How to complain about broadband

Young woman typing on a laptop at home figuring out how to complain about broadband (image: Getty Images)

If you’re battling broadband issues with slower than promised speeds, outage or billing issues, why not complain to your provider? Here’s the steps to take to try and resolve things.

Some of the most common complaints with broadband providers include issues over the service and quality of the network. This is in addition to broadband speeds, billing disputes, delays fixing faults and problems with customer service, according to the Communications Ombudsman.  

Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, said that complaints about broadband, (along with mobile, landline and TV packages), went up during the first three months of this year. The industry average is currently 12 complaints for every 100,000 customers. TalkTalk was the most complained about broadband (and landline) provider with 20 complaints for every 100,000 users.  

By comparison, Sky was the least complained about broadband provider, with an average of five complaints per 100,000 customers.

Before jumping in and tackling your broadband provider, it’s worth checking if the issue is something you can get instant help with. Take a look at our guide on broadband outages to find out more.

It’s also worth checking your broadband contract. This sets out details of its services, along with how much you pay. If your bill has gone up mid-contract, this could be something you didn’t spot in the service agreement. Many providers have clauses in their contracts stating that they’ll impose mid-contract price hikes. This is typically based on the CPI rate of inflation plus around 3 – 4%.

If after checking your contract, you don’t think you’re getting the service you’re paying for, or being charged more than you should, it’s worth making a complaint. 

1. Get in touch with customer service

In the first instance, you should contact the customer service team to see if they can solve the issue.   

Check your provider’s website for ways to get in touch, like phone numbers. There’s also a helpful guide on our website with details of how to contact the major broadband providers. You’ll also find information about their compensation schemes.

Make sure you have your account details to hand before making the call.  You might well need details beyond your name and address, such as your customer account number, password or memorable word.

And make a note of when issues occurred, like dates and times of broadband outages or which bills have extra charges. Include details of who you’ve spoken to in customer service and when you called.

Getting through to the customer service team may prove time-consuming, especially if you’re stuck in a queue. So it’s not a job to tackle when you’re in a hurry. And be sure to phone when you’re at home, as your provider may want to run some tests.

How to get in touch with your broadband provider

Here are the phone numbers and opening times for the customer service teams of the UK’s biggest broadband providers:

Provider Phone number Opening hours
BT Call 150 from a BT Mobile phone Or 0800 800 500 from any other phone Monday to Friday 8am - 9pm Weekends and bank holidays 8am - 8pm
EE Call 150 from an EE mobile phone Or 0800 079 8586 from any other phone Monday to Friday 8am - 9pm Saturday & Sunday 8am - 8pm
John Lewis Call 0800 022 3300 Monday to Friday: 8am – 8pm Saturday: 9am - 7pm Sunday: 9am – 6pm
NOW Broadband Call 0330 3323 050 Weekdays and weekends: 8.30am - 9pm
Plusnet Call 0800 432 0200 Monday-Friday: 8am - 8pm Saturday: 9am - 7pm Sunday: 9am - 6pm
Shell Energy Broadband Call 0330 0945 801 Monday - Friday: 8am - 8pm Saturday: 9am - 4pm Sunday: closed
Sky Call 0333 7591 018 Weekdays and weekends: 8.30am - 9pm
SSE Broadband Call 0345 071 9886 Monday-Friday: 8am - 6pm Saturday: 8am - 2pm Sunday: closed
TalkTalk Call 0345 454 1111 Monday-Friday: 8am - 8pm Saturday: 9am - 5pm

2. Threaten to leave and switch suppliers if you’re out of contract

If the problem can’t be resolved and you’re out of contract, you should look into switching broadband providers. This could also save you money.

You’ll need to call up and press the ‘thinking of leaving us’ option or ask for disconnections. When it comes to billing issues, this is the department that can usually negotiate a cheaper contract for you. 

And if you’re considering leaving, they may be able to offer alternative solutions. This can include sending out a new Wi-Fi router, crediting your account or agreeing compensation.  

3. Make a formal complaint

If customer service can’t resolve your issue, the next step is to make a formal complaint. This means asking customer service for details of the provider’s designated complaints process and putting your complaint to them. This will usually be by email or letter.

Depending on the company, this may result in a speedy solution. There are often designated departments that deal directly with complaints that go this far.

4. Take your complaint to deadlock

Your broadband provider has up to eight weeks to resolve your complaint. If it can’t be resolved within eight weeks, you have the right to ask for a letter of deadlock. This could be a letter or email and some providers may send this out automatically.

Once you’ve got this, you can choose to take your case further by using a free dispute resolution service. You don’t have to do this. But if you want to, you must do it within one year of receiving your deadlock letter.  

5. Use a free dispute resolution service

If you’re still not happy, you can use a free Ombudsman service or Dispute Resolution scheme.

Broadband companies must belong to an Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme and there are two Ofcom approved ones. These are the Communication and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) and the Communications Ombudsman

You can find which of the two your broadband provider uses by checking the alphabetical list of providers on the Ofcom website. If for example you’re a Plusnet customer, it uses the Communications Ombudsman. Or if you’re a Sky customer with a complaint, it’s CISAS you need to contact.

These services are free to use. However you can’t fast track your complaint by going directly to either of these organisations first. You have to attempt to resolve it with your provider first. 

6. Register your complaint with Ofcom

While Ofcom doesn’t investigate individual complaints from customers, it’s still worth reporting a bad experience with your broadband provider. 

This is because Ofcom compiles details of customers’ issues with individual providers. They can then investigate providers if they receive significant complaints.

You can call the Ofcom advice and complaints line on 0300 123 333 or 020 7981 7040 to raise your complaint.