The most common mobile network complaints (and what to do about them)

A third of mobile phone users have experienced problems with their mobile network provider in the past year, according to the latest Which? mobile network satisfaction survey. Find out what the most common problems are and what you can do to fix them.

The results of a survey of over 3,000 mobile customers found that constantly poor phone signal, price increases, receiving unwanted marketing communications and poor customer service were some of the most common grievances.

Of the UK’s biggest providers, Three, Talkmobile and Virgin Mobile customers were most likely to have experienced a problem in the past 12 months.

Our findings come as many provider’s price increases come into effect, adding additional pressure to households already struggling with increases to the cost of living.

Even if you’re not having major issues with your mobile provider, there could still be a different option with better service and value for money.

Don’t put up with poor performance from your mobile provider. Read our round up of the best and worst mobile networks to see which came out on top.

1. Signal and network issues

Man looking at mobile phone 487984

Customer complaints about poor signal focused on three main issues:

  • Constantly poor phone signal
  • Continuous but brief network dropouts
  • Network outages that have lasted more than a whole day

There may be a condition in your contract saying that you can leave it without penalty if you have been without service for a certain amount of time, as this would mean the provider has failed its obligations to you.

A possible solution to poor mobile signal is to use wifi calling, if your home or workplace has a strong wifi connection, as your phone will use this instead of mobile signal. Wifi calling is automatically possible with some networks, whereas others will require you to download an app.

How to complain about poor mobile network service

You may be entitled to a refund, depending on the circumstances, or in extreme cases, an additional credit. If you suffer from consistently poor service, contact your provider and see if they can resolve or improve any specific issues.

Ofcom recommends following the provider’s formal complaints procedure if you are unhappy with how long they are taking to fix problems, or fail to do so in the time promised. You can complain to an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme if your problem remains unresolved after eight weeks.

You will need to ask your provider for a ‘deadlock’ letter which is used to refer your dispute to the relevant ADR scheme. Ofcom has approved two ADR schemes: CISAS swear Ombudsman Services: Communications. Additionally, if you have experienced faults or delayed repairs, you should fill out Ofcom’s short monitoring form. Individual complaints are not investigated, but can highlight particular problems that may be looked into.

If you continuously have poor phone signal or network issues, try switching mobile provider, as a different network could be more reliable in your area. The graphic below shows which virtual providers use the infrastructure of which of the ‘big four’. So if you’re with EE or an EE provider (like BT) you could benefit from moving to a provider on a different mobile network.

Once you’ve assessed your options, use Which? Switch mobile to find the latest deals.

2. Unwanted Marketing

A common complaint from customers was that they received unwanted or irritating marketing communication from their provider. This includes any contact such as phone calls, texts and emails.

If you keep being contacted and don’t want to be, check your account page online or through your provider app. Make sure you have opted out of marketing communications.

Alternatively, try blocking any phone numbers that frequently call or text you. You should be able to do this by going to your phone dialer app, tapping and holding a number and adding to a blocklist.

3. Customer service

Our survey revealed mobile users had complaints about the following aspects of the customer service they received:

  • Problems with website and online account management
  • Difficulty contacting the provider with issues
  • Poor customer service
  • Receiving incorrect or high bills
  • Problem solving queries

Customers’ opinions on customer service are an important part of our survey. Read our guide to the best and worst UK mobile networks to find out how 16 different providers were rated for customer service, plus value for money and other scores.

Don’t let misplaced loyalty or a fear of switching networks leave you stuck with inadequate performance from your provider. Our survey found that 39% of customers have not changed their provider for 5 or more years. For the Big Four providers, the number of long-term loyal customers is even higher: O2 55%, EE 52%, Vodafone 50% and Three 42%.

Despite this, these providers are regularly out-performed by smaller networks, whose customers are more inclined to switch providers, looking for low-cost deals and better services.

Ultimately, if you’re not getting a good service from your provider, you should switch. Switching providers is easier than ever, our guide on how to switch mobile provider explains the steps.

4. Price increases

Consumers frequently complain about their mobile provider increasing their prices.

If you’re stuck in a contract cycle year after year with one provider, you could also face multiple years of price increases. This is a particular problem during times of high inflation, such as now.

This year, eight major mobile providers are increasing their prices. For example, the price of O2 contracts are increasing by 11.7% (Retail Price Index inflation rate 7.8% plus 3.9% extra), while Vodafone is increasing them by 9.3% (Consumer Price Index inflation rate 5.4% plus 3.9% extra).

Switching from a contract to a rolling Sim-only deal can protect you from inflation as these deals don’t tend to increase as significantly. If they do increase, it’s far easier to switch to a cheaper option than it is to exit a contract.

If you are struggling with the cost of your mobile phone bill, contact your provider and see what they can do to relieve the financial pressure. The telecoms industry has acknowledged the current cost of living problems facing many people. Mobile providers have been working with the government to find ways to help consumers.

The commitments agreed are:

  • All providers commit to supporting their customers who may be struggling with the cost-of-living and to treat them with compassion, understanding and as individuals.
  • All providers commit to supporting customers struggling with their bills and to offer ways to keep them connected, such as allowing them to move to cheaper packages without charge or penalty, or agreeing manageable payment plans.
  • All operators commit to continue to protect the connectivity of their customers known to be vulnerable as a priority.
  • Providers – supported by Government – commit to take steps to raise awareness of low cost products to those claiming Universal Credit.
  • Mobile providers commit to considering more ways to help their customers, including exploring tariffs, options to improve existing low cost offers, and increasing promotion of existing deals.

Read our guide to 10 ways to save money on your mobile phone bill for more ideas on how to cut costs and protect yourself against price increases.

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