Telecoms Complaints October 2010 - February 2011

Published 21|04|11

Executive summary

1.1 Ofcom's primary duty is to further the interests of citizens and consumers, where appropriate by promoting competition. In doing so we must have regard to the interests of consumers in terms of price, quality of service and value for money. Consumer information plays a critical role in promoting effective competition across these dimensions and the absence of key information can lead to poor purchasing decisions and inhibit switching.

1.2 On average Ofcom receives about 450 telecoms complaints a day from consumers. Such complaints are likely to be made where a consumer has been unable to resolve an issue with their provider to their satisfaction. We keep a record of these complaints by service and by provider, and believe that such information would be useful for consumers: alongside other things, this data may be relevant to those considering a new service or provider. Consumer groups have called on Ofcom to publish such information, and we note that similar information is already available to guide consumers in areas such as financial services, water and energy.

1.3 This is the first of what we intend to develop into a series of quarterly complaints publications. The initial data is relatively limited in scope and we propose to develop the approach over time. This will enable us to publish more detailed data and data for a larger number of providers in due course.

1.4 There are a number of important limitations that apply to the information we are publishing, in particular:

  • The data only covers telecoms complaints that consumers have chosen to report to Ofcom, therefore it does not represent total complaints consumers have had with their providers. As such it can only provide a partial picture of complaints by provider.
  • The complaints data reflects the views of customers. Ofcom has sought to ensure that its data is sound but has not checked the veracity of individual complaints.
  • Contact with Ofcom may reflect the relative quality of complaints handling services, as well as the quality of service received. In which case, companies with poor complaints handling processes may feature more prominently than those with good complaints handling processes.
  • The data published here covers the period October 2010 to February 2011. In due course we propose to publish complaints data on a quarterly basis, with the next publication including data for March - June 2011.
  • This publication only includes complaints data for providers with a market share of 5% or above. These results are not necessarily reflective of complaints Ofcom has received about other providers. We intend to include data for a larger number of providers in future publications.

1.5 Given the variation in size of provider, we are publishing complaints as a proportion of subscribers, to put the complaints numbers into context and help ensure the data is more meaningful for consumers. The main findings by provider and by service, for the period October 2010 - February 2011 inclusive, are as follows:

  • Fixed line telephony: The providers covered here are: BT Retail, BSkyB, TalkTalk Group and Virgin Media. Ofcom received fewer complaints about Virgin than the other three main providers and received the most complaints about TalkTalk Group.
  • Fixed broadband: The providers covered here are BT Retail, BSkyB, TalkTalk Group and Virgin Media. Ofcom received fewer complaints about Virgin than the other three main providers and received the most complaints about TalkTalk Group.
  • Mobile telephony (excluding mobile broadband datacards and dongles): Overall, mobile complaint levels are much lower than for fixed line telephony and fixed broadband services. The providers covered here are 3UK, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone. Ofcom received fewer complaints about O2 than the other four providers, while it received the most complaints about 3UK.