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TalkTalk, Shell, and iD Mobile Are the Most Complained About Telecoms Providers

TalkTalk and Shell Energy attracted the most complaints about their broadband services last summer, while mobile subscribers were irked by iD Mobile, according to Ofcom’s latest report on complaints in the telecoms sector.

Ofcom publishes quarterly reports on the complaints it receives about broadband, TV, mobile, and landline phone services. Notably, its statistics only cover the complaints it receives, not those submitted to the individual providers, trade body Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), or the two Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers, the Ombudsman Services and CISAS. But its statistics can provide a gauge of customer experiences and while the regulator doesn't arbitrate on individual complaints, it can take action if enough customers raise an issue.

Its latest release, covering July to September 2021, revealed that TalkTalk was the most complained about broadband provider for the second quarter in a row, with 17 complaints per 100,000 customers

It was equalled by Shell Energy Broadband, the telecoms arm of Shell’s retail energy supplier, which saw a noticeable uptick in complaints, from 13 in the second quarter of the year. Shell Energy has just recently become a major player in the broadband space, after acquiring the Post Office’s broadband business in February 2021 and more than quadrupling its customer numbers to over 600,000.

A spokesperson for Shell Energy Broadband said: “We want every customer to be as happy as the vast majority of our customers are, and we’ll continue to listen, learn, and invest in new ways of doing things to help us get there.

“Our position in the Ofcom table shows we have more work to do, and we are investing in new ways to deliver the best possible experience for our customers.”

Both TalkTalk and Shell customers were the most likely to complain about faults, service, and provisioning issues (33% of TalkTalk’s complaints and 39% of Shell’s). TalkTalk also drew the most moans about its landline phone services. 

Meanwhile, EE Broadband and Sky Broadband continued their long-running streak as the least complained about ISPs, with four and five complaints per 100,000 customers, respectively. And Vodafone Broadband, which occupied the worst or second-worst slot in every quarter between the summer of 2018 and winter of 2021, continued its improvement, pushing complaint numbers to 12 per 100,000 customers, just above the industry average of 10.

A spokesperson for Vodafone UK said: “Customer service is a significant priority for us and we continue to make good progress, particularly in simplifying processes to ensure our customers can reach us more quickly and get the support they need.

“However, we recognise there’s still more to do and we look forward to continuing to make improvements for our customers.”

In the pay-TV market, Virgin Media continues to be the most complained about provider, a position it’s held since the spring of 2020. However, it’s pushed complaints down to eight per 100,000, from a peak of 17 in the first quarter of 2021. 

A spokesperson for VMO2 said: “We’re pleased to see complaint levels fall once again across the board, but we recognise there is still more work to do.

“Our continued investment in customer service, alongside improvements in processes, is clearly making a difference and these figures demonstrate that. We remain committed to doing even more to improve customer experience and will continue to ensure this remains a top priority.”

Arch rival Sky continued to draw the lowest volume of complaints about its TV services: just one per 100,000 customers.

Among mobile providers, budget option iD Mobile drew the highest volume of complaints (four per 100,000 customers), a position it previously held at the end of 2020. It was followed by Vodafone and Virgin Mobile (three complaints per 100,000 customers each).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, EE and Tesco Mobile continued to generate the lowest volume of gripes (one per 100,000 customers).

An EE spokesperson welcomes the results. “Our customers already know we provide the best customer service across the industry, and these results reflect the hard work of our teams in UK and Ireland contact centres and retail stores providing the best personal and local service,” the representative said.

Ofcom noted that complaints about all telecoms services decreased during the quarter to "a record low." Currently, 80% of customers are satisfied with their broadband services, while 90% of mobile users are happy with their provider.

But the regulator urged customers who aren’t satisfied with their current service to shop around. “We’ve made it easier than ever to switch, and you could end up with better customer service as well saving money,” Fergal Farragher, Ofcom’s consumer protection director, said.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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