It's very important when contacting your broadband supplier to keep records of the details of the problem you're experiencing and of all contact on the matter between you and the supplier.
So, for example, if you are having trouble with your broadband connection not working, keep a note of the times and dates that the connection fails. If you are having trouble with download speeds then keep notes of times and dates of slowdowns and also what tools you are using to measure the speed.
Each time you call your supplier, make a note of the time and date of the call and ask for the full name of the person you speak to. If writing to your broadband provider, keep copies of all letters sent and received.
Also keep copies of all bills received, amounts paid and bank statements showing the details of payments.
Check for obvious problems yourself
Before you complain to your supplier, ensure that the issues are not out of their control. We'd recommend that you take a look at our speed up your broadband guide to ensure you aren't the cause of your own problems first.
It will help when you contact your supplier if you have ruled out the basic problems for yourself first. Your provider's website may provide you with a set of troubleshooting instructions for resolving basic problems without the help of an engineer, be sure to try all of these before calling. If anything, this will save time as the operator is likely to talk you through the same steps if you haven't already tried them.
Always read the small print
We often hear complaints from consumers about aspects of their service that are actually features and restrictions they agreed to be bound by when they signed up.
One of the biggest causes of complaint it from consumers who are confused by the way broadband suppliers advertise their maximum download speeds, the "up to" message. Very few properties in the UK are physically capable of receiving broadband speeds at the maximum level, which is why the speeds are advertised as "up to" a certain level. When you sign up with your supplier they should give you an estimate of the maximum speed that you will be able to receive, this is the estimate to pay attention to.
If, for example, a supplier estimates your line is capable of receiving 4Mb and you get speeds approaching this then you cannot complain that you do not receive 16Mb as this is impossible for the company to supply.
Another common complaint is that of Fair Use policies. Many broadband deals that are advertised as "unlimited" often have fair use policies in force that mean your download speed could be lowered if you are deemed as downloading so much that you are causing degradation of service to other. The conditions of fair use policies are detailed in the terms and conditions of service that you agreed to when you signed up, so you will not have strong grounds for complaint about them later. However, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 providers will no longer be able to hide terms in the small print. This applies to all contracts entered into after 1st October 2015, and should make it clear exactly what you are signing up for.
What kind of issues are grounds for complaints?
OK, so we have checked for obvious issues we can solve ourselves, and we now know what we signed up for. But what are things we can actually complain about?
If you find that you have been overcharged then contact your supplier straight away to get the issue investigated and resolved.
Contact your supplier straight away; if they don't get the problem solved quickly, they should reduce your monthly bill by an amount that corresponds to the amount of downtime. If your connection fails for a period of four weeks or more, you have the right to have your contract canceled as the provider is failing in their side of the agreement.
Your supplier should supply you with notice of any changes to your tariff or terms and conditions. Usually this will be via your broadband provider email address or letter. As these constitute a change to your contract, you may have grounds to end your contract early. Usually there will be a limited period of 30 days starting from notification of the change within which you can request to leave your contract. Be aware that some of the features and benefits of your service may be limited to the original contract length. You may find that the price rises or some features are removed once your 12 or 18 month contract ends. It's likely that you'll be asked to begin a new contract in order to restore these features or other features reserved for new customers. Always remember to shop around for a cheaper or a better deal from other suppliers before you commit to any new contract with your current supplier.
Problems moving home
Moving home can in some cases be problematic with broadband suppliers. Many providers charge a fee when you move property, if you are out of your minimum term contract it can often be easier to cancel your contract and start a new one at your new property. If you choose a transfer then be sure to make sure that you keep your broadband provider up to date on the move to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. We provide a guide to moving broadband when you move home, this includes details of many providers' home move services.
Problems switching providers
If you’re switching between providers on the Openreach network then the onus is on the new provider to handle the move.
Your old provider will send you a letter confirming the details of the switch, giving you ten days to cancel the move. They will also outline any exit fees — such as paying up the remainder of your contract — and if this is too high you can cancel. Any additional costs should not be hidden in the small print — they may be deemed ‘unfair’ if that is the case. Note that the old provider is not allowed to make you an improved offer to stay during this phase.
This letter of notice should also protect you against ‘slamming’. This is where a provider begins the switching process without your permission. If this happens you do have grounds to make a complaint.
Your new provider will inform you of the switchover date, and there should be no downtime when it happens. If there is, you should contact your new provider as you may be entitled to a price reduction. Your new provider will also inform you if there are likely to be problems keeping your existing phone number. Overall, any questions about the process should go to your new provider. In all cases you have a 14-day cooling off period in which you have the right to cancel.
The exception to this is if you’re switching to or from a cable provider. In this instance you need to contact the old provider as well, to cancel. As new hardware may need to be installed in your home there may be some downtime during the switchover, although your new and old providers should supply you with dates the changes will take place to help you minimise this. If you experience problems with this, first contact the relevant provider to resolve the issue. There's more on this in our switching guide.
Any email service that comes as part of your broadband package should work correctly, if it does not then it is your provider's duty to resolve any problems or provide you with an equivalent service.
Problems with bundled services like TV or phone
If you're also paying your broadband supplier for a telephone service or bundled TV services like satellite, cable or YouView, these should work as advertised. If your phone line or voicemail don't work, or you're not able to achieve the broadband speeds needed to view bundled TV services without buffering then this would be grounds for complaint.
Any equipment that is provided to you by your supplier should be fit for purpose. If equipment supplied is faulty and your broadband provider does not remedy the issue promptly then you have good grounds for complaint. Your supplier should cover all postage costs incurred if you need to post faulty equipment back to them.
Billing carrying on after moving providers
If you have migrated to a new broadband provider and yet your old provider is still taking money from your account, you are entitled to a refund. Contact the old provider as soon as possible to confirm the situation and get it sorted.
Tips for when contacting your provider
Before calling make sure you know what you are going to say, what exactly the problem is and what you'd like doing to get it sorted.
Always stay calm, no matter how frustrating you are finding your call. It doesn't help to sort things out by getting angry.
If your problem is ongoing and cannot be sorted out (your supplier refuses to find a solution to your concerns, or claims there is nothing they can do) ask for the company's official complaints procedure to be explained to you. To take your complaint to the next step you will need to follow this procedure.
What to do if you still have a complaint?
If you end up in the situation where you have followed your broadband supplier's official complaints procedure and you still do not have your issues resolved, you should look to take your complaint to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Scheme that your provider will be signed up to.
To be able to take your complaint to ADR you need to meet the following criteria:
You have made a formal complaint to your broadband provider without success and 8 or more weeks have passed since you first complained.
Your broadband provider has sent you a letter stating they are not going to investigate you complaint further. This is known as a deadlock letter.
Using an ADR scheme is free of charge. An independent adjudicator will examine the facts of your complaint from both sides and, if they find in your favour, they will ask the broadband supplier to take some action. This may be the provision of a product, a service or some practical action that will benefit you, an apology or an explanation.
Other sources of information
The communications regulator Ofcom has provided advice on telecoms complaints and customer service, including more on dispute resolution services, which may also help in this situation, as might our longer guide on consumer rights and regulations affecting broadband.