Two-thirds of broadband subscribers have experienced at least one fault with their service over the last year, with slow speeds and frequent outages being the most common complaint, according to a new survey by Which?.
The consumer advocate surveyed 3,000 customers of the UK’s five major broadband and TV providers—BT, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and EE—about the service they receive. It found that slow speeds, frequent connection dropouts and WiFi router problems have each afflicted 20% of customers.
Sky customers were the most likely to complain about slow speeds. The provider only launched full-fibre plans (over Openreach’s infrastructure) in November so has a higher percentage of customers on less reliable ADSL and FTTC packages.
Meanwhile, blackouts were most frequently reported by TalkTalk and Virgin Media subscribers. Virgin Media’s router caused the most grief, with nearly a quarter of customers reporting problems with it.
Which? has judged BT the best provider overall because it had the greatest proportion of customers who didn’t experience any issues (35%). However, that dwindled to just 15% for BT company EE Broadband.
Of course, with the exception of Virgin Media, these providers are primarily using the same broadband network, owned by Openreach. So some of the faults will be network issues from Openreach.
Conversely, slow speeds, dropouts and router glitches could also be due to customers’ specific circumstances: for example, a badly-placed router, issues with home wiring or living far from the local street box. Customers may incorrectly attribute these faults to their ISP.
How does Which?’s survey about broadband faults compare with data Ofcom collects about broadband complaints?
The broadband provider that attracted the most complaints in the last quarter of 2020 (the last period for which data is available) was Vodafone, which wasn’t included in Which?’s survey. It drew 30 complaints per 100,000 customers between October and December last year, half of those about faults and service. Ofcom also found that Virgin Media (23 complaints per 100,000 customers) and TalkTalk (19 complaints) let customers down.
However, Ofcom data contradicts the survey’s dim view of EE Broadband. The telecoms regulator reported that EE generated the fewest complaints among all the broadband providers: just 6 per 100,000 customers. Sky also performed well, with just 7 complaints per 100,000 customers.
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