Big Four broadband providers beaten by smaller rivals in Which? rankings

Broadband, News

The ‘big four’ broadband providers (Sky, Virgin, BT and TalkTalk) have been beaten by smaller rivals in Which?’s latest broadband rankings, earning underwhelming scores for overall satisfaction while hitting consumers with mid-contract price hikes.

The consumer association’s findings are based on a survey of 4,471 people who had a contract for home broadband in December 2023 and January 2024. 

Virgin Media came bottom of the rankings, receiving a customer score of 56 per cent. The provider got sub-par ratings in most categories, but its most dire were for customer service and communication – a quarter of customers also told Which? the company is hard to get in touch with.

It managed four stars for connection speed, courtesy of its fibre and cable network, but a higher than average proportion of customers said they had experienced connection dropouts and one in five said they had had an outage lasting more than an hour in the past year.

Sky finished second bottom in Which?’s league table with a customer score of 57 per cent. It received the lowest rating for connection speed, alongside Shell Energy Broadband, and its customers were the most likely to say the reliability of their connection was poor. Value for money is also a weakness: one in five Sky customers gave this a low rating and half of those who had switched away from Sky told Which? they had been motivated by a price rise.

BT, the UK’s biggest provider, scored 62 per cent. It was competitive for connection speed and reliability, but got middling ratings for customer service and technical support. Value for money was rated poor – unsurprising given that it was the first to introduce inflation-linked price rises in 2020. Despite the lacklustre ratings, BT customers were most likely to have been with the provider for more than three years.

While TalkTalk managed to outdo the other Big Four providers, it received mediocre scores in most categories, and low ratings for customer service and communication. Of the customers who had left TalkTalk for another provider, 38 per cent said poor customer service was their main reason for doing so. TalkTalk got the best ranking of the UK’s four dominant providers, but it is some way behind Community Fibre and Zen Internet.

The rankings will come as a blow to customers of the Big Four providers, which command around 70 per cent of the market, having faced eye-watering mid-contract price rises – despite Which? calls to abolish inflation-linked hikes this year and regulator Ofcom concluding that the practice can cause substantial consumer harm. Sky takes a different approach with ad-hoc price rises that do give customers a window to switch away without a hefty exit fee.  

Shell Energy Broadband got a poor rating of 59 per cent and finished third bottom. 

Zen Internet, 70 per cent, is the only Which? Recommended Provider. It has committed to both Ofcom’s code of practice and automatic compensation scheme and has firmly resisted the industry trend of introducing unpredictable price rises.

Hyperoptic, 68 per cent, which was awarded Great Value Provider status, operates its own full fibre network, but it is only available in 64 UK towns and cities. Its high value-for-money rating and low prices make it the first broadband provider to get Which?’s Great Value endorsement.

Community Fibre, 71 per cent, was this year’s top-ranked broadband provider – however, because it implements mid-contract price rises and is not signed up to Ofcom’s broadband speeds code of practice and automatic compensation scheme, it is not eligible to become a Which? Recommended Provider. 

Says Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services: 

“Our latest broadband provider rankings show that consumers could be better off choosing a smaller company that prioritises customer service over a giant that also stings them with unfair mid-contract price rises. 

“Customers with contracts that are ending soon should look at their switching options as our research found that consumers that did that saved almost £100 on average. 

“Providers planning to cash in one last time in April with unfair mid-contract price hikes must do the right thing and adopt Ofcom’s proposals as soon as possible, while firms falling short on customer service must up their game.”

Chris Price
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