Ofcom says firms need to “up their games” in complaints handling

Communications regulator reveals latest figures on customer satisfaction

Ofcom has just released its latest figures on broadband customer satisfaction in the UK.

Level of satisfaction with broadband services

The survey found that:

“Overall, 83% of broadband customers are satisfied with their service (similar to last year: 80%), while 13% had reason to complain in 2018 (down from 15% in 2017).

TalkTalk scores below the industry average on several measures, with its broadband customers less likely to be satisfied with their overall service and less likely to recommend their provider to a friend.

TalkTalk customers are also more likely to have a reason to complain, less likely to have their complaint resolved on first contact, and less likely be satisfied with how their complaint is handled.”

Last year TalkTalk was found to be joint worst with Virgin Media. Followers of me on Twitter will know that I was not shocked to see VM at the bottom.

The BBC reported that “A spokeswoman for TalkTalk said the data showed an “improving trend” on the number of complaints.” But on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ofcom’s director of market intelligence, Ian Macrae, pointed out the obvious saying “It’s hard for TalkTalk to hide from the fact that their customer service isn’t up to scratch”. He also added “”We absolutely think that the firms need to up their games in the way they handle complaints.”

chart showing Talk Talk above average for complaints

Plusnet (owned by BT) complaints more than doubled in the last quarter of 2018 when it experienced problems with the launch of a new billing system.

The report describes how only HALF of those who make a complaint are happy with the result. This is no surprise to me given the large number of times I still get asked to help with telecom complaints. The total number of complaints to Ofcom about broadband actually fell by 23% in the survey.

Level of satisfaction with mobile services

The Ofcom survey on mobile services showed little change from the previous year.

93% of mobile customers are satisfied with their overall service (last year this was 91% so a small increase) and 3% said they were unhappy.

This is probably due to it being easier to change contracts (no email addresses to worry about unlike your broadband provider!) and yearly contracts. The 3% are probably those who are in a contract that they can’t yet leave. The survey reported that:

“Giffgaff and Tesco Mobile customers are more likely to recommend their provider to a friend. Their customers also have above-average satisfaction with value for money (97% for giffgaff and 92% for Tesco Mobile, compared to an 87% average).

Most likely to recommend chart

Vodafone customers, on the other hand, are less likely to be satisfied with value for money (82%), while Virgin Mobile customers have below-average satisfaction with how their complaint is handled. Both companies are also less likely to resolve complaints on first contact.”

Sky Mobile, a newcomer to the market, entered the league table for the first time and did so with the fewest complaints.

I am surprised to see EE where it is. It is the only company that I have left and never returned to in any sector wholly due to its poor customer service. That was a couple of years ago, perhaps they have since improved.

Complaints to Ofcom overall

Complaints to Ofcom about broadband firms actually fell by 23% last year from the previous year. Complaints about mobile companies fell by 15%.

However, satisfaction with mobile reception is increasing across the board (87%, up from 84% last year).

Sky is the least-complained about provider across all four services – broadband, landline, mobile and pay TV. I have to say it is also the company about which I hear fewest complaints.Graph of providers with satisfaction levels over quarters

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said:

“Shabby service can be more than just frustrating; it can have a big impact on people and small businesses who rely on being connected.

When you’re shopping around for a phone or broadband service, quality can be just as important as price. This information can help buyers make the right decision.”

Table of providers and satisfaction levels

Ombudsman Services

Matthew Vickers, chief executive of Ombudsman Services, which is approved by Ofcom to resolve broadband and phone complaints, said:

“For many people, broadband and phone access is an essential utility like energy, so it’s vital that providers offer good customer service and fix problems quickly when they do happen.

“Consumers can escalate unresolved broadband and phone complaints to us after eight weeks and, if their provider is signed up to our scheme, we will investigate. If we uphold the complaint, we will require the company to take action to put things right.

We are keen to work with communications providers to help them improve their complaint handling and customer service more generally, in order to raise standards across the industry.”

The future for telecoms complaint handling

The Ofcom report notes that the handling of customer complaints could be improved “across the industry”, with only half of those who make a complaint to any provider ending up happy with the result.

I’ve said for many years that the communications sector is the worst for communication! Companies make it difficult for people to contact them. For example, a few months ago I was trying to deal with something on Twitter with Virgin Media and was actually told to contact them during certain times of the day. The person responding couldn’t actually answer the simple question! Ridiculous!

And how about Vodafone, a huge multinational communications provider, which does not even have an email address available to reach its customer service department? It isn’t alone.

I regularly hear about the whole complaints process with any telecom provider being tedious. I’m yet to see or hear of anyone who has said that customer service from their provider has improved at all. Ever!

Further help

If you are experiencing a problem with your telecom provider or think you are likely to in future, then bookmark this page!

lap top on woman's knees phone in one handAll you need to know about complaining to telecom providers is full of links to different posts with lots of information and advice about various situations and what to do to get solutions.





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How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!  gives more information, advice, tips, consumer laws, rights, regulations, stories and template letters for complaining about the telecom and numerous other sectors.

Help for business

The Complaining Cow logo, complaints, consultancy, speaker, workshops and moreHelen Dewdney is The Complaining Cow and has the ear of many customers. She helps businesses improve customer complaint handling and customer service to improve complaint handling through customer perspectives and challenge to gain and retain customers. If you are interested in working with Helen see Services for a variety of innovative solutions to your business needs. You can contact her with your own ideas too of course!










Carphone Warehouse mis-selling results in FCA fine for over 29m

Whistle blowers to be thanked for FCA investigation

The mis-selling of insurance

Following a whistle blowing report and investigation, The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has fined Carphone Warehouse for mis-selling insurance. It found that the company had sold mobile phone insurance and technical support (called Geek Squad) to people who didn’t need it.

Carphone Warehouse FCA fine

The FCA fined Carphone Warehouse £41,582,300. However, Carphone Warehouse was given a 30% discount for agreeing with the findings. So it will pay £29,107,600.

How Carphone Warehouse mis-sold insurance

The FCA investigated a period over 8 years (1 December 2008 to 30 June 2015). Sales of Geek Squad policies were worth over £444.7 million in this period. The FCA found a number of issues relating to mis-selling and these included:

  1. Carphone Warehouse did not give sales assistants appropriate training. For example, they did not asses customer’s needs as to whether the insurance was required. Some customers had home insurance or bank account insurance for instance that would cover them.
  2. Sales staff were trained in “objection handling”, with the focus being on overcoming customer objections rather than assessing whether the product was suitable for the customer.
  3. A large number of policies were cancelled early. For example in January 2014 30% of policies were cancelled within the first three months of inception. Despite this being an indicator of high risk of mis-selling Carphone Warehouse did not consider it.
  4. When customers complained about the insurance sale, Carphone Warehouse failed to properly investigate and fairly consider their complaints. So valid complaints regarding mis-selling were not upheld and it contributed to the inaccurate picture of mis-selling indicators.

Whistleblowers to thank for Carphone Warehouse investigation and fine

It was Carphone Warehouse employees not customers who brought this matter to light.

Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said:

“Without whistleblowers coming forward, these practices may never have come to light.  In the past few years, whistleblowers have contributed critical intelligence to the enforcement actions we have taken against firms and individuals.”

How to complain if you have been mis-sold phone insurance

The FCA says “Customers of The Carphone Warehouse who think that they may have been mis-sold Geek Squad should contact the firm directly (by telephone: 0800 049 6190, by post: Geek Squad, PO Box 358, Southampton, SO30 2PJ or on-line www.geeksquad.co.uk/contact/complaints). If customers are not content with the firm’s response, they may then refer the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service.”

If you have been mis-sold insurance or service etc. it is a breach of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) and you should write to the company quoting that Act. (See link for details of the Act and how to use it).