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Virgin Media and Three Attracted the Most Telecoms Complaints in Q1

Broadband and TV subscribers are most annoyed by Virgin Media’s service, while Three generated the most consumer complaints in the mobile market, according to data from Ofcom covering the first three months of the year.

Regulator Ofcom doesn’t handle individual complaints about telecoms services (direct those to the provider itself, Ombudsman Services or CISAS), but it does monitor them and can take action if enough consumers raise a concern.

Overall, complaints about fixed-line broadband, pay-TV and landline service increased in the first quarter of 2021, largely due to a surge in dissatisfaction from Virgin Media customers.

Virgin Media supplanted usual broadband villain Vodafone as the generator of the most complaints in the sector between January and March. It attracted 33 complaints per 100,000 customers, with customers irked by its handling of complaints (39% of gripes to Ofcom) and the prevalence of faults and poor service (33% of complaints).

It was followed by Vodafone and TalkTalk, each with 24 complaints per 100,000 subscribers.

On the other end of the spectrum, EE and Sky’s broadband services drew the fewest complaints per capita: just seven per 100,000 customers.

Virgin Media’s TV service performed little better. The most griped-about pay-TV service in the UK through most of 2020, Virgin Media saw complaints soar even higher in the first months of 2021 to 17 per 100,000 customers. By contrast, main rival Sky drew just two complaints per 100,000 households.

Virgin also saw moans about its landline service rise sharply, from 13 per 100,000 customers in the last quarter of 2020 to 19 between January and March. Once again, EE and Sky delivered the best service in the landline market.

Virgin Media said it had already made improvements in its customer service, including hiring 500 additional staff for its customer service operations. This has reduced complaints by 70%, taking them to their lowest level since 2018, a spokesperson said.

“Providing a great customer experience alongside fast, reliable services is our number one priority….We will keep investing and making improvements to give our customers the high-quality service they rightly expect,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, in the mobile market Three yielded the most complaints—double the three per 100,000 that the industry averaged. Virgin’s mobile arm also stumbled there, with five complaints per 100,000 customers, followed by ID Mobile (five) and Vodafone (four). Tesco Mobile continued its reign as the least complained-about mobile provider, with one complaint per 100,000 customers. EE and Sky once again outpaced the competition, with one complaint about their mobile service per 100,000 customers each.

A spokesperson for EE celebrated its success: “EE receives the fewest complaints of any mobile, landline and broadband provider in the UK. This reflects the hard work of our teams in UK and Ireland contact centres and stores providing the best local and personal service to our customers.”

Of course, the first three months of the year saw many telecom providers’ call centres shut down by Covid restrictions and outbreaks. While some operators have adapted to the upheavals and lockdowns of the pandemic better than others, their reign may not continue when normal service resumes.

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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