The Consumer Experience - Research Report 07




This document is Ofcom’s second annual report of the consumer experience in relation to telecoms, the internet and digital broadcasting. The report lists the full results of our research programme aimed at measuring how well consumers have fared over the past year in respect of these services.

The metrics reported in this document where decided after consultation with stakeholders.

Data sources

A variety of data sources were used in compiling this report, the main source being the Ofcom communications tracking survey supported by a range of ad-hoc research.

Full details of all the Ofcom research used in this report are available in Annex 1. The following is a brief outline of the research used.

Ofcom communications tracking survey

The communications tracking survey takes place on a monthly basis. It provides Ofcom with continued understanding of consumer behaviour in the UK communications markets, helping us to monitor change and assess the degree and success of competition.

Ofcom consumer decision-making survey

Ofcom’s first survey of consumer decision-making was carried out in June 2006, and repeated in July 2007, when it was expanded to include consumers in each of the fixed-line, mobile, broadband and multichannel television markets, including bundled services. The main objective was to track the extent to which consumers participate in the communications markets.

Consumer concerns research

Ofcom is now monitoring consumer concerns in the communications markets on a quarterly basis. The objective is to measure and track levels of concern as well as investigate concerns about specific topical issues.

Ofcom awareness tracking survey

The objective of this study was to determine the level of brand awareness of Ofcom itself compared with other regulatory organisations such as the Financial Services Authority and Ofgem (the regulator for the gas and electricity markets).

Ofcom hearing impairment research

This qualitative research project investigated consumers with a hearing impairment and their experiences with communications services. The study included people with different types of hearing impairments, including those with mild/moderate and severe/profound impairment, as well as members of the Deaf community. Due to the qualitative nature of the research and objectives of the study the sample is not representative of all consumers who have a hearing impairment.

Ofcom low income research

An in-depth qualitative investigation of consumers whose annual income is less than £15K and their experiences with communications services. The research included consumers with a variety of incomes under £15K, including wage earners and those receiving benefits. Due to the qualitative nature of the research and objectives of the study the sample is not representative of all consumers who have an income less than £15K.

The scope

This report analyses the overall experience consumers have had of the communications market in three areas:

  • telecoms (fixed-line and mobile);
  • internet (including broadband); and
  • broadcasting (television and radio).

The report presents data on each of the markets under the following section headings:

  • consumer access – the availability and take-up of communications services (including non-ownership, both voluntary and involuntary);
  • consumer choices and range – trends in prices of communications services, consumer awareness and use of suppliers, and their satisfaction;
  • consumer empowerment – the level of participation in communications markets in terms of switching and shopping, and use of consumer information; and
  • consumer protection and concerns – complaints, concerns and awareness of complaint procedures.

The report covers the UK adult population, and compares findings in three ways:

  • across various demographic groups, where relevant;
  • over time, where the data is available; and
  • across countries where robust data is available.

The report does not look at ethnic minority groups, which were the focus of a separate Ofcom study: Ethnic minority groups and communications services, published in June 2007.

With the exception of take-up data, findings have not been analysed at a national or regional level across the UK, as this is covered by Ofcom’s annual Nations & Regions Communications Market report published in May 2007 (The Nations & Regions Communications Market 2007).

Time series data

Where possible data from Q1 or Q2 2007 has been used. However, there are some analyses in the report where different time periods have been used;

  • analysis by the nations – the latest data is 2006 annual data (Q1 – Q4 combined)
  • analysis by disability – the lasted data is Q1 and Q2 data combined

Statistical reliability

For reporting purposes, sub-group differences are noted in the report only when they are significantly different from the total sample. We have reported differences at the 95% confidence level; this means that if you asked 100 people in the population, 95 of them would give a similar response to the finding reported.

Research summary

This report covers many aspects of the consumer experience. The following is a summary of the key themes and highlights from this year’s research.

  • Take-up trends are positive
    • Increase in the take-up of broadband across all groups
    • Increase in the take-up of digital TV, driven by Freeview
    • Increase in take-up of mobile, broadband and digital TV among over 65s (although take-up among this group is still lower than the general population)
    • For the first time households with mobiles over take the percentage of households with fixed-lines
    • Increase in take-up of bundled services
  • There has been continued downward pressure on prices
    • Within the UK, prices per household for a basket of communications services is decreasing
    • The UK compares favourably against selected international markets
  • There has also been an increase in the choice consumers are able to exercise in the communications market
    • General increase in awareness of suppliers
    • Increase in the number of operators across the markets
  • Although low income consumers are affected by affordability when taking up communications services, they are more likely to be affected by income variability and other financial issues such as not having a bank account
    • These factors influence decisions to commit to contracts and pay by direct debit
  • While consumers are actively participating in the broadband market there are some issues that could impact on behaviour
    • The percentage of consumers who are very satisfied with their broadband supplier is decreasing
    • The proportion who state switching internets service providers (ISP) is easy is also decreasing
  • Hearing impaired consumers are very positive about the development of mobiles and the internet although there is still a way to go to overcome accessibility and usability issues
    • While text based communications has transformed the lives of some consumers they have problems with retail staff and call centre staff communicating with them and understanding their needs
  • Ofcom are seeing progress in a number of areas of consumer concern
    • Action on MAC codes is starting to show very positive results for broadband switching
    • There has been steady progress on fixed-line mis-selling and silent calls but continued effort is needed
    • Mobile mis-selling complaints have over taken fixed-line for the first time