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Full extent of broadband blues revealed

Ofcom admits to twice as many complaints

Telecoms regulator Ofcom says 51,000 people were so dissatisfied with their ISP last year that they made an official complaint – nearly twice as many as we were told earlier this month.

The significantly higher figures came to light after we pressed Ofcom for further details following our story two weeks ago stating that almost 27,000 broadband customers had reported their ISP’s shoddy service to the industry watchdog.

Citing the Freedom of Information Act, PC Advisor asked Ofcom to tell us the true number of complaints it received last year relating to broadband after it hinted that the 27,000 figure was “considerably lower than the total number of communications about broadband services”.

While Ofcom was at pains not to identify the worst offenders by number of complaints, it said at the time that its reasoning was based on the fact that a proportion of complaints about broadband services hadn’t been attributed to a specific ISP. The new figure of 51,004 complaints received between 1 January and 23 October 2006 ‘includes complaints, expressions of dissatisfaction and queries’, explained Ofcom.

While the term ‘queries’ doesn’t sound as though it belongs under the complaints category, Ofcom said it filed complaints that weren’t about a specific ISP under this heading. The watchdog said “the service provider is not known in a high proportion of cases, e.g. where the consumer has a tag, marker or incompatible service on their line”.

This level of dissatisfaction doesn’t appear to be shared by PC Advisor pollsters, with only a handful taking the extreme measure of reporting their ISP to Ofcom with the overwhelming majority (92.6 percent) saying their service was either good or fair. However, we are currently running an online questionnaire asking people a range of questions about their broadband experiences.

Broadband has become a source of much aggravation with concerns over the misleading marketing of products as well as frustration over the lengthy process of changing from one service provider to another.

But consumers are increasingly unwilling to sit back and accept poor treatment. As well as flooding Ofcom with complaints about providers’ unwillingness to provide the necessary MAC migration codes to enable customers to switch from their existing service to another, confusion about advertised and actual connection speeds have previously upset consumers.

In February, partly in response to consumer outcry, Ofcom introduced new rules forcing broadband providers to make it much easier for customers to change providers.

In another sign that consumer complaints and online petitions are gaining momentum, nearly 1,500 people have now backed the e-petition on the prime minister’s website started by Kevin Peel, a broadband customer fed up after his ISP throttled his web connection when he’d signed up to what was marketed as an ‘unlimited’ broadband product.


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