By Phil Wilkinson-Jones | Wednesday, June 3rd 2020
When things go wrong, usually Ofcom (the UK telecoms regulator) has your back. Its rules keep providers 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.
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.
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.
A formal complaint is never the way to initially go. Contact your provider, explain your problem, and 99.9% of the time your provider is going to work pretty hard to get that 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 – we can relate there – 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.
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.
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.
Remember: You can only make 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 hone and in some cases in realtime 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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
Ombudsman Services covers BT, EE, Plusnet, John Lewis Broadband, SSE, First Utility, Direct Save and Hyperoptic among others. You can complain to Ombudsman Services online, write to Ombudsman Services: Communications, PO Box 730, Warrington WA4 6WU or call 0330 440 1614.
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, PO Box 1285, Warrington WA1 9GL.
According to the most recent Ofcom complaints figures, Vodafone is the most complained-about broadband provider. Between July and September 2018, Vodafone was responsible for 27 complaints per 100,000 customers. Vodafone also generated the most landline complaints. The least complained about broadband and landline provider was Sky.
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.