Vodafone ranks number one in the Ofcom competition no-one wants to win

Ofcom has released data detailing the complaints lodged for each telco in the UK, and Vodafone almost clean sweeps the awards.

Collecting the most complaints for broadband, mobile and landline, only Virgin Media’s TV offering saved Vodafone executives from further embarrassment. At the other end of the scale, Sky, EE and Tesco Mobile collected the prize for best performance.

Service Least complaints Most complaints
Broadband EE/Sky Vodafone
Mobile Tesco Mobile Vodafone
Landline EE Vodafone
TV Sky Virgin Media

“People have never had more choice in the phone and broadband markets,” said Fergal Farragher, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy.

“It’s also never been easier to switch your service. So, companies that don’t prioritise great service could see customers leaving them for ones that do.”

Thanks to new rules being introduced by Ofcom, telcos are being forced into greater transparency when it comes to the conclusion of contracts and what deals are being made available, as well as simplifying the process of leaving a service. Soon enough, a simple text message will be enough to switch providers.

Moving forward, the new rules should filter down to the telcos. One would hope this would not only improve customer services, but also the performance of the networks as pressure ramps.

Interestingly enough, Vodafone at the top of the list might come as a surprise to some. This is a company which has been investing intensely in a new, converged network, as well as introducing a major overhaul of the business processes to recapture the lost fortunes of yesteryear. It is easy to forget that Vodafone was once the market share leader for mobile, though now it sits in third place.

While no-one wants to be awarded these prizes, the trends are heading in the right direction in the UK. Ofcom has previously pointed towards data which suggests telcos are getting better at delivering on the glorious promises make by breakfast-themed brand ambassadors on TV.

For example, in the first quarter of 2011 the number of complaints for broadband, mobile, TV and landline services stood at 40, 13, 5 and 38 per 100,000 customers respectively, though this industry average has fallen to 14, 4, 6 and 10. TV might not be heading the right direction, though the data suggests the reliability of these services is improving.

Another factor to consider is that the telcos might just be more honest with their customers today than they were in 2011, though through no fault of their own.

t seems like a distant irritation, but it wasn’t long ago that the telcos could make use of the ‘up to’ metric. This enabled service providers to mislead customers on the performance of products. The fact that the telcos are being more realistic on the performance of products in advertising might be a prominent contributing factor to the number of complaints; if the customer is getting the service it was promised, there is nothing to complain about.

“Complaints about mobile, broadband and landline to Ofcom have fallen to historic lows over the last decade, so it’s disappointing to see a slight increase this time around,” said Richard Neudegg, Head of Regulation at Uswitch.com.

“We hope this isn’t a sign that telecoms providers have taken their eye off the ball, as there is still room for improvement.”

Canadian complaints give regulator more ammunition for new telco

The Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS) has said complaints against the telcos are at an all-time high, just as competition authorities are building evidence.

Usually annual complaints reports do not grab headlines, but this report needs to be placed into context. Earlier this week, the Canadian Competition Bureau has suggested new regulations should be introduced to encourage new entrants in the telco space, breaking the over-arching dominance of the ‘Big Three’; Bell, Telus and Rogers.

Looking at the CCTS report, for the last 12 months the Commission received nearly 19,300 complaints from telecoms customers, an all-time high for the organisation’s history.

The report suggests there is also a 42% increase in the number of service provider violations of the Wireless Code, most notably failure to provide important documentation to customers and to provide proper notice before disconnection of service. Complaints against Rogers increased 26.5% year-on-year, Telus’ jumped 70.6%, while Bell’s increased 24.2%.

Complaint Percentage of total
Billing issue 43.1%
Contract dispute 32%
Service delivery 21.8%
Credit management 3.1%

Looking at the long-term trends, complaints about wireless services have increased 90.6% over the last five years. The number of complaints about wireless on the whole increased year-on-year 53% for 2018/19, and accounts for 41% of all complaints directed towards telecoms and TV service providers.

Telco Number of complaints Percentage of total
Bell Canada 5,879 30.5%
Rogers 1,833 9.5%
Telus 1,610 8.3%
Virgin Mobile 1,253 6.5%
Freedom Mobile 1,253 5.9%

Telcos are traditionally very poor when it comes to customer service and delivering on the promised experience, so the poor performance described in the report will come as little surprise. However, those who are pursuing the introduction of new regulations to encourage additional competition will find the results very helpful.

As mentioned previously, the Canadian Competition Bureau has submitted a report to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) questioning whether the industry is in a healthy position. The report requests additional regulation which would encourage the creation of more MVNOs, as well as follow-ups which would assist these MVNOs in deploying their own, independent, scaled-networks. Ultimately, the Competition Bureau wants more competition across the country.

In general, competition authorities only pursue additional competition in markets when the status quo is deemed unsatisfactory. Introducing new dynamics are a means to ensure the consumer gets a fair price and a satisfactory service.

In the report submitted to the CTRC, the Competition Bureau suggests prices are 35-40% lower in regions where there is additional competition to drive the ‘Big Three’, and this competition only have to grab 5-10% of market share. Add the increased number of complaints into the equation, and the case for a competition shake-up in the Canadian market becomes stronger.

Canadian MNO/MVNO ARPU ($)
Bell Canada 51.05
Rogers 41.57
Telus 49.69
Freedom Mobile 28.47
Videotron 29.66

These are still the early days, but we suspect after a public consultation, efforts might be made to introduce additional competition into the market. This could mean forcing the existing telcos to lower wholesale costs to encourage the creation of new MVNOs in the short-term, it could also mean financial/regulatory assistance for these MVNOs to free-up capital for the deployment of infrastructure.

Another worrying development for the Canadian telcos is the up-coming 3.5 GHz spectrum auction which will take place next year. This is valuable spectrum for future 5G services, and should authorities want to introduce new competition, said competition would want a slice of the 5G airwaves. Perhaps limits will be introduced to the amount of spectrum the ‘Big Three’ can buy, and maybe it will be offered at discounted rates for new-players who commit to aggressive network deployment plans.

Country Price per GB ($) ARPU ($)
Canada 12.02 37.95
United Kingdom 6.66 17.65
United States 12.37 32.38
France 2.99 12.37
Japan 8.34 29.52
Australia 2.47 23.29

These are all guesses for the moment, though we strongly suspect Canada might be heading towards a situation where it wants to create additional competition. Prices are high in Canada in comparison to the rest of the world, $12.02 per GB a month and ARPU of $37.95, which is always a negative sign. Admittedly, the Canadian landscape makes it difficult to deploy networks cost-effectively, but the regulator wants to ensure the consumer’s wallet does not take too much of a beating.

It is unlikely to happen in the short-term, but the signs are not looking good for the status quo. The evidence is starting to point towards the need to introduce more competition in the Canadian telecoms market.

Vodafone’s UK fixed line efforts off to a shaky start

Ofcom has started including Vodafone’s broadband and landline services among its complaints data and they top both categories.

The good news for Vodafone is that, while its nascent fixed line efforts are the most complained about (to Ofcom, at least) the lead isn’t that great. TalkTalk isn’t far behind in each case and there isn’t much of a gap to the chasing pack. Ofcom didn’t have anything to say about Vodafone specifically, contenting itself with the standard, generic fare.

“With so much competition in telecoms and TV services, companies that are falling short need to make service quality and complaints handling their priority,” said Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy. “Customers who aren’t happy with their provider can shop around and vote with their feet.”

Ernest Doku of uSwitch.com had a bit more to say. “Vodafone will especially be feeling the heat here as, for the first time, the provider has topped the table for receiving the highest number of complaints for its broadband and landline services,” he said. “However, this is the first time the provider has had enough customers – proportionally – to justify its inclusion in these figures.”

It’s not too surprising that a relatively new set of services should have some teething problems and therefore an elevated level of complaints, so we shouldn’t read too much into Vodafone’s performance for now. But if that level remains high for the next few quarters then that could indicate some more profound issues with Vodafone’s UK diversification.

Here are the tables.

Broadband

Ofcom Q3 2018 complaints broadband

Landline

Ofcom Q3 2018 complaints landline

Mobile

Ofcom Q3 2018 complaints mobile

Pay TV

Ofcom Q3 2018 complaints TV

BT Mobile joins Vodafone as most complained about UK mobile provider

Ofcom has published its latest moaning charts and they reveal Vodafone finally has company at the top of this list of shame.

The last time we checked in on the list Vodafone was still top but had been steadily getting its act together and was only just ahead of BT Mobile. Three months later Vodafone has managed to keep the complaints to a manageable level but BT has had a bit of an uptick and Vodafone has been relegated to second place for the first time in living memory.

This seems to be part of a general pattern or poor customer satisfaction from BT, which has long been the most complained-about pay TV provider, has long been among the most complained-about broadband providers and is consistently above average when it comes to landline complaints.

“These figures give people the information they need to shop around and compare providers’ performance,” said Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy, as ever. “The scorecards also motivate companies to improve their performance, and we want to see them follow through on their promises to give customers better service.”

Here are all the charts.

Mobile

Ofcom Q1 18 complaints mobile

Pay TV

Ofcom Q1 18 complaints TV

Broadband

Ofcom Q1 18 complaints broadband

Landline

Ofcom Q1 18 complaints landline

BT scrapes bottom of Ofcom rankings (again)

It’s that time again. Ofcom has released data on who are the best and worst for customer service in the UK. And BT has struggled for another quarter.

Three months ago, the watchdog released the figures for Q1, and while there has been a slight improvement across the board, BT is still struggling. When you compare the figures for this quarter against those from 2011, there certainly is a notable improvement, but perhaps we as consumers are just getting more demanding; it doesn’t really seem things are getting better.

In terms of the top-line figures, fixed broadband got 18 complaints per 100,000 customers (compared to 35 in Q2 2011), while landline complaints stood at 12 per 100,000 (38 in 2011). Postpaid contracts has also been in decline only registering 5 complaints per 100,000 customers (13 in 2011), while pay-TV has remained steady at 4 complaints per 100,000 customers across the quarter (5 in 2011).

“Complaints about telecoms and pay-TV may be falling this year, but some providers are falling a long way short on customer service,” said Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy.

“There can be no room for complacency. We expect providers, particularly those who have been consistently under-performing, to make service quality and complaints handling their number one priority.”

The problem seems to be the general attitude towards customer service in the industry, it just simply isn’t prioritised. And part of the reason might be the reliance on the digital economy; telcos know that you aren’t going to give up on the digital economy, therefore your choice is to maintain the status quo, or move to another provider which equally doesn’t take it seriously either.

In all fairness, there are a few bright spots on the horizon. Sky, for instance, has proven to be one of the few examples of positivity. In the pay TV game, it registered one complaint per 100,000 customers and only seven in broadband per 100,000 across the quarter. In both examples, Sky was the best performer. Data isn’t available for its MVNO proposition yet, but the signs are looking promising for an attractive multi-play proposition.

Now onto BT. In Landline, broadband, postpaid mobile and pay TV, it registered 15, 28, 11 and 13 complaints per 100,000 customers respectively. In every area the telco was above the industry average. Not great reading.