UK big broadband disappoints customers

The UK's biggest broadband providers are providing "mediocre" services, at least in the eyes of their customers, despite the fact that they are asking for much more money for the privilege.

Mary Lennighan

March 29, 2023

4 Min Read
UK big broadband disappoints customers

The UK’s biggest broadband providers are providing “mediocre” services, at least in the eyes of their customers, despite the fact that they are asking for much more money for the privilege.

With significant – and much discussed – price rises looming in the UK, you could be forgiven for assuming that service providers would be going out of their way to ensure customer satisfaction. But according to the results of the latest Which? broadband provider study, that is clearly not the case.

The consumer group has not shared the full results of its survey, but it paints an overall picture of a market in which the big four – BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Sky – are underwhelming their customers. And that’s putting it politely; Which? describes them as receiving “mediocre ratings at best” from their customers.

In fact, ‘mediocre’ seems to be Which?’s word of the day when it comes to the current state of UK broadband.

“It’s unacceptable that the major broadband firms are hiking prices for their mediocre services by such huge sums during this unrelenting cost of living crisis,” said Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, in a more than slightly emotive statement.

“With just days to go until inflation-busting price hikes take effect, customers who are out of contract should take action now to switch away, cut costs and avoid paying a lot more for their current service,” advised Concha, while also recommending that operators allow customers to exit their contracts without penalty in the event of price rises, and cancel increases for the financially vulnerable.

It seems unlikely that there will be any major changes from big broadband by the end of the month. But with a raft of new broadband providers springing up in the UK – mainly fibre builders targeting underserved markets, but also new resellers, like Rebel Internet, which launched earlier this month – customers increasingly have the chance to vote with their feet.

Indeed, while Which? is not providing all of the details, it shares a pretty clear message: big players don’t provide better service, despite some raising prices by more than 14 percent this year.

“Our survey of almost 4,000 broadband customers found that, while big firms like BT and TalkTalk are on the verge of issuing huge mid-contract price increases, many offer little more than slow speeds, appalling customer service and mediocre technical support in return,” Which? said. “Meanwhile, smaller companies that commit to keep the amount you pay the same for the full length of your contract were some of the highest rated.”

It named TalkTalk as the “worst major broadband provider” in its satisfaction survey, noting that its customers gave it the lowest possible ratings for technical support, customer service and broadband speed. One in five of those who had moved away from TalkTalk said it was because their connection was too slow.

BT, meanwhile, seems to be suffering from its planned price rises already, with almost 40 percent of those surveyed who had left the incumbent giving them as the reason. Which? highlighted customer service and value for money as particular weaknesses for BT, but said that overall it managed better ratings than the other big four providers. Nonetheless, its “easily outshone” smaller competitors.

Which? also advises customers to switch away from Virgin Media while they can still do so without penalty, noting that the provider had some of the lowest ratings on value for money. Meanwhile, Sky customers face lower price rises and can exit penalty-free, but were the most likely to have experienced an issue with their connection in the past year.

All in all, Which? is on the warpath when it comes to big broadband and is working hard to help customers switch, explaining the process, and reassuring users that they are unlikely to be left without a connection for a long period. Its data shows that more than half of broadband customers have been with the same provider for more than two years, while 46 percent have never never switched. The big four’s customers are the most likely to have never been with another provider.

“If you’re in this boat it’s worth weighing up a switch – the grass truly can be greener,” Which? said.

Surely that depends to whom you switch. There is also such a thing as ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire.’


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About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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