50% with broadband problems don't make a complaint

computer problem given up©iStock.com/Claudiad

HALF of broadband users that face problems don't make a formal complaint, a survey released today by the Ombudsman Service has revealed.

The Ombudsman, which can adjudicate complaints relating to providers including BT, TalkTalk and Sky, found that 14% of respondents had made a complaint about their broadband provider.

However, another 18% said they had cause to make a complaint about their broadband but didn't actually do anything about it.

'Hidden' complaints...

The Ombudsman Service survey demonstrates that broadband complaints statistics could be giving a misleading view of customer satisfaction.

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If their results are representative, it would mean that, for example, behind the 0.41 complaints BT received for every 1,000 customers in December 2013, there are actually 0.82 dissatisfied customers.

According to research from Ofcom, 66% of broadband customers say they are generally satisfied with the broadband service they receive.

ofcom complaints stats

SOURCE: Ofcom Quality of Customer Service report 2013 here

The Ombudsman's research seems to show that within that final third of unhappy people, many are unwilling to take action to fix the problem.

... or heading off complaints?

The good news is that the Ombudsman's research also shows that there's a positive reason many consumers aren't making complaints.

54% of people surveyed got a satisfactory answer to their problem so didn't need to take the complaint further by contacting the ISP or third party.

That suggests that people are finding the answer to their problem elsewhere or working out how to fix the issue themselves, which is perhaps preferable to making a formal complaint from the point of view of both parties.

In addition, other companies seem less capable of heading off complaints in this way.

Overall, looking at telecoms, retail and energy complaints, the Ombudsman found that just 31% of consumers had been dissuaded from making a complaint because they'd solved their problem.

Complaints hassle

Less positively, 27% didn't complain about their broadband because they thought it wouldn't be worth the hassle.

Another 9% thought that, for what they paid for the service, it wasn't worth the time to make a complaint.

Perceived hassle is always a key reason that consumers choose not to make complaints.

And there is good reason for them to think it might be an issue.

According to Ofcom research, 40% of consumers don't end up satisfied with the time it has taken for their complaint to be fully resolved.

This time issue might be particularly acute in the broadband market, where complicated technical problems can drag without resolution for a long time.

Less hassle: EU ADR directive

New consumer laws are set to give customers better access to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services.

ADRs can adjudicate complaints that have gone on for at least eight weeks without getting to a resolution and can force companies to fix problems, break contracts or even pay fines to resolve the issue.

The Ombudsman Service, formally known as Otello, is one of the biggest ADRs for telecoms companies.

The other big one is Communications & Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS), which handles long running complaints about Virgin Media and Zen, among many other providers.

By summer 2015, according to an EU law called the ADR Directive, companies will have to do a much better job of promoting ADRs to their customers.

Adjudicators will also have to improve their service. Under the directive, for example, a complaint must be resolved within 21 days.

Having ADRs available means that consumers facing problems will be more likely to make a complaint, the EU has said, since they know that they won't have to rely solely on the company to get the problem fixed.

"Every day, we see the risks that companies run by not handling customer complaints in the appropriate way and the huge reputational rewards of providing a good customer experience," Lewis Shand Smith, the Chief Ombudsman said.

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