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Poor customer service is costing broadband providers £2.98bn a year

Wednesday, February 15th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

More than a tenth of all complaints made in the UK last year were about a broadband or mobile provider.

Research by Ombudsman Services shows there were 6.9m complaints made about telecoms providers in 2016 – 13% of the overall total of 55m.

According to the Consumer Action Monitor – a survey of 2,477 UK adults – poor service costs the industry £2.98bn as customers either reduce their spend or switch providers.

Poor service costs the energy, transport and banking industries £5-6bn each, despite them receiving fewer complaints than their telecoms counterparts.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of all complaints related to retail, with the cost of poor service £10.05bn according to the report.

Ombudsman Services said that despite the number of complaints increasing to 55m from 52m last year, many more consumers experienced an issue but did not complain about it.

In all, some 75m issues were ignored, with customers blaming apathy and long-term disillusionment with businesses.

The report said nearly one in five consumers (18%) are resigned to poor service from the telecoms sector.

Lewis Shand Smith, chief ombudsman at Ombudsman Services, said: “It is great that the government is pursuing a responsible capitalism agenda, but this research shows that much more needs to be done to make the customer ‘king’ from a customer service point of view.

“The problem is that 63% of consumers feel disillusioned and feel resigned to poor service, and no longer trust businesses to do the right thing.

'A waste of their time'

“At the moment, consumers feel that complaining is often a waste of their time, because they see no change in the behaviour of big business.

“By putting consumers at the heart of what they do, businesses can prevent customers from taking their custom elsewhere, which is good for consumers and good for business.”

Ofcom rules introduced in 2015 made it easier for customers to switch broadband and landline providers.

The changes simplified the process of switching between providers that use Openreach’s broadband network – including Sky, BT, TalkTalk, Plusnet and EE.

The responsibility for switching now rests with the company to which the customer is moving, meaning consumers wanting to switch can do so without contacting their old provider.

Ofcom is also looking at making it easier to switch between providers that use different networks, such as Virgin Media’s cable network or Sky’s satellite TV service.

The regulator is expected to publish its final decision by summer 2017.

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