Insult to injury: Broadband customers hit by price hikes and plagued by connection problems, Which? finds

Over half of broadband customers have experienced problems with their connection in the past year, Which? finds, as the consumer champion calls on providers inflicting above-inflation price hikes to improve their service. 

Which?’s latest broadband satisfaction survey of nearly 4,000 broadband customers found over half (53%) have experienced connection issues in the year to January 2023 – with very slow speeds, connection drop outs, outages, and router problems some of the most common grievances.

The consumer champion found that these issues were persistent across all the broadband providers in the survey – with very narrow margins between the best and worst offenders for poor customer experiences.

The scale of problems faced by consumers is adding insult to injury – as many are paying over 14 per cent more for mediocre services after many providers decided to impose eye-watering price increases earlier this year, despite the struggles many people are facing during the cost of living crisis.

Of the UK’s biggest providers, Sky, Virgin Media, and EE had the lowest proportion of customers who had not experienced any issues – with just 32 per cent, 35 per cent and 37 per cent of their customers not reporting any problems.

Of the major providers, BT fared best – with half (49%) of its customers not experiencing a performance issue in the past year.

Hyperoptic, Shell Energy Broadband and Utility Warehouse performed better, with half or more of their customers not experiencing any performance issue in the twelve months. However, even with these providers, at least four in ten customers said they had experienced at least one problem.

Frequent connection drop outs were the most common broadband issue – with one in five (19%) of respondents affected. The second most common issue customers experienced was connection speed. Around one in six (17%) overall said they had suffered slow speeds.

Slow uploads and downloads were also a common complaint – affecting one in seven (15%) overall. One in seven (14%) suffered router problems and another one in seven (14%) said they had been left without a connection for at least an hour.

One in 10 (12%) has experienced slow or disrupted streaming when listening to music or watching videos and 8 per cent said they were left without connection for more than a day.

Which?’s survey also asked about customer service. Overall, around four in 10 (44%) said they had experienced some kind of customer service issue – with one in 10 (11%) saying they either found it difficult to get in touch with their provider or struggled to get their issue resolved.

Earlier this year, Ofcom called for providers to do more to improve their customer service, particularly given the significant price rises many have experienced.

If people are sick of experiencing broadband issues and are out-of-contract, then it may be time to consider switching providers. Previous Which? research has found that on average, broadband customers can save £92 a year by switching away.

However, for customers in a fixed-term contract, it is not as easy to switch. Millions are trapped in a Catch-22 where they either have to continue paying prices more than 14 per cent higher than those they signed up to, or pay exorbitant exit fees to leave the contract early.

As part of its cost of living campaign, Which? called on providers to allow all customers to leave without penalty if they face mid-contract price rises. All but a handful of firms ignored these calls and instead ploughed ahead with their price hikes, leaving customers stuck in a lose-lose situation.

Just last week, the Chancellor met regulators to talk about how watchdogs can ease the financial pressures on consumers. Which? believes it is absolutely essential that Ofcom’s review results in changes that ensure customers are never trapped in this situation again and have certainty around what they will be paying for the duration of their contract.

Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said: 

“A reliable connection is essential to modern life. Earlier this year, many broadband consumers were hit with mid-contract price hikes of more than 14 per cent – meaning that it’s more important than ever that their provider offers a reliable connection and good customer service.

“It’s completely unacceptable that customers who have faced these eye-watering increases are also experiencing so many problems with their connection. Broadband firms need to work harder to resolve these issues and offer a better service.

“While some customers are able to switch away to better service and prices, many are trapped in contracts where they either have to accept above inflation price hikes in the spring or pay exorbitant exit fees to leave the contract early. It’s absolutely critical that Ofcom’s review of inflation linked mid-contract hikes results in changes that ensure customers are never trapped in this situation again.”


Notes to editors 

Which? cost of living campaign

The consumer champion launched a campaign calling on businesses in essential sectors – supermarkets, telecoms and energy – to do more to help their customers through the cost of living crisis.

Read more about the campaign here and more about Which?’s calls on businesses here.

Broadband customers who are not happy with their provider can use Which? Compare to see how much they could save by switching.

Which? research

Which? surveyed 3,975 people who had a contract for home broadband in December 2022 and January 2023. Data includes a nationally representative sample plus a provider boost approach for brands with low sample sizes.

Proportion of broadband customers who experienced certain problems


Overall proportion of customers who’d experienced problem

Frequent connection drop outs


Very slow speeds


Connection slow to download or upload files


Problems with router


Left without connection for more than hour


Slow or disrupted streaming (music or video)


Left without connection for more than a day


Proportion of broadband customers by provider who had not experienced any performance issue 

Proportion of customers that hadn’t experienced any performance issue



Shell Energy Broadband


Utility Warehouse










Zen Internet






Virgin Media




Note: total percentages include a small proportion of respondents who replied ‘don’t know’ and well as those who have and have not experienced issues.

Right of replies 

An EE spokesperson said: “Ofcom’s latest complaints report shows that we remain one of the least complained about broadband providers, with complaints remaining well below the industry average throughout recent years.

“We remain committed to providing the best customer service across the industry and ensuring our customers get value for money as the UK’s best network. Our teams across the UK and Ireland already provide the most personal and local service in contact centres and retail stores across the country.

“We have proudly led the way with social tariffs since 2008, with around 80% of the total market being supported on BT social tariffs. Customers who are struggling financially and are eligible for our social tariffs can move penalty-free at any point in their contract, this also includes EE and Plusnet customers.

“Any customer worried about paying their bills should contact us and we will help find a solution which works for them.”

A Sky spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing the best service to our customers. We do not believe this is a representative survey – Ofcom’s quarterly complaints data shows we are consistently one of the least complained about broadband providers and, in Ofcom’s latest report, we received the fewest complaints out of all broadband providers.”

A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “While these findings are only taken from a small sample of customers, the latest, fuller data from Ofcom shows that our customers benefit from the fastest download speeds, and customer complaints on our broadband services fell by 22% in the first quarter of this year. Only last month we were rated the ‘Best in Test’ in Umlaut’s broadband benchmarking survey, ahead of other major providers.

“With demand for connectivity higher than ever, we’re investing billions of pounds each year to upgrade and improve our networks to ensure we’re providing our customers with fast and reliable broadband services they can rely on. Customers are receiving more value than ever from their telecoms services, and we continue to invest in every area of our business to ensure we continue to improve and deliver an excellent customer experience.”

About Which?

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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