Has your broadband slowed unexpectedly? Or maybe you've noticed your latest broadband bill is much higher than usual? Whatever the reason, if you're unhappy with any aspect of your internet service, you have every right to complain to your provider.
We've put together some steps you can follow, as well as some information to help ensure your complaint is not only heard, but that it receives an appropriate and proportional response.
Before making a complaint
Before you decide to submit a formal complaint to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), it's first worth confirming that the problem isn't something you can't fix yourself.
Below are listed some common complaints and how to resolve them.
Broadband speed and connectivity issues
If your broadband is dropping out repeatedly throughout the day, or if you're experiencing speeds slower than promised in your contract, there are some fixes you can try yourself to get your connection back up and running.
Perform a speed test: To confirm the speed of your connection, it's a good idea to perform a broadband speed test.
To get the most accurate reading possible, carry out a few tests over several days and at different times throughout the day.
Try connecting another device: Check your broadband connection across a few different devices - such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. this can help you determine whether the issue is to do with your connection or simply the device you're using to connect.
Move your router: Depending on where your router is positioned in your home, it could be having a negative effect on your Wi-Fi connection.
Try moving your router to as close to the centre of your home as possible, ensuring it is in an open space away from thick walls and other obstructions, like furniture.
Billings, payments, and other contractual issues
If you've received your latest broadband bill and noticed an unexpected change to the amount you usually pay every month, your immediate thought may be to complain to your provider. But before doing so, you should first go over your contract.
Annual price rises
Depending on the provider you've signed-up with, annual price rises could be baked into the terms and conditions of your contract.
Many ISPs will increase the cost of their broadband packages every year to be in-line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate of inflation, plus 3.9 percentage points. These increases generally occur on or around the 31st of March each year and are applicable to both new and existing in-contract and out-of-contract customers.
If you have been through your contract and your provider has not mentioned a price rise in your contract (either a set amount or one linked to inflation) then raises their price – you are free to exit that contract and m ove to another provider without penalty. Your broadband provider has to tell you about a price increase, or any other change, 30 days before it happens.
Out-of-contract price rises
If your broadband contract has expired and you haven't switched, you may have noticed a price increase on your monthly bills.
This is because, although you may have gotten a good deal on sign-up, once your contract ends, it's common for providers to increase your monthly costs - often by an exceptional amount.
Out-of-contract broadband customers pay an average of £100 a year more than compared to in-contract customers. And, customers who had their broadband bundled with a TV and landline deal were paying an average of more than £200 once out-of-contract.
Now, owing to strict rules introduced by Ofcom in early 2020, broadband providers are now legally obligated to send you an end of contract notification (ECN).
An ECN details when you're eligible to either re-contract to a new deal or switch to another provider. These messages can easily become lost amongst marketing emails, letters, and texts. So make sure to scan all of the communication you receive from your provider carefully.
Preparing to raise a complaint
If you’ve tried troubleshooting your broadband, and looked your contract but still don't understand any price increases, it is time to speak to your provider.
But before doing so, and to avoid miscommunications or misunderstandings it is important to make some preparations.
Before making a formal complaint, you should make a note of when the issue you're experiencing first arose, and the steps you’ve taken to try and correct it.
If one of these steps has involved speaking with your provider’s customer service or technical support team, you should have a record of the times and dates of any calls or you’ve made, as well as any other relevant details (e.g., emails, live chat transcripts etc.).
How to complain about your broadband service
If you've determined that your broadband issues cannot be resolved either on your own or with the support of your provider’s technical or customer support team, it could be time to raise a formal complaint.
To make a formal complaint about your broadband service you should:
1. Speak to your provider
The first step is to speak with your provider's customer service team and make them aware of the issue.
All broadband providers will have a complaints policy or procedure. This should be available on their website. It will list how to contact them, as well as the protocol they follow when dealing with a complaint.
You can contact your provider via various methods, including email, phone, live chat, or completing an online contact form.
When speaking with your provider's customer service team, they should attempt to resolve the complaint immediately.
If you don't receive an adequate response from your provider's customer service team, you next need to escalate your complaint.
2. Escalate the complaint
If you've spoken with your provider and aren't happy with the outcome, you can escalate your complaint. This part of the complaints procedure is generally straightforward. You only need to explain that you're dissatisfied and you want your complaint to be taken higher up the chain.
Following their complaints procedure policy, your provider will then make a determination about next steps.
For example, your complaint may be passed on to a specific department. It may go to a senior member of staff within the customer service team for further review.
3. Accept the resolution or request a deadlock letter
At this stage in the complaints process, you should have received some form of communication from your provider.
This communication should include information regarding the outcome of their decision. They might also offer some form of financial compensation as a means of closing your case in a timely manner.
If you’re unhappy with either the explanation or compensation you're offered, you should respond in writing to request a ‘letter of deadlock’.
What is a deadlock letter?
A deadlock letter is a letter formally acknowledging that neither party can come to a satisfactory arrangement.
A letter of deadlock gives you 12 months from the date it was received to contact the ombudsman and request further action be taken.
You can also take your complaint to the ombudsman without a letter of deadlock if you can prove you've received no response from your provider after eight weeks from the date of filing your complaint.
4. Escalate your complaint to the ombudsman
if you've tried to resolve things with your provider and are getting nowhere, this is where the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme comes in handy.
Any telecommunications provider offering services to individuals, small businesses of up to 10 employees, and not-for-profit organisations, must be a member of an ADR scheme.
All broadband providers in the UK will belong to one of two ADS schemes approved by Ofcom: the Communication and Internet Service Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) or Ombudsman Services.
When submitting a complaint, the information you’ll need to provide to support your claim may differ depending on which ADR scheme your provider belongs to. For this reason, make sure to read the requirements carefully.
The following lists show which broadband providers belong to which ADS scheme.
You will need to escalate your complaint with the Ombudsman Services for the following broadband providers:
- Cuckoo Broadband
- Direct Save Telecom
- Hyperoptic Broadband
- Origin Broadband
- Shell Energy Broadband
- SSE Broadband
- Virgin Media
Communication & Internet Service Adjudication Scheme (CISAS)
The following providers belong to the. Communication and Internet Service Adjudication Scheme (CISAS):
- NOW Broadband
- POP Telecom
- Sky Broadband
Can I take my broadband complaint to court?
To take your case to the small claims court, you must first be able to show that you have tried to settle the claim by other means - such as through the ombudsman (or CISAS) via the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. If you can't, the court may penalise you.
Remember, making a claim with the ombudsman (or CISAS) is entirely free, meaning that even if you lose, you won't have any costs awarded against you. An ombudsman will also take into consideration your provider's code of practice, giving you a greater chance of success.
The small claims court is less formal than the higher courts. It does not require the presence of solicitors or barristers.
But, depending on the complexity of your case, you may need to seek independent legal advice, which, even if its low-cost legal advice, might cost more than the amount you're claiming for.
Also bear in mind that if you lose your case, you will be responsible for the initial claim fee - which varies depending on the amount you're claiming for - as well as any other expenses awarded against you by the judge.
The total amount of your claim must not exceed £10,000.
Can Ofcom take any action?
Unfortunately, Ofcom - the telecommunications regulator - cannot investigate individual complaints.
They do, however, collate and monitor the number of complaints received about each broadband provider. This can sometimes lead to Ofcom investigating a company further - particularly if that company has received numerous complaints.
So, although you won't get a direct resolution to your issue, complaining to Ofcom can help hold your provider accountable.
Raise a complaint with Ofcom by calling its advice and complaints line on 0300 123 333 or 020 7981 7040.
Compare broadband deals
We find deals from all the top providers and help you switch.