The Consumer Experience 2012
Ofcom’s annual reports into the consumer experience of the fixed and mobile, internet and digital broadcasting markets
- Introduction and Summary
- Change and Availability
- Choice and Value
- Interest and activity
- Consumer protection
This is Ofcom's seventh annual report on the consumer experience of telecoms, the internet, digital broadcasting and now postal services.
It discusses the results of our research programme, which measured how well consumers have fared over the past year in their use of these services.
In summary the report covers the following areas:
Changing use of communications - overview of the key changes occurring across the communications markets and the postal sector.
Availability of services and providers - details the range of options and coverage of providers and services; e.g. 3G mobile and superfast broadband.
Take-up of services and devices - demographic analysis of what services and devices consumers have, and consumers' use of postal services.
Consumer choice and value - with a focus on purchasing and pricing, how are consumers choosing to purchase the services they have, how are these changing (e.g. bundles1, contracts) how UK prices have changed over time and how they compare internationally.
Consumer interest and activity - provides the latest update on consumer participation including switching levels, ease of switching across the communications markets, and satisfaction with current services and providers.
Consumer protection - highlights the latest consumer protection issues and where there may be a need for some form of intervention.
This report has been published alongside the Consumer Experience policy evaluation, which considers the key findings and trends emerging from the research and uses these to assess the impact of Ofcom's policy work and activities.
Text messages are the most-used method for daily communication with friends and family. Around six in ten (58%) consumers said they use text message at least once a day to communicate with friends and family.
Consumers claimed that their level of communicating via digital means, such as email (17%), social networking (14%) and mobile voice (11%) had increased in the past two years. Alongside this, claimed levels of communicating using post (-30%) and fixed-line calls (-4%) have decreased.
Ownership of connected devices continues to rise - driven by the growth in both smartphone and tablet take-up. In total 82% of adults own at least one internet connected device. Among these devices the most significant increases since 2011 have been in ownership of smartphones (45% vs. 34%) and tablets (12% vs. 4%).
Average broadband speeds in UK continued to improve in 2012 . Ofcom research found that overall average actual download speed in the UK increased to 9.0 Mbit/s in May 2012 from 7.6 Mbit/s in November 2011.
Digital terrestrial TV is almost universal, as digital switchover completes in 2012. Digital terrestrial (DTT) coverage stands at 98.5%, up from 85.0% in 2011.
Digital radio services on DAB are most widely available in London. The BBC has widespread DAB coverage, with 11 stations available to 94.3% of households. National commercial digital multiplex (Digital One) is available to 84.6% of households. Greater London has the greatest number of radio services on DAB, with listeners able to listen to 61 services; this compares to just 21 available in Northern Ireland.
In the UK there are now 525 television channels for consumers to choose from, 21 of which are public service channels and their HD and +1 variants (an increase of eight since 2011). There has also been an increase in DAB stations; 219 are currently available in 2012 (an increase of ten since 2011).
Fixed-line ownership has stabilised in the UK with a small decline in take-up over the past five years compared to other countries. Following the decline in fixed-line ownership seen in 2009, ownership levels have remained at 84% for a third consecutive year.
Four in five consumers are aware of VoIP services - although just under three in ten use the service.
The majority of households continue to own both a fixed line and a mobile phone. Seventy-nine per cent of households have both fixed-line and mobile services, with a further 15% mobile-only and 5% fixed-line only.
Over 90% of adults own a mobile phone, while smartphone ownership continues to rise. Ninety-two per cent of UK adults stated that they personally owned a mobile phone, of which 45% said their mobile phone was a smartphone; this is a significant increase in ownership since 2011 (34%).
Take-up of the internet continues to rise - with four in five households able to access the internet at home, although mobile broadband on a dongle fell in 2012.
Around half of all UK adults access multi-channel television at home through Freeview. Forty-six per cent of all adults use Freeview to access multichannel television at home; this compares to 40% using satellite and 17% using cable.
Just under two in three consumers claim to have access to digital radio services.
Postal users receive five times more post than they send in a month. On average, postal users claimed to send six items per month; this compares with consumers claiming to receive just over 30 items per month.
The increase in bundled purchasing continues. Since 2005 and the start of local loop unbundling (LLU), the proportion of consumers with bundled services has steadily risen. Over the past year bundled purchasing has risen a further 4 percentage points to 57%. Dual-play fixed line and broadband, and triple-play fixed line, broadband and multichannel TV bundles remain the most popular packages.
The trend towards at least 12-month mobile contracts continues . Half (51%) of all mobile customers are now on at least a 12-month contract (up 4 percentage points since 2011) and a further 5% are currently on a SIM-only contract. Around 70% of new contract connections during Q1 2012 were for 24 months.
Communications service prices in the UK compare favourably with those in other countries. Ofcom analysis using data provided by Teligen shows that four out of five of the lowest prices available for five baskets of communications services were found in the UK, as were all five of the lowest weighted average standalone prices for these baskets.
Awareness of stamp prices has increased. Between December 2011 and September 2012 awareness of the price of first class stamps rose from 9% to 27%, with awareness of second class stamps rising from 6% to 13%
In total, nearly a fifth (19%) of consumers switched at least one communications service in the past 12 months. Overall yearly switching levels for each market (including any switching of services to or from bundles) remain broadly unchanged, at around one in ten in each of the fixed-line (10%), mobile (9%) and fixed broadband (9%) markets. Nearly a third of all switchers switched multiple services at the same time.
The gap between switching levels in the communications market and the utility market is closing. Reported yearly switching levels in each of the gas (12%) and electricity markets (13%) are lower than in 2011 (15% and 17% respectively). Switching in the fixed-line market is now broadly comparable with gas and only slightly behind that for electricity. Yearly switching of main TV provider remains lower at 3%, comparable with switching bank accounts (4%).
Bundlers display the highest levels of interest and activity. Over the past 12 months levels of engagement (i.e. the extent to which consumers are switching, keeping an eye on the market and/or interacting with their providers to negotiate a better deal) have risen in each of the mobile and fixed-line standalone markets. There has also been a notable rise in engagement among bundlers - up from 22% to 35% in the past 12 months. Bundlers also report some of the highest levels of 'interest', at 41%.
Difficulty switching in the fixed-line market increases when fixed broadband services are switched at the same time. The fixed broadband market continues to report the highest levels of stated difficulty in switching; at 15%, equal to that for bank accounts. 'Hassle' continues to be stated as one of the main reasons for not switching this service among those who considered doing so. Furthermore, where fixed-line services are switched at the same time as at least one other service - most commonly fixed broadband - stated difficulty in the fixed-line market rises to 14%. This compares to 5% among standalone fixed-line customers.
Telecoms issues dominate complaints to Ofcom, with levels higher than in 2011. The level of telecoms complaints is up year on year, at around 7000 per month (an additional c.1000 calls per month compared to 2011), although they have fallen in some categories. This compares to 1000-2000 complaints about broadcasting standards and around 45 relating to postal services.
Silent calls continue to be a key concern for consumers. Complaints volumes reached a peak of just under 3400 in July 2012. Volumes have since declined but remain significantly higher than for any other issue.
The second most complained-about issue was providers' complaints handling. Monthly complaint volumes for this issue averaged 750 per month. Research suggests that 6% of adults said that they had experienced difficulty resolving an issue with at least one of their communications providers. Furthermore, satisfaction with providers' customer service in relation to complaints handling was around 43%-47%, significantly lower than satisfaction with customer service generally (62%-69%).
Fixed line mis-selling complaints are relatively stable following a period of decline. Ofcom's contact centre received between 400-500 complaints each month between May and September 2012, compared to 500-600 in the months prior to this and 700 throughout 2011.
Broadcasting complaints were dominated by complaints about content standards. The top programmes complained about in 2012 include: The Wright Stuff, The X Factor Results and The One Show.
Two in five postal users experienced a problem with the service in the last year - largely driven by mis-delivered mail. The most common problem was mis-delivered mail (70%), followed by delayed (41%), damaged (41%) and/or lost mail (34%). Just over one in ten (14%) postal users who experienced a problem made a complaint