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 champion 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.
While 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.
Lisa Barber, Which? Computing Editor, said:
“It is simply not good enough that broadband customers are still suffering frequent drop outs, 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.”
Notes to editors:
- Customers looking for cheaper broadband can compare deals with Which? Switch Broadband, a transparent and impartial way to compare tariffs and find the best broadband supplier.
- Our research – Which? surveyed 3,903 broadband customers in the UK in December 2021/January 2022. Fieldwork was carried out online by Deltapoll.
What can consumers do if they have problems with their broadband?
Ofcom’s Code of practice – Broadband providers who are signed up to Ofcom’s voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds are now given one month to resolve the problem and if they fail then customers can walk away, penalty-free (the right to exit also applies to contracts that include phone and TV services purchased with broadband in a bundle).
Automatic compensation – 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/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/automatic-compensation-need-know
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
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