Broadband.co.uk Blog: TalkTalk

Regular Broadband-related news and comment from the Broadband.co.uk team.

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Updates related to the home broadband provider TalkTalk.

Frustrated woman with a laptop

Virgin Media outed by Ofcom as the most complained-about broadband provider

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsBTSkyPlusnetTalkTalkVirgin MediaEEVodafone

Ofcom's latest figures on broadband complaints are out - and it's bad news for Virgin Media. The company has rocketed to the top of the list as the major broadband supplier that gets the highest rate of complaints.

The report covers January to March this year, and counted the number of complaints made to Ofcom about providers with a market share of 1.5% or more.

It shows that Virgin Media generated 33 complaints per 100,000 customers, an increase of 20 in just a year. That puts them a long way ahead - or should that be behind - the next two worst performers, with Vodafone and TalkTalk both getting 24 complaints. Vodafone had been the worst ranking provider in six of the last seven quarters. Plusnet also generated complaint levels above the industry average.

And that's not the end of the bad news for Virgin Media. They also racked up the highest complaint levels for their landline service (19 per 100,000) and their pay TV service (17 per 100,000), and were second worst for mobile (5 per 100,000) behind Three.

The biggest reason why customers complained to Ofcom about Virgin Media was failings in the broadband provider's own complaints handling system - amounting to 39% in total. A third complained about faults and issues with the service, and a further 13% about billing problems.

Industry-wide, faults, service and provisioning issues accounted for 42% of reports, followed by complaints handling and billing.

Sky and EE were the least complained-about providers, generating just seven apiece. They've been in the top two positions for the last two years. The only other provider to beat the industry average was BT, with 15.

In good news for the industry overall, the average number of complaints has more than halved over the last decade, from 40 per 100,000 in the first quarter of 2011, to 19 now. The numbers are up from a record low of 10 in Q2 of last year, perhaps in part a consequence of pandemic disruption and the increasing importance of internet access for work, school and entertainment.

Broadband complaints per 100,000 customers

  • EE: 7
  • Sky: 7
  • BT: 15
  • Industry average: 19
  • Plusnet: 21
  • Vodafone: 24
  • TalkTalk: 24
  • Virgin Media: 33

In pay TV, Virgin Media generated 17 complaints against an industry average of 6. Sky performed best with just two. For landlines, Virgin had 19 complaints, eight more than the average, and EE and Sky tied as best performers with five each.

Mobile complaints were largely flat, and at much lower levels. Three performed worst with six complaints, while Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile and EE had just one each.

Service reliability, billing, and complaint handling are important factors you should consider when choosing a new broadband provider. Our site contains thousands of customer ratings and reviews that can give you a true feel for how each provider performs. Currently, Zen top our list for customer satisfaction.

If you aren't happy with the service you're getting from your supplier, and you're coming to the end of your contract, it's easy to switch. Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband deal available in your area today.

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Hands typing on a laptop

7 myths about UK broadband busted

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesCuckooVirgin MediaNOW BroadbandBTSkyVodafoneTalkTalk

There are so many well established ideas about broadband and switching broadband providers that get repeated again and again.

The trouble is, many of them are wrong - and they're costing you money.

Switching suppliers can easily save you a hundred pounds or more every year, and if you're stuck on a slow internet package when you need something much faster, it doesn't have to cost you a fortune to upgrade.

So here are some of the biggest myths about broadband, and the truth that you need to know.

"Fibre is fibre - all fibre broadband is the same"

While fibre broadband is used as a catch-all term, it encompasses very different things.

Most of us are using something called fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband. This is where the ultrafast fibre cables carry your broadband signal as far as your nearest street cabinet - that green box down the end of your road. The connection from the cabinet to you house is over the old copper telephone cables. These are a lot slower, and the signal degrades the further it has to travel, which is why a house on one of the street can get very different performance levels to one at the other end.

There's now a big push to roll out "full fibre" broadband, which is also known as fibre-to-the-home. Here, the fibre cables run right up to your house. The result is that the speeds are much, much faster and the service is more reliable.

"There's no benefit to upgrading to ultrafast broadband"

A recent survey found that one of the main things that stopped people from upgrading to ultrafast or full fibre broadband was the belief that it didn't really offer any benefits. But there are many.

The main one, obviously, is that you get much faster download speeds. Our internet use is skyrocketing - Ofcom's recent Communications Market Report shows that the average household now burns through 429GB of data each month, an increase of 36% on the previous year. Even if you think you don't need faster speeds right now, you will do soon.

On top of that, you get vastly quicker upload speeds, which will be essential if the working from home revolution continues. The service should be more reliable, too, as you won't have to deal with line faults on the old telephone cables.

And it's also better value for money: currently, you pay the same price for your broadband as your neighbour down the street, yet you could be receiving a much slower service. That's far less of an issue with full fibre.

"It's too much hassle to switch providers"

By now it's well established that those of us who are willing to switch providers will get a better and cheaper deal than those who stick with the same provider for a long time.

Why don't more people switch? Because it's seen as too much hassle. But it really isn't.

If you move between two providers on the Openreach network - which includes almost all the main providers, including BT, TalkTalk, Sky, Vodafone, Plusnet and so on - then the one you are moving to will handle the entire switchover process for you. You won't have to do anything, and the whole process should be done within a couple of weeks.

Granted, it is a little more complicated to switch to or from a provider that uses a different infrastructure, like Virgin Media, as you may need an engineer to come and install it. But these companies are now set up to make even this part as easy as possible.

"You'll lose internet access when you switch"

Another reason people are reluctant to switch is that they assume they'll be left without internet access while it happens. This is another myth.

Generally speaking, your old service gets turned off as your new service gets switched on and you might be disconnected for a few minutes in between, but nothing more dramatic than that. If you're switching to or from Virgin Media, you can even arrange an overlap where your new service is connected before your old one is turned off.

"You always have to sign a long contract"

Something that puts off a lot of people when they're looking at broadband deals is the prospect of having to commit to a long contract.

In fact, you don't have to. NOW Broadband, Virgin Media, and newcomer Cuckoo are among the providers that offer no-contract deals. You have to pay a little more on the activation fee up front, but this might be worth it for the flexibility of being able to cancel at any time. These deals can be especially worth it for students or anyone who's planning to move house in the near future.

Most suppliers offer 12 month contract options as well. And keep in mind that if your reluctance to sign a long deal is through the worry that you'll be stuck with something you aren't happy with, then there are ways you can quit a contract without charge. If your broadband speed constantly underperforms, for example, and your supplier cannot fix it, or if they put your prices up by more than the amount in agreed in your contract.

"It's too complicated to find a better deal"

There are a lot broadband suppliers in the UK, and they offer a lot of deals between them. Trying to figure out the differences can be tricky, especially if you aren't that tech savvy.

But it needn't be that complicated. We make it easy for you to compare all the latest broadband deals, and you can filter them based on whatever you want most. So, you can see the cheapest deals, or the fastest deals, or just the fibre packages, or those that offer broadband without a contract.

And if you then sort them further by speed or first year cost, you'll very quickly narrow your list of options down to just a few packages.

"Faster broadband always costs more"

While it's natural to assume that upgrading to faster broadband will cost you more, it isn't necessarily so.

If you're in a coverage area, you can get full fibre from Hyperoptic (at the slower 30Mb speed) at a rate normally reserved for the old, standard broadband deals; you can upgrade to a faster 67Mb plan from OneStream for just £22.50 a month; or you can burst through the 100Mb barrier with Vodafone for just £26 a month. These are some pretty keen prices, that make faster broadband more accessible than you might have expected.

So, now you know the truth about broadband and how to upgrade, are you ready to start shopping? Use our postcode checker to discover the best broadband deals available where you live.

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A couple watching TV

What broadband speed do you need for your smart TV?

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesSkyBTTalkTalkPlusnetVirgin MediaVodafone

If you're splashing out on a big screen smart TV, perhaps to watch the Euros or to build your dream Home Cinema experience, it's worth also checking to make sure that your broadband package is up to scratch.

It's not really a big deal if you've gone for a smaller set, but if you're rocking a 65 inch screen or more, you want the best resolution you can get. 4K streaming is a must.

So what exactly do you need? When it comes to broadband for TV streaming, how fast is fast enough? Let's take a look.

What speeds do you need?

First, load up our speed test tool, go and stand next to your telly and run it a couple of times. This will give you an idea of the speeds your TV is able to get.

Now, you can compare the results to the speed requirements for many of the most popular streaming services:

  • BBC iPlayer - 4K: 24Mb, HD: 5MB. (iPlayer currently only offers a few shows in 4K, including the whole of the Euro 2020 competition.)
  • NOW TV - 1080p HD: 12Mb (There's no 4K option at the moment.)
  • Netflix - 4K: 25Mb, HD: 5Mb
  • Amazon - 4K: 15Mb, HD: 5Mb
  • Disney+ - 4K: 25Mb, HD 5Mb
  • Apple TV+ - 4K, 15Mb, HD: 8Mb

You might need to upgrade your subscription to get 4K streaming on some of these services. They will stream in 4K if your connection is fast enough, but will drop down to 1080p HD (and potentially even lower) if it isn't, so you don't have to worry about adjusting the settings of your streaming apps to find the appropriate quality.

Smart TVs use the same bandwidth as dedicated streaming sticks or set-top boxes, so the requirement is the same if you're using one of those instead - it's based on the software rather than the hardware.

And if you're wondering whether streaming uses more bandwidth than downloading, it's basically the same. You can technically download at a higher quality on a slower connection if you're willing to wait long enough, although you wound't want to do that too often. The big difference is for live TV, where you're always reliant on your internet connection when streaming, as compared to an aerial, cable or dish, where you always get the highest quality available, regardless.

How can you speed up the internet for your smart TV?

If you're struggling with buffering or pixellated images, or you're concerned you aren't getting the maximum quality available, there are a few things you can try.

  • Check your TV has a good Wi-Fi signal to begin with - you can usually see this if you delve into the TV's W-Fi settings. The weaker your signal, the slower your connection might be, and if it gets too weak, there's where you're likely to encounter problems.
  • If you have a weak connection, make sure there are no electrical devices nearby that can cause interference, like a cordless phone.
  • Also, you could try moving your router so that there are no heavy, physical objects like large bookcases that could block the signal.
  • Most smart TVs should have an Ethernet port around the back, so you can plug in a cable direct from your router to ensure a fast, consistent connection. Alternatively, you could use something like a Powerline adapter to extend your network coverage into a room where your Wi-Fi performance tends to be less than stellar.

The best broadband for your smart TV

As you can see from the speed requirements above, even 4K streaming is easily within the capabilities of almost all fibre packages, assuming you don't live too far away from your nearest street cabinet. This can cause a big drop-off in your download speeds.

The complication comes when you factor in what the rest of your household is doing while you're watching.

A typical entry level fibre deal, with 36Mb download speeds, comfortably exceeds the 25Mb requirement for 4K. But if you've got kids YouTubing and FaceTiming, and a partner in your home office downloading, all at the same time, your bandwidth will be spread a lot more thinly. Suddenly, that 4K streaming could be off limits.

So what speeds should you go for? Assuming a busy household, a top-end fibre-to-the-cabinet package should be the minimum. These have speeds in the region of 63-66Mb, and are enough for a few people to be busy online at the same time. Vodafone, TalkTalk and Plusnet are among the providers that offer great value fibre deals with these speeds.

But you should go faster for a larger household, to get the peace of mind that your connection will always be speedy enough to meet your needs. Most providers offer packages faster than 100Mb, including Sky, BT and Virgin Media.

If you're ready to upgrade to get the best TV and Home Cinema experience possible, use our postcode checker to discover the best broadband deals available in your area today.

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Man with laptop on the phone

Broadband providers still need to improve support for vulnerable customers

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesEEBTPlusnetOnestreamSSEHyperopticTalkTalkVodafoneVirgin MediaNOW BroadbandSkyJohn LewisShell EnergyCommunity FibreKCOMZen

We've all got horror stories about bad customer service. But it's people with health, financial or emotional problems that are still having the most inconsistent experiences when they contact their broadband provider's customer service team.

That's the big finding from research by Ofcom, which looked at the progress the industry has made since the watchdog last year published its guidelines for treating vulnerable customers fairly.

They found that while some users received extra support due to their circumstances, and others reported positive experiences despite the provider not knowing about their vulnerability, the overall service was still patchy.

It suggested that people's experiences were heavily dependent on the member of staff they spoke to, with no guarantee they would get to deal with the same person twice.

It suggests there's still plenty of room for improvement in the training of customer support teams.

What makes a customer vulnerable?

Vulnerabilities come in many forms. They include physical and mental health problems, debt or unemployment, bereavement, or even becoming a victim of crime.

Unsurprisingly, the number of vulnerable customers has increased during the pandemic and its subsequent economic fallout.

While Ofcom rules require all providers to have policies in place for helping vulnerable customers, it isn't always easy for them to automatically tell if someone needs extra support. If you regard yourself as being in a vulnerable group, or if your circumstances have recently changed (you might have lost your job, for example), you should contact your broadband supplier and let them know.

They'll add that information to your account, and it should inform any relevant future interactions you have with them.

What kind of support can you get?

With the definition of vulnerable being quite broad and varied, the types of support you can get are also broad and varied.

  • You should have access to a range of communications channels to speak to customer support. This could include text relay services or support in different languages.
  • You should be given the time to get help, support and advice on managing debts without the threat of enforcement action.
  • Providers could consider giving you a payment holiday to help you manage cashflow issues.
  • Providers should give you information and advice on tariffs to ensure you don't end up paying more than you should. Vulnerable people are the most likely to remain on expensive out-of-contract deals.
  • Broadband providers should regard disconnection as a last resort.

Broadband providers' vulnerability policies

Ofcom's guidance expects a number of things from broadband suppliers. They should train their staff to be able to recognise the characteristics, behaviours and verbal cues of someone who might be vulnerable, so they can be proactive in offering support. They should identify vulnerable customers and record their needs. And they should make all of their customers aware of the kinds of support and services that they offer.

Many providers publish vulnerability policies. Some have specific support teams in place for vulnerable customers, and some make it easy for you to register your vulnerable status with them. This information will be treated in confidence, and is subject to all the usual data protection legislation.

Here are the relevant pages for many of the leading providers:

Some of the things you can expect include ways to improve access to support via text relay and NGT services or braille guides; simple instructions on using accessibility services like subtitles on TV; and specific policies and help for dealing with financial issues. Naturally, what's promised and what's delivered are not always the same thing, so check our user reviews to see our customers' experiences of their providers' tech support.

If you want to read the full Ofcom report, click here. Or if you want to compare the best broadband deals in your area today, use our postcode search tool to get started.

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Man relaxing with a laptop

How to find the best broadband for light use

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesVodafoneHyperopticJohn LewisTalkTalkPlusnetEECommunity FibreNOW BroadbandOnestreamThree

You know how it goes. Whenever you start shopping for a new broadband deal, you find yourself being steered towards the faster, flashier and more expensive services.

The thing is, not everyone needs an upgrade. Some of us are happy with what we've already got, and some don't even need that.

If you don't have a house full of kids who are all online 24/7, or if you live on your own, or are part of the generation that's less computer-reliant, then you may be able to get away with a much more basic broadband service. It could even save you some money in the process.

Let's take a look at your options.

How light is light use?

First of all, you need to work out how much you actually use the internet, to make sure your usage is as low as you think it is.

If your usage is mostly things like web browsing, shopping and bill paying then that's definitely light use. TV streaming counts as well, so long as there's only one person in your house doing it at any given time, and that you don't want to watch in the highest quality on your massive 4K TV.

But there are lots of other things as well that you don't tend to think about: Windows updates on your laptop that happen in the background, downloading movies and TV shows to your Sky Q box, playing games, and sharing large files for work. And all those other little devices you've got connected to your Wi-Fi. Some of them won't be downloading much, but it all adds up.

Chances are that you do use more bandwidth than you realise, so do make sure that you buy a broadband service that's right for your needs.

Broadband for light use

The slowest broadband you can get is standard broadband. This is the old pre-fibre service that runs entirely on the copper phone network. It offers average speeds of around 11Mb, which is enough for general web use or for one person to watch Netflix in HD.

Standard broadband is old tech and is set to be phased out in a few years, but you can still get it right now. It doesn't offer huge savings - standard broadband will typically save you a couple of pounds a month, but over the course of a year they do amount to the cheapest deals you can get.

Take a look at NOW Broadband, Plusnet and John Lewis for the cheapest standard broadband packages, with prices under £20 a month.

If you don't want to go quite that slow, the most basic fibre deal you can get is from Onestream. Their 17Mb service is the cheapest widely available fibre broadband package.

Most suppliers' entry-level fibre offers more than double that speed, at around 36Mb. Almost every broadband company has a deal at this level, so there's bags of competition on price and service. TalkTalk, Vodafone and EE all have deals around the same price point for the same speed services.

36Mb is ideal for light use - it's affordable but not too restrictive. It can handle many people online at the same, with even two or three streaming movies simultaneously, so has plenty of headroom for when you have guests round.

You could also consider some specialist providers. Hyperoptic and Community Fibre have great value full fibre packages - at 30Mb and 50Mb respectively - but they're both available in only very limited areas. Or you could go for a mobile broadband deal, running on the 4G network (or 5G in some areas), such as the 18Mb plan from Three.

You don't always have to buy the best or fastest broadband deal around. Pick what you need, and if you only need something basic then you've got plenty of choices.

Ready to start shopping for a new broadband deal? Just enter your postcode into our postcode checker and you'll be able to see exactly what offers are available in your street right now.

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Christmas Broadband

Upgrade your broadband and TV in time for Christmas

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsFeaturesExpiredNOW BroadbandTalkTalkSkyBTVirgin MediaPlusnet

Christmas is going to be a bit different this year.

Even with the hope of relaxed restrictions, it's likely that for many of us, large family gatherings will be replaced by virtual get-togethers, and nights out at pubs and parties will be swapped for nights in with a boxset.

And what does this mean? Our internet connections are going to be more important than ever.

So why not treat yourself to an early Christmas present by upgrading to a fantastic new broadband deal? If your current contract is coming to an end - or maybe it ran out a while back and you haven't got round to sorting it yet - now is the perfect time to start shopping.

There's loads of festive offers on right now, and if you act quickly there's still time to get connected before the holiday season kicks off.

You can even sign up to a premium TV service, so you can catch the latest movies, the hottest new shows, and enjoy the Premier League's hectic Christmas schedule.

  • Sign up to Virgin Media by 9th December for guaranteed installation by Christmas. You can get both broadband and TV, and activation is free - saving you £35!
  • You can still get Sky TV bundles up and running in time for Christmas.
  • For other TV and broadband bundles, check out the latest deals from BT and TalkTalk - TalkTalk packages still come with the promise of no mid-contract price rises.
  • Plusnet have seasonal offers available until 16th December.
  • You can get NOW Broadband with a range of TV Passes, covering your choice of entertainment, movies and sports.

When choosing a new broadband deal, always make sure you pick the right speed for your household. Put simply, the more people in it, the faster you need. So while one person making a video call or watching Netflix can get away with a relatively low speed, a few people all doing the same together will need much faster.

And keep in mind any large downloads you need to make. For example, games for the Playstation 5 or new Xbox consoles typically start at around 50GB, and can be double that. To make things a little easier, schedule these downloads to happen overnight, so they're ready and waiting the following morning.

You'll have to hurry if you want to get your broadband set up in time for Christmas. Use our postcode checker to find the best broadband bargains available where you live right now.

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Lockdown Lessons Report

How internet use surged and workers became more productive during lockdown

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesTalkTalk

Internet usage surged by 40% during the lockdown this year, and working-from-home Brits became a whole lot more productive, according to a new survey.

The TalkTalk Lockdown Lessons Report looks at how we spent our time online during the lockdown. The survey gathered feedback in August from users and businesses, and analysed TalkTalk's own network usage patterns to discover the trends that emerged, and what changes it may lead to in the future.

The most unsurprising detail was that internet usage jumped by 40% during the lockdown period, compared to the same time a year ago. This is a large increase, even factoring in the usual year-on-year increase in data use.

The number hasn't dropped since restrictions eased, either, suggesting the change may be permanent. In fact, users ranked internet access as the second most important thing to have during a lockdown - behind only a garden or outdoor space.

So how were we spending all this extra time online?

For leisure use, video chat was the big winner. Some 44% spent time chatting with family and friends, and many of these would have been first time or reluctant users. More than a third said they were now a lot more confident using the technology.

Inevitably, video streaming services also proved popular, with an amazing 4.6 million households picking up a new subscription. 27% spent extra time on social networks, while 11% did more online gaming than usual.

Productivity increases

It wasn't all fun and games. 58% of those who had started working from home felt they'd become more productive, and over half don't expect to ever return to the office full time. More than four in five identified a fast, reliable broadband connection as the most important thing to enable them to work away from the office.

Around a third of business leaders agreed that remote working had increased productivity among their teams. 40% said they'd made a contribution towards their employees' phone or broadband bills, and the same number had contributed up to £200 to improve their staff's home-working environment. A quarter invested in mental wellbeing apps.

And there's one more intriguing consequence of the lockdown: it has sparked a revolution in self-improvement.

Over half of all the people surveyed said that they'd learned new skills during the lockdown. 40% had looked up "how-to" videos, 19% had used learning apps, and an impressive 16% signed up to a full, online educational course. Languages, cooking, IT skills, gardening and yoga were the popular areas for learning.

Overall, a third developed a new skill, and the same number plan to continue learning into the future. Nearly a fifth of 18-24 years even felt their career prospects had improved. Younger people were also the driving force behind the trend for setting up an online side-hustle. One in ten said they'd pursued their own part-time business, like selling stuff or offering freelance services.

It remains to be seen what the digital legacy of lockdown will be. Many of the changes we've seen do seem to be an acceleration of trends that were already well underway. And if the results of this survey are anything to go by, changes in how we keep in touch with family, how we spend our leisure time, and how we work may well be here to stay.

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Broadband complaints

Vodafone still the worst large provider for broadband complaints, say Ofcom

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsPost OfficeEEVodafonePlusnetTalkTalkSkyVirgin MediaBT

For the third successive quarter, Vodafone have been named as the 'big eight' broadband provider that generates the most complaints.

The unwanted title comes from Ofcom's latest complaints report for the last quarter of 2019. They show what while the industry average improved from 14 to 12 complaints per hundred thousand customers, Vodafone's number rose slightly to 27. That's around a quarter more than the next worst 'big eight' performers, Plusnet and TalkTalk.

Once again, the standout suppliers were EE and Sky with just five customers having cause to moan. They, along with BT, were the only companies to achieve below average grievance levels. Virgin Media made the biggest improvement, with their level of disgruntled users dropping from 20 in the previous quarter, to 14.

The data covers the UK's eight largest broadband suppliers, which all have at least 1.5% market share. Here's how they rank:

  Complaints per 100,000 customers Compared to previous quarter
EE 5 -
Sky 5 -
BT 10 -3
Industry Average 12 -2
Post Office 13 +3
Virgin Media 14 -6
TalkTalk 19 -3
Plusnet 20 -2
Vodafone 27 +1

 

The report covers October to December 2019. Its publication was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, and it also means that the data doesn't take into account the massive surge in broadband use during the lockdown. We'll have to wait and see what impact that had on customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction

Speaking of which, Ofcom have also released their latest annual Customer Satisfaction survey. The report, for the whole of 2019, shows that an overall 85% of users are happy with the broadband service they get.

Of the 'big eight', Plusnet came out on top with an impressive 93% satisfaction rate. This is in spite of them performing pretty badly in a couple of areas. Over the year they had the second highest number of complaints, at 100 per hundred thousand customers. They also had the second longest call waiting time. Anyone phoning Plusnet for support would have to wait an average three minutes 48 for the call to be answered. By comparison, TalkTalk would answer in just 39 seconds.

This was a rare win for TalkTalk, who came out bottom of the satisfaction chart at just 78%. Only 44% of their users were happy with how complaints were handled, too.

The Customer Satisfaction report ranks the leading broadband providers across a range of categories. Here are the winners and losers:

  Average Best Worst
Overall satisfaction 85% Plusnet - 93% TalkTalk - 78%
Customers with a reason to complain 12% BT, Post Office - 10% EE - 15%
Satisfaction with complaint handling 53% EE - 66% TalkTalk - 44%
Average call waiting time 2:10 EE - 0:26 Virgin Media - 4:26
Ofcom complaints per hundred thousand 52 Sky - 21 Vodafone - 115

 

Your broadband rights

You don't have to settle for poor service from your broadband provider. If you aren't happy with what you're getting, or you don't think you're getting what you're paying for, take a look at our guide to your rights as a broadband customer to find out what you can do. We've got some advice on how to complain to your broadband provider, too.

And, of course, when your contract is up, you don't need to stick around if your provider is not up to scratch. Check out the best broadband deals available today to see what your options are.

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Out of contract customers

Out of contract broadband users to save £270 million a year

Posted by Andy Betts on in NewsSkyBTPlusnetEEVirgin MediaTalkTalk

Coming to the end of your broadband contract? You could be set to take your share of a £270 million saving following a new agreement between Ofcom and some of the industry's biggest brands.

The deal will see EE, Plusnet and Sky join BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media in cutting prices for vulnerable customers when their contract ends.

On top of that, EE, Plusnet, Sky, BT and TalkTalk have also all agreed to make New Customer pricing available to their existing users when they upgrade. It guarantees them access to the most attractive deals.

The changes will result in price cuts worth £270 million each year for the UK's nearly nine million out-of-contract customers, slashing the half a billion pound excess they normally pay.

The measures are the latest part of the industry watchdog's ongoing plan to ensure that everyone gets the best deal on their broadband by avoiding the often hefty price rises that follow when a user's initial contract period ends.

The benefits of signing a new deal or switching providers are well known. Yet as many as 40% of all users are still on an out-of-contract deal, paying an average of £56 a year more than they should be.

Ofcom found that Virgin Media have the highest proportion of out-of-contract users, at a massive 61%. Sky and Plusnet are also above average, with 42% still on old deals.

But EE's out-of-contract customers pay the most, at an average of £7.90 extra each month - or nearly £95 per year.

Research shows that older and vulnerable users are the least likely to switch, so they've been a large focus of Ofcom's campaign. Only last week they called on the industry to treat vulnerable people - including those with disabilities, health or financial problems - more fairly, to identify them more quickly, and to increase staff training.

Ofcom say that around a million vulnerable customers should save as much as £70 each per year as a result of these new rules.

Don't pay more than you need to

Other Ofcom rules came into force in February that require your broadband supplier to contact you when your deal ends. They now need to tell you how much you'll be paying if you remain on the same deal, compared to what you could pay if you took on a new contract. But you still need to act on it.

Even if you're happy with your current supplier, you shouldn't simply remain on your old deal. Do that, and the price will go up. If you're willing to sign a new contract with them you'll be able to get a much better price. You might even get other perks, too, like a new router, a speed guarantee, extra data on your mobile plan, and so on.

If you're open minded about switching, use our postcode checker to see what broadband deals are available in your area. Prices rise by as much as 50% when your contract ends, so you should be able to find a far better price than what you would pay if you did nothing.

Make sure you factor in the value of rewards like cashback. And remember that this is also your chance to bring several services together in a single bundle. Getting TV, mobile and landline calls from one provider will often bag you a better deal than if you get them all from different companies.

Sound like a plan? Then compare then best broadband deals now.

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How to claim your free broadband rewards

How to claim your free broadband rewards

Posted by Andy Betts on in FeaturesBTJohn LewisPlusnetEEVirgin MediaSkyNOW BroadbandTalkTalk

A lot of broadband suppliers offer freebies to tempt you to sign up, and some of them are really worth having. They can range from cashback and bill credit, to shopping vouchers, and sometimes even tech gadgets. They change all the time, so if you're on the hunt for a new deal it's worth keeping an eye out for what's around.

But the important thing to remember is that you very often have to claim your reward separately. And you normally only get a short window in which to do so - miss it and you'll miss out!

We've got a full guide to broadband rewards and free gifts if you want to know more. Or if you just want to know how to claim your swag for many of the main providers, here's what you need to do.

How to claim Plusnet rewards

Plusnet regularly offer cashback, gift cards and reward cards to new customers. They'll send you an email within 10 days of your signing up with a link to claim your reward. You then need to claim it within two months, and should get it around 10 days later.

How to claim BT rewards

A lot of BT Broadband deals include a BT Reward Card as their special offer. This is preloaded with a cash sum that you can spend in most places that accept Mastercard payments. You can claim up to three months after your broadband is activated, and it should arrive within 30 days. Visit https://www.bt.com/manage/bt-reward-card/ to start your claim.

How to claim Sky Broadband rewards

Sky Broadband offer a range of sweeteners at various times, including a pre-paid Mastercard and high street vouchers. You get 90 days to claim your reward. If you're eligible, head over to sky.com/claim and log in with your Sky ID to start the process.

How to claim John Lewis Broadband rewards

Rewards from John Lewis Broadband include e-gift cards that can be spent at John Lewis or Waitrose. You don't need to claim this one - it should be sent via email within 60 days of the activation of your broadband service, so keep an eye on your inbox.

How to claim NOW Broadband rewards

NOW Broadband don't offer as many extra perks as other providers, but when they do have them they'll send the info on how to claim via email. You should get this within two weeks of your service being activated.

How to claim EE rewards

EE Broadband regularly offer cashback or Amazon gift cards as a reward for signing up. If you're eligible for one of the gift cards you'll be sent an email with instructions on how to claim it after your broadband goes live.

How to claim TalkTalk rewards

When TalkTalk offer rewards, they're normally either e-gift cards for specific stores or vouchers to be spent on the high street. Look out for an email with all the details, and you should receive your reward within 90 days of activation.

How to claim Virgin Media rewards

Virgin Media rewards can include bill credit, tech products or even wine, and you don't normally have to claim. The credit will be applied to your bill automatically, and any free gift will be sent out within 28 days of installation of your Virgin service.

To see what free gifts are available right now, take a look at the best broadband deals available today.

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