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How to complain to your broadband provider

By Phil Wilkinson-Jones | Wednesday, June 30th 2021

When things go wrong, usually Ofcom (the UK telecoms regulator) has your back. Its rules keep providers that are offering unsatisfactory service in check, ensuring automatic compensation, the right to switch away if your issues can't be resolved, and so on. But what if you just can't get any joy from your provider? You'll need to complain. Here's how to go about it.

What can you complain about?

  • Billing issues – These have cropped up en masse in the past, with some providers fined for overcharging customers. If you have been overcharged or just need clarification on your bill, you should contact your provider immediately.
  • Faulty equipment – You don't own the equipment supplied to you by your broadband provider. That being the case it is their responsibility to fix and/or replace it when things go wrong.
  • Slow broadband speeds – When you sign up to a broadband deal, you will be promised a certain average speed. If what you get is significantly below this and your provider cannot fix it, you can leave your contract without a penalty.
  • Connection issues – If your router can’t connect to the internet then it’s time to contact your provider. Most broadband providers will be able to tell you straight away if there’s a known fault in your area and how long it’ll take to fix it. If the fault is just on your line then you might need to book an engineer appointment with your provider.
  • Email problems – Most providers offer a free email address or even a few of them with your package. If there are problems with it, they are responsible for fixing them.
  • Customer service – When you speak to your provider, you can expect a certain level of service. If it fails to meet this standard, you’re well within your rights to complain about it.

Check the small print of your contract

Though tedious, it's almost always a good idea to familiarise yourself somewhat with your broadband contract. That way you can be aware of what your provider's obligations to you – and you to it – actually are.

Check for obvious problems – is it something you can fix?

Just because your internet stops working, don't always assume your provider is at fault. It's not always the case. Sometimes something you have done or are doing may be affecting your connection, so it's best to assume that first, before knee-jerking to a provider phone call.

It might be a cliché, but if your internet connection has dropped out, try turning your router off and on again. It's the first thing your provider will ask you to do anyway, so you may as well give it a go before you make the call. Also, it’s always worth checking that all the cables are securely plugged into the right places as this is another simple thing that might just fix the issue.

If your broadband speed is well below that which was promised or what you yourself are used to, before you complain, try relocating your router and checking your settings. Also, if it's a mobile phone, for example, try to eliminate whether it's the phone or your router by checking to see how well other devices connect.

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Making initial contact with your provider

A formal complaint is never the way to go initially. Contact your provider, explain your problem, and 99.9% of the time your provider is going to work pretty hard to get it resolved for you. And don't go in angry either. It never helps. Instead, keep calm and explain clearly exactly what the issue is. This will help the customer service team to understand your situation and find the best way to help you.

If you're not a phonecall person, you can email them, or contact most providers via social media. Twitter, in our experience, is actually the best place to get your provider's attention if you're struggling via other means. The public nature of Twitter conversations means providers have a powerful reason not to appear to have failed you in some way.

Keep detailed records of conversations

Remember to get the name of the person you spoke to, when you spoke to them and what was said. Do not record the conversation, however. The law states that if you do this you have to ask the permission of your provider and they are within their rights to say no.

Ask for written confirmation of changes to your contract

If your contract is about to change in some way as a result of your problem or complaint, make sure your provider sends you all of the details of any changes in writing. This will become important further down the line if there are any further problems.

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Making a formal complaint

Remember: You can only make a formal complaint if your provider has failed or is continuing to fail in resolving your issue. Complaints should never be made right at the outset, rather you will need to give your provider ample opportunity to fix your problem first. You can complain to your provider formally in writing via letter, email, or verbally over the phone and in some cases via live chat.

When complaining in writing, be sure to include your account number and your contact details in your letter or email. The amount of time it will take to get a reply will depend on which provider you’re with and how you decide to get in touch with them. Most providers say they’ll respond to email complaints within five or seven working days, and to letters within 10 working days.

If you don’t know where to start with a formal complaint, you can always use online complaints tool Resolver, which provides guidance and advice as to how to get the best result from your complaint, as well as free forms to use as part of your complaints process. It will also set up a case file for you and help you manage and track the progress of your complaint.

How to contact your provider

  • BT broadband – You can complain to BT over the phone by calling 0800 800 150 from a landline or 150 from a BT mobile, or even +44 150 174 7714 from abroad. Or you can write to BT Correspondence Centre, Providence Row, Durham DH98 1BT. Unresolved complaints can be escalated by emailing csmanager@bt.com
  • Virgin Media broadband – You can call Virgin Media to complain by dialling 150 from a Virgin Media landline, or by calling 0345 454 1111 from any other phone. Virgin Mobile customers can call on 789 free or on 0345 600 0789 from other mobile providers. Virgin’s text relay service is available on 18001 0345 454 1111. You can write to Virgin Media, PO Box 333, Matrix Court, Swansea SA7 9ZJ
  • Sky broadband – To complain to Sky you can call the provider on 0333 759 3857 or write to Customer Complaints, Sky Subscribers Services Ltd, PO Box 43, Livingston, West Lothian EH54 7DD
  • TalkTalk broadband – You can complain to TalkTalk by using its live chat service or by calling 0345 172 0088 or, if you use a text relay phone, you can dial 18001 then 0345 1720088. You can also complain in writing by emailing concerns@talktalkplc.com or addressing a letter to TalkTalk (TTR), PO Box 675, Salford M5 0NL
  • Plusnet broadband – Plusnet can be contacted on 0800 432 0200 or you can write to Plusnet Plc, The Balance, 2 Pinfold Street, Sheffield S1 2GU
  • EE broadband – You can call EE’s broadband complaints team on 0800 956 6059 or write to EE Customer Services, 6 Camberwell Way, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear SR3 3XN
  • Vodafone broadband – Vodafone’s complaints phone number is 0333 3040 441. The provider also has a live chat function where you can register your complaint. Alternatively you can write to Customer Relations Manager, Vodafone Limited, The Connection, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2FN
  • NOW Broadband – You can complain to NOW Broadband by calling 0800 759 1213 or by signing in to your NOW TV account and using the web form or online chat. You can also write to NOW TV Customer Care, The Hub, 1st Floor, Grant Way, Isleworth TW7 5QD
  • John Lewis Broadband – You can complain to John Lewis Broadband on 0800 022 3300 or via your account online, or you can write to John Lewis Broadband, The Balance, 2 Pinfold Street, Sheffield S1 2GU
  • Shell Energy Broadband – If you want to complain to Shell Energy Broadband you can call 0330 094 5801 or you can send an email to broadband.support@shellenergy.co.uk. Alternatively you can send a letter to Shell Energy Retail Limited, PO Box 6363, Coventry CV3 9LR
  • SSE broadband – SSE can be contacted on 0345 071 9890. You can also email customerservice@sse.co.uk or write to SSE Phone and Broadband, Customer Service, PO Box 230, Havant PO9 9DT. If you’re unhappy with SSE’s response, you can escalate your complaint to the head of the provider’s customer service team – email headofcustomerserviceteam@sse.com, call 0345 071 9853 or write to PO Box 7506, Perth PH1 3QR
  • Hyperoptic – Complaints to Hyperoptic can be made by calling 0333 332 1111. Alternatively, email support@hyperoptic.com or write to Hyperoptic Ltd, Kings House, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP and mark your letter ‘Complaints’. You can escalate complaints to the customer service operations manager at complaints@hyperoptic.com
  • Direct Save – You can contact Direct Save with complaints on 01923 709709 or via the online web form. Alternatively you can write to Direct Save, Unit 2 Century Court, Tolpits Lane WD18 9RS. If your complaint hasn’t been dealt with for four weeks, you can escalate it by emailing escalation@directsave.co.uk

Requesting a deadlock letter

A deadlock letter will be sent to you by your provider if your complaint reaches the point when neither you or your provider can agree on a way to solve it. You can ask your provider for a deadlock letter at any time if you think things aren’t going to get better, but it’s often worth giving them a bit of time to try and resolve your issue.

Contacting the Ombudsman

If you have a deadlock letter, or if your provider hasn’t dealt with your complaint in a satisfactory manner after eight weeks, you can take your complaint to what is known as an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. There are two ADR schemes that deal with broadband complaints, but you’ll only need to contact the one that your provider belongs to. All broadband providers must be a member of one of these schemes.

The Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) covers Virgin Media, Vodafone, Sky, TalkTalk and NOW Broadband as well as a number of smaller providers. You can submit a claim online, write to CISAS at the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, 70 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1EU, call 020 7520 3814 or email cisas@cedr.com.

Ombudsman Services covers BT, EE, Plusnet, John Lewis Broadband, SSE, Shell Energy Broadband, Direct Save and Hyperoptic among others. You can complain to Ombudsman Services online, send an email to enquiry@ombudsman-services.org, write to Ombudsman Services: Communications, PO Box 730, Warrington WA4 6WU or call 0330 440 1614.

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Frequently asked questions

Can I complain to Ofcom?

Ofcom doesn’t investigate individual cases. It advises that you should follow the process we’ve set out here of contacting your provider, making a formal complaint, and then taking your complaint to an ADR scheme if it hasn’t been resolved.

That said, if you’d still like to complain to Ofcom, you can. This will help Ofcom to monitor consumer issues and could lead to Ofcom launching an investigation into a company. You can complain to Ofcom online, call 0300 123 3333 or 020 7981 3040 or write to Ofcom at Riverside House, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 9HA.

Who is the most complained-about provider?

According to the most recent Ofcom complaints figures, Vodafone is the most complained-about broadband provider with 115 complaints per 100,000 customers. The least complained about broadband and landline provider was Sky, with just 21 per 100,000 customers.

How do I complain about Openreach?

If you want to complain about any aspect of your broadband service, even if it’s the parts of the network maintained by Openreach that are causing problems for you, then you need to talk to your broadband provider. Your provider will contact Openreach if that’s necessary.

If you want to complain about the behaviour of Openreach engineers – their driving or the work they’ve done in your street, for example – you can raise a complaint online.

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