For most people, our broadband works perfectly well most of the time. But sometimes things go wrong and it’s good to know what your options are when they do. From making initial contact with your provider through to talking to the Ombudsman, we’ll talk you through the complaints process and arm you with the information you need to get your broadband issue sorted.
If you’re not sure whether your provider will be able to help with a particular problem, have a look at your broadband contract. This sets out what your provider is responsible for and the level of service you can expect.
As tempting as it might be to pick up the phone and start complaining the second you lose your internet connection, there might be a simple solution that doesn’t even require you talking to your provider.
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.
There are also a number of different reasons why your broadband speed might not match the speed advertised when you signed up. So before you complain, try moving your router to a better location – away from other electrical equipment if possible – and check the router settings. Also make sure that the issue isn’t with the device you’re using to connect, rather than your router.
In many cases, there’s no need to go straight in with a formal complaint. The first step is to talk to your provider’s customer service team – most of the time they’ll be able to help you, either by talking you through how to sort the problem out yourself, by arranging an engineer appointment, or by addressing any billing or contractual issues while you’re on the phone.
Remember to 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. And please stay polite – as cathartic as it can be to vent your frustrations at whoever picks up the phone, the issue is very unlikely to be the fault of that individual.
If you don’t fancy picking up the phone, there are other ways to get in touch with broadband providers. Most have a live chat function on their website, a customer service email address you can write to, and social media teams that will pick up messages on Twitter and Facebook.
Make a note of when you’ve spoken to your provider, what was discussed, and what was agreed upon as the next course of action. If you do end up making a formal complaint or going to the Ombudsman, then you’ll be grateful for this record of exactly what happened and when.
Most providers will do this as a matter of course, but if changes are going to be made to your contract, it is in both parties’ interest to have a written record of this. It will quickly resolve any disagreements that may happen in the future.
If you’ve spoken to your provider and they’ve been unable to help, or simply unhelpful, then it might be time to make a formal complaint. The first step is to let your provider know that you’re making a formal complaint. You can do this over the phone or by writing a letter. Some providers will also allow you to do this via email or 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.