Communications complaints up by a third in three years

by Communications Team | Oct 21, 2015

  • 15,542 complaints about communications providers in 2015 to-date
  • Complaints up 5% year on year
  • Q3 complaints up 35% from three years ago

Thousands of disgruntled telecoms users have complained to Ombudsman Services: Communications so far in 2015. In total, 15,542 complaints were received between January and September this year, up 5% on the same period in 2014.

In the three months from July to September (Q3) complaints decreased by 9% to 4,751, down from 5,194 between April and June. However, the number of complaints received has jumped up dramatically from three years ago, with 35% more complaints received in Q3 2015 than in Q3 2012.

Nearly a third of complaints in September (31%) related to billing issues, such as complicated invoices, direct debit amounts or incorrect account details. Service issues were the second most common gripe with consumers, accounting for over one in five complaints (23%), while contract issues, including cancellations and mis-selling, came in third (16%).  

So far this year, people in the Midlands have been most dissatisfied with their communications providers, bringing 1,480 complaints to Ombudsman Services: Communications - one in 10 of all complaints made (10%). After the Midlands, the telecoms users who complained the most were those in the North West (8%), South West (8%) and Inner London (7%).

The Consumer Action Monitor 20151 showed that consumer complaints in the UK nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014, from 38million to 66million. This trend is reflected in the number of complaints received by Ombudsman Services: Communications, with complaints increasing year-on-year. However, there is still more that could be done by providers to ensure customers receive better experiences, and these failings could be responsible for the dip in complaints over the last quarter.

A recent Ofcom report2 found that there is 'considerable room for improvement' within the communications industry when it comes to facilitating access to Alternative Dispute Resolution. Currently, companies are failing to issue written notification letters and deadlock letters, which consumers require in order to take their cases further when a provider has failed to solve the issue. In three quarters (75%) of cases investigated, notification letters had not been sent when they should have been.

Lewis Shand Smith, Chief Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services, commented: “There are differences between individual companies but the overall trend shows an increase in communications complaints. This is worrying given the recent Ofcom report shows there is significant room for providers to improve their signposting to ADR providers. Many may still be suffering in silence because they think it's too much hassle or don't know what they can do to take their complaint further.

“Dissatisfied customers have a right to approach an ombudsman to complain if their provider has failed to solve a problem, and it seems that companies are failing to make people aware of this. From billing issues to complaints about poor service, we’re here to help.

“Ombudsman Services exists as a quick, free and easy way to resolve ongoing complaints with communications providers, which can provide advice and help to solve peoples’ issues. We're now working with EE along with more than 350 other UK providers and are dedicated to working with them all to ensure people get better service, and that the complaints procedure runs smoothly when things go wrong.” 


1Consumer Action Monitor, January 2015, Ombudsman Services

2Facilitating access to ADR, September 2015, Mott MacDonald for Ofcom

About Ombudsman Services: Communications

Ombudsman Services: Communications is an independent and impartial body providing free and easy-to-access advice and dispute resolution to consumers. It investigates disputes between customers and communications suppliers that have been on going for eight weeks or more or those that have reached a deadlock stage. Consumers must contact their provider directly in the first instance, before they can escalate the complaint to the ombudsman.

About Ombudsman Services

  • Ombudsman Services is a not for profit, private company limited by guarantee 
  • Ombudsman Services runs national, private sector ombudsman schemes which provide independent dispute resolution for the communications, energy, property, copyright licensing sectors, the Green Deal, the ABFA, and Which? Trusted Traders scheme
  • The Chief Ombudsman’s speech about the future of Ombudsman Services in a changing consumer redress landscape can be accessed here
  • Ombudsman Services provides an expert dispute resolution service. The service focuses on encouraging early-agreed resolution wherever possible and does not charge a fee so it’s able to offer access to redress for consumers to resolve their complaints without proceeding to the civil courts
  • Ombudsman Services is a full member of the Ombudsman Association (OA) and adheres to its principles.
  • Further information about Ombudsman Services can be found at