Perhaps your broadband has slowed to a crawl, the phone line’s gone again, or your bill is inexplicably high this month. Whatever it is you’re unhappy about, you have a right to complain. You might even receive some form of compensation, or at least an apology.
For the best chance of getting a decent response, there are some steps you need to follow.
Here’s what you need to do to successfully complain about home broadband, mobile broadband, or landline services.
Complaining about broadband: the key points
What to do before you make a complaint about broadband
Troubleshoot the problem
If you’re having technical problems, you can try tackling them yourself first. Most providers will offer tips on their help pages, or you can consult other sites, such as our guide to troubleshooting broadband. Following these steps can often solve the issue, or at least narrow down what the cause is.
If you then call technical support, they’ll likely start you off by taking you through the troubleshooting steps. That might be frustrating, but they have to run through these to eliminate the most common causes before investigating further.
When dealing with the provider, keep a record of the times and dates of calls. As well as that, names, copies of correspondence, speed test records, bills and any other relevant details can help too. If an issue isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, it will be helpful if you have to escalate the complaint.
Is it a valid complaint?
Before pursuing a complaint, you need to consider if it’s an issue that’s within the provider’s control and that it's not a limitation or feature of the service you agreed to when joining. This is why it’s always important to read the small print when you sign up and keep a copy that you can access to check if you’re wondering about anything.
Common broadband issues
Broadband speeds are a major point of contention between users and providers. But this often isn’t something that the ISP (internet service provider) can do much about, as they’re likely operating within the rules.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for assistance if it’s performing below expectations for your postcode. Keep in mind, many factors can impact speed, and not all of them can be pinned on your service provider.
If your broadband complaint relates to the likes of traffic management or blocked websites, you’re unlikely to have much success. The limitations on things like that will be spelt out in the terms and conditions. Though if you feel like the limits are pretty bad, and you weren’t made aware of them when you signed the contract, you may still have a case.
Mis-selling & overcharging
Complaining about the cost of a service is unlikely to change things unless it’s significantly different to the broadband deal you were initially sold. However, mis-selling and overcharging should be taken seriously, and you may have a right to cancel if there’s a mid-contract price rise. But only if the increase isn’t considered a reasonable rise with inflation.
We have a guide to mid-contract price rises you may find helpful.
If your problems are with customer service, then you should have a reason to complain. If the customer service issues mean that you can’t complain, then you’ll need to escalate your complaint to more senior staff members.
If you’re not sure whether a communications provider is good for customer service, you can check Ofcom’s interactive report. They report on customer complaints for the main broadband services, so it can be worth checking this out when looking for a new ISP.
If you’re having technical difficulties with your broadband connection, router, TV services or anything else connected, your provider should try to help out. Once again, they may have troubleshooting advice online. Check out their website, and make use of any guides they may have. If you’re really lost, then calling up or using an online chat feature will be your best option. They may guide you through any troubleshooting you’ve done previously, so take note of anything you’ve tried to fix the problem.
How to complain about broadband
1. Speak to your provider
The first step of the complaints process is to get in touch with your provider’s customer service and make them aware of the issue.
All providers should have a complaints policy or procedure on their site which lists how you can contact them and how a complaint should be handled.
Typically, you’ll have the option of emailing, calling, writing, or using a live chat service. If you’re having trouble finding the details, call the regular customer service number and explain you want to make a complaint.
Request details of the complaints procedure to make sure you follow it correctly and reduce the chance of a grievance being dismissed on a technicality. If you need to take it further, you’ll want to record the details of any communication you have with them.
They should always attempt to resolve the complaint during initial contact. Hopefully you'll be offered a resolution right there on the phone.
If you’re not happy with how they help you, here's how to proceed.
2. Escalate the broadband complaint
If you feel the complaint hasn’t been taken seriously, or you aren’t happy with the resolution, you can request an escalation.
The complaints procedure should provide more detail on the precise steps. Typically, it’s as straightforward as explaining that you're not happy with how the complaint has been handled up to this point and asking for the broadband complaint to be escalated to a senior member of staff.
What happens at this stage will depend on the ISP's procedure. Often it will be reviewed by a supervisor or manager in customer services, who will decide whether it should be passed to a specific department or someone higher up the chain.
3. Accept the resolution or request a deadlock letter
By this stage, the ISP should have explained its final position on your complaint. You may be offered broadband compensation, or just more information about the decision.
If you’re not happy with the outcome, you should write to request a deadlock letter.
A deadlock letter is a formal confirmation that both parties can't come to an arrangement that you’re both happy with.
Once you've exhausted the options with your provider, the complaint can be taken to the ombudsman. But to do so, you'll need to have a deadlock letter or show that you’ve had no contact from the provider for at least eight weeks.
You can skip straight to complaining to the ombudsman if the provider does not respond for eight weeks at any stage.
4. Complain to the ombudsman
All companies offering services to individuals or small businesses of fewer than ten employees must be members of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.
To find out which your provider uses, you can consult Ofcom’s list of ADR schemes.
Read the procedures carefully so you understand how to contact the ombudsman, and you're aware of any time limits which may apply.
The Ombudsman will investigate your broadband complaint and send a response. If they side with you, they’ll recommend a remedy. This could be an apology, financial compensation, or a change to a provider’s procedures to prevent a repeat of the problem.
Private firms are not legally bound to follow the recommendation of the Ombudsman as they're not a regulator. However, it’s unusual for them not to comply.
If the Ombudsman’s ruling is not in your favour, there’s no right to appeal. If you don’t accept this decision, you’ll need to pursue legal action at your own expense.
How to complain about slow home broadband
Ofcom’s voluntary code of practice for broadband speeds gives broadband consumers more rights when complaining about speed, including the right to leave a contract early without penalty.
The following providers have signed up for the scheme:
- Sky & Now Broadband
- Utility Warehouse
- Virgin Media
- Vodafone (Openreach network only).
- Zen Internet
Before approaching the ISP, you need to have an idea of what speed you should be getting, as well as its current performance.
When you sign up for a broadband service, the provider should supply an accurate speed estimate. Keep a record of this.
If broadband speed falls significantly below this estimate, then you have grounds to take it further. You can check with a tool like the Broadband Genie speed test. Run multiple tests at different times over several days to eliminate peak time slowdown, network outages and other temporary issues.
Providers signed up to the code have agreed to treat speed complaints as a technical support issue and to follow standard procedures to resolve them. They'll run tests to confirm the speed, probably ask you to perform troubleshooting steps, and may send out an engineer if their diagnostics indicate a problem with the line.
If the speed doesn't improve after this, you have the right to cancel your contract without charge. You might be offered an alternative, such as a discounted bill, but you aren’t obligated to accept this. You’re free to switch if you wish.
The broadband speed code of practice can be helpful for anyone suffering from a broadband service that is running far slower than advertised. But make sure to follow the process correctly to avoid any unexpected cancellation fees. And keep in mind that the code of practice is voluntary, so not all providers will adhere to this process. However, you are still protected under standard consumer law — see our guide to broadband consumer rights for more information.
The complaints process can feel very long, but if you’re having issues that aren’t getting resolved, it's worth it. You might not get any compensation, but you can at least learn what you’re dealing with.
We recommend troubleshooting first, if you have problems with speeds, or the technology. It could be something fixable, and your provider should have information out there to help you.
When complaining, make sure you record when you’re contacted and what’s suggested. If you aren’t happy with the results, then ask to report your complaint to a senior staff member. If they can't help, you should receive a deadlock letter, and you can then complain to the Ombudsmen. This should be a last resort, and if this doesn't offer a good solution, you’ll have to accept the result or spend out on legal action.
Generally, your provider will want to help you out, so your problem should be dealt with before you need to take it to the Ombudsman.
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