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Telecoms and Pay TV Complaints Q4 (October to December) 2012

Published 28|03|13

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. (-1-) 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 which collect their own complaints data we believe that we are the only regulator to publish data of this nature.

1.3 This is the latest edition in a series of quarterly complaints publications. (-2-) We previously published data for each quarter between October 2010 and September 2012. This publication now provides data for the quarter October to December 2012. Pay TV complaints were first published from October 2011 (i.e. from Q4 2011) and this report includes data to December 2012.

1.4 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).

1.5 The next publication will include data for the period January to March 2013 and is expected to be published in June 2013.

1.6 Stakeholders 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. (-3-) Presenting the complaint numbers in this manner ensures that meaningful comparisons can be made between the data for each provider.

1.7 The main findings for the current reporting period (Q4 2012) are as follows:

  • Overall Complaints: The total volume of complaints fell, making this the sixth consecutive quarter of falling volumes. There were reductions in relative complaints volumes across all services except for mobile 'pay monthly'. Broadband services generated the highest relative number of complaints compared 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 generated the highest relative volume of complaints and these related to service faults and customer service issues. BT was also above the industry average whilst Virgin Media and Sky received fewer complaints than the other fixed line providers that we report on.
  • 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 largest relative volume of complaint and these were mainly related to contractual issues. TalkTalk Group and BT also generated above industry average complaint levels whilst Virgin Media and Sky received fewer relative complaints than the other fixed broadband providers that we report on.
  • 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 most complaints regarding Orange which relate generally to contractual issues. T-Mobile also generated above industry average complaint levels. Three UK was equal to the industry average. Vodafone, Virgin Mobile and O2 generated the lowest relative complaint volumes compared to the other published providers.
  • Mobile PAYG telephony: None of the providers that we report on generated an average of 30 complaints or more a month over this quarter. We therefore maintain our position of not publishing provider specific data for this service.
  • 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 driven by problems with complaints handling and service provision. Virgin Media also generated above industry average complaint levels.

1.8 An accompanying 'CSV' file is available on the publication website and contains the complete set of non-confidential data used to produce the various charts. (-4-) We hope that supplementing our publication in this way ensures the data is easily accessible and therefore more useful to citizens and stakeholders.

Footnotes:

  1.- Ofcom received 102,150 complaints in the year 2011/12. Ofcom 2011/12 Annual Report, page115. http://www.ofcom.org.uk/files/2012/07/OfcomAnnualReport11-12.pdf

  2.- Previous editions can be found at http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/telecoms-research/complaints/?a=0

  3.- Complaints are displayed per 1000 customers. This enables the providers to be compared on a like-for-like basis.

  4.- Refer to http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/other/telecoms-research/complaints/?a=0

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