Half of UK broadband customers have experienced a problem with their service provider in the last year, with issues ranging from slow speeds to frequent outages – some lasting over an hour, new Which? research reveals.
In a survey of almost 4,000 broadband customers, the consumer watchdog found that one in two (49%) broadband customers had a problem in the last 12 months. The findings come just as the vast majority of providers’ annual inflationary price hikes take effect, heaping further pressure on households already struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Frequent signal drop-out was the most common issue, affecting one in six (17%) broadband customers included in Which?’s survey. However the issue was reported by one in five (20%) Plusnet customers – more than the average broadband customer.
The second most common problem reported to Which? was very slow speeds, which affected one in seven (15%). The issue was more common for Sky and Virgin Media customers where it was reported by one in five (both 18%).
Which? found the third most reported problem was router trouble. While this was reported by one in seven (15%) broadband customers overall, it was reported by one in five (18%) Virgin Media customers.
Another one in seven (13%) broadband customers told Which? their internet connection was slow to download or upload files. However, one in six (17%) Sky customers reported this problem in Which?’s survey.
Which? found that outages lasting more than an hour were reported by one in eight (12%) customers overall. This problem was reported by one in seven (15%) Virgin Media customers.
As well as looking into service issues, the Which? survey asked broadband customers about the customer service they had received from their provider, including if prices increasing had been a problem. Overall, nearly four in 10 (37%) told Which? they’d experienced customer service issues.
One in six (17%) broadband customers told Which? that price increases had been an issue for them in the last 12 months. However, this went up to a quarter of Sky (24%) and Virgin Media (23%) customers.
Furthermore, one in 10 (10%) customers said they had found it difficult to get in touch with their provider.
Which?’s findings come just as many people’s broadband bills go up by almost 10 per cent as some providers raise prices. While these price hikes are based on inflation, they also include an above-inflation premium.
Some providers build these price hikes into contracts, so only out of contract customers have the option of haggling or switching providers in order to mitigate the costs. Those within their minimum contract period have no choice but to pay the new higher price – or a costly exit fee to terminate their contract.
Says Lisa Barber, Which? Computing Editor:
“It is simply not good enough that broadband customers are still suffering frequent dropouts, slow speeds and a generally poor internet service at a time when everyday life relies so heavily on a good connection.
“To add insult to injury, despite the cost of living crisis many providers have not hesitated to impose above-inflation price hikes. If you’re currently out of contract and your provider is not giving you a good service or you don’t want your bills to go up, shop around and consider switching.”
Adds Paul Stobart, CEO of Zen, which recently won Which? recommended broadband provider for the second year running:
“With people across the country spending more time working from home, consumer appetite for increased bandwidth over a reliable connection is stronger than ever. That’s why ensuring you’re with the correct broadband provider is especially important.
“For households looking to switch, it’s crucial to consider not only the price points, but the quality of service, the overall customer experience and the eco-credentials of the provider, given that these are the real differentiating factors from one provider to the next.”
Automatic compensation scheme
As part of Ofcom’s work on making the telecoms market fairer for consumers, in April 2019 some of the largest broadband providers began compensating customers automatically for delayed repairs following a loss of service, missed repairs or provision appointments, and delays to the start of a new service. This is a voluntary scheme that providers signed up to. According to Ofcom, together, the firms that have committed to it account for more than 95% of broadband and landline customers in the UK. More info here: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/