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Telecoms and Pay TV Complaints Q4 (October to December) 2013

Published 26|03|14

Executive summary

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 this 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.

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 2013.(-3-) This publication provides data for the quarter October 2013 to December 2013.

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 2014 and is expected to be published in June 2014.  

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 which regularly generate more than 30 complaints per month. As providers vary in size we publish complaints as a proportion of subscribers.(-4-) 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 2013) are as follows:

  • Overall Complaints: The total volume of complaints decreased slightly due to decreases in fixed-line, broadband, pay monthly mobile and pay TV complaints. Complaints in the mobile PAYG sector remained at the same level as Q3 2013. 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 complaints handling. BT also generated complaints above industry average whilst Virgin Media 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 EE.(-5-) BT generated the highest relative volume of complaints and these related to service faults and complaints handling. EE and TalkTalk Group also received above industry average complaint levels whilst Sky and Virgin Media generated complaint volumes below the industry average. Virgin Media received the lowest relative complaint volumes compared to 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. Orange generated the highest relative volume of complaints and these related to billing and complaints handling. T-Mobile and Virgin also generated above industry average complaint levels. Ofcom received fewer complaints about O2 and Three, with O2 receiving the least relative volume of complaints 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: We now include TalkTalk as it has acquired more than 4% market share in Q4 2013 and has received above 30 complaints per month. The other providers covered here are Sky, BT TV(-6-) (formerly BT Vision), and Virgin Media. BT TV generated the highest relative volume of complaints and these related to service faults and billing. TalkTalk also generated above industry average complaint levels. Sky received the lowest relative complaint volumes compared to the other pay TV providers that we report on.

Footnotes:

 1.- Ofcom received over 80,000 complaints from consumers via calls in 2012/13. Ofcom 2012/13 Annual Report, page 38. http://www.ofcom.org.uk/files/2013/07/Ofcom_Annual-Report_AD600_ACC-2_English.pdf

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

 3.- Pay TV complaints were first published from October 2011 (i.e. from Q4 2011).

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

 5.- We report on Orange and EE as a combined provider as Orange’s existing fixed broadband customers are being transitioned onto ‘EE’ products.

 6.- BT started rebranding to BT TV around September/October 2013 and BT no longer uses BT Vision as a brand

The full document is available below

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