of 2018 by Ofcom.

Seven out of 10 (71 per cent) people who took part in the Which? members survey said that they had been with their provider for more than three years. But the consumer champion has previously found evidence that customers who have been with their broadband provider for a long time without haggling for a better deal are the most likely to be overpaying – potentially by hundreds of pounds a year.

Ofcom is currently reviewing pricing practices in the broadband market. It has also set out proposals which would require providers to advise customers when their contract is coming to an end and tell them about the best tariffs available to them.

The end of a contracted period is usually the time when substantial price rises take place – Which? analysis of deals on offer from the surveyed providers in March found the increase after the contracted deal is typically 21 per cent, but it can be as high as 76 per cent or up to £19 a month.

“It’s outrageous that the biggest providers are still letting their customers down with shoddy broadband, especially when we know that longstanding customers are the most likely to be overpaying,” declared Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services.

“Anyone who is unhappy with their current provider should take back control and switch to a better deal – you could get better service and save hundreds of pounds a year.”

According to Alex Tofts, Broadband Expert at Broadband Genie, “if you’re not receiving the service you were promised from your broadband provider, don’t hesitate to get in touch with them. There’s a good chance they will be able to resolve the problem.”

“But if your situation doesn’t change there are other options you can explore. Submitting a claim with a resolution scheme can help – CISAS are managed independently by Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), an Alternative Dispute Resolution Provider, and certified by Ofcom.”

“Switching provider is also a good way to improve your service and save money in the process. If your contract is currently up for renewal you can look for a new package without paying cancellation fees. And remember that once activated you still have a 14-day cooling off period in which you can change your mind. However, if you’re tied to a contract you might encounter a penalty if you switch. Though if your provider raises their prices above the rate of inflation you can cancel for free within 30 days of being notified of the price increase by the provider.”

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