Telecoms and Pay TV Complaints Q3 (July to September) 2012
1.1 Ofcom's principal 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 and the absence of key information can lead to poor purchasing decisions and inhibit switching.
1.2 On average, Ofcom receives just under 300 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 is useful for consumers; for example, this data may be relevant to those considering a new service or provider. We note that provider-specific information is also available to guide consumers in areas such as financial services and energy. However, as one of the few regulators that collects its own complaints data, we believe we are the only regulator to publish data of this nature.
1.3 There are a number of important limitations that apply to the complaints information we publish, in particular:
- The data only covers complaints that consumers have chosen to report to Ofcom, and does not represent complaints consumers may have made directly to their providers or to other agencies (e.g. Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes). As such it will only provide a partial picture of complaints relating to any provider.
- The complaints data reflects the views of consumers as reported to Ofcom. 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. Given this, companies with poor complaints handling processes may feature more prominently than those with good complaints handling processes.
- Ofcom may see spikes in call volumes from customers of certain providers when we publicise certain types of enforcement action (e.g. investigations, fines).
1.4 This is the latest edition in a series of quarterly complaints publications. We previously published data for each quarter between October 2010 and June 2012 and we have now added data from July to September 2012. Pay TV complaints were first published for the period October to December 2011 (Q4 2011), and this report includes Pay TV complaints data covering four quarters to September 2012. The next publication will include data for the period September to December 2012, and is expected to be published in March 2012.
1.5 Consumers should consider both the monthly and quarterly data carefully when comparing providers' performance. This publication only includes complaints data for providers with a market share of 4% or above, and those which regularly generate more than 30 complaints per month. As providers vary in size, we publish complaints as a proportion of subscribers. Presenting the complaint numbers in this manner ensures that meaningful comparisons can be made between the data for each provider.
1.6 The main findings for the current reporting period (Q3 2012) are as follows:
- Overall Complaints: the total volume of complaints fell, making this the fifth consecutive quarter of decline. This was largely driven by a fall in the volume of fixed line complaints (-9%) as across the other services there were only minor variations. Broadband services generated the highest number of complaints relative to the other services featured in this report, with the fewest complaints made about mobile pay-as-you-go (PAYG) services.
- Fixed line telephony: The providers covered here are BT Retail, Sky, TalkTalk Group and Virgin Media. TalkTalk Group still generates the highest volume of complaints and was almost double the industry average over the quarter. Their complaints continue to relate to billing and customer service issues. BT also generated above industry average complaint levels this quarter. Virgin Media and Sky jointly received the fewest complaints than the other fixed line providers in the report.
- Fixed broadband: The providers covered here are BT Retail, Sky, TalkTalk Group, Virgin Media and Orange. Ofcom received fewer complaints about Sky than the other broadband providers. Orange generated the most complaints driven by complaints about contractual issues. TalkTalk and BT also generated above industry average complaint levels this quarter.
- Mobile 'pay-monthly' telephony (excluding mobile broadband datacards and dongles): The providers covered here are Three UK, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile. Ofcom received the least complaints about O2 and the most complaints about T-Mobile. The complaints against T-Mobile related to billing, repairs and customer service issues. Three UK, Orange and Vodafone also generated above industry average complaint levels in this quarter.
- Mobile PAYG telephony. We now include Tesco Mobile as it has acquired more than 4% market share. However, we are not publishing provider specific data for this service as none of the mobile providers that we report on generated an average of 30 complaints or more a month during this quarter.
- Pay TV services: The providers covered here are Sky, BT Vision, and Virgin Media. Ofcom received fewest complaints over the quarter about Sky and the most complaints about BT Vision. Complaints about BT Vision were partly driven by problems with service provision. Virgin Media also generated above industry average complaint levels.
1.7 In this publication we have also made some changes to how we present our data.
1.8 We previously reported on mobile complaints in totality, aggregating both PAYG and pay monthly complaints together into a single chart. In the previous publication we consulted on a proposal to stop publishing the total mobile complaints data, and instead split the mobile service by pay monthly and PAYG complaints. We felt that this adjustment would more accurately reflect the performance of individual providers by ensuring that comparisons could be made between complaints for each provider from users of the same service. No negative responses to the consultation were received and we therefore will no longer present an overall mobile complaints chart in this publication series.
1.9 The complaints data in this report is displayed both by month and by quarter as we believe there is clear benefit to consumers in publishing complaints in both of these formats. Monthly reporting provides an indication of how providers are performing over a short time period. However, by its nature, such data is quite sensitive to particular issues arising within the month (e.g. price or contract changes). This means the monthly data tends to be more volatile as individual problems or changes in commercial practice by the provider can lead to a significant increase in complaints across what is a relatively short period of time. The quarterly data is therefore helpful. It provides a more balanced representation of a provider's overall performance given that spikes in complaints volumes will be 'smoothed' over a longer time period.
1.10 We have also decided that it would be in the interests of stakeholders and consumers to publish the raw data behind our charts. For this publication and subsequent reports an accompanying 'CSV' file will be available on the website. This file will contain the complete set of non-confidential data used to produce the various charts. We hope that supplementing our publication in this way will ensure the data is easily accessible and therefore more useful.