The UK's worst mobile phone provider

OfcomWe take a look at the worst (and best) mobile network operators for customer service...

The mobile phone industry has evolved substantially since the days when they looked like a brick. And likewise, the amount we rely on our cellular friends has changed. Indeed, for many people, if their mobile stops working, so do they.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Which is why receiving good customer service from your mobile operator is now more important than ever.

Ofcom
Ofcom publishes data on the number of complaints it receives about each of the big telecoms providers, including mobile phone networks, each quarter.

These are its results for mobile phones from the most recent report, covering January to March 2012.

Provider

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q1 2012)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q4 2011)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q3 2011)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q2 2011)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q1 2011)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q4 2010)

3

0.14

0.15

0.14

0.14

0.11

0.09

T-Mobile

0.08

0.07

0.06

0.06

0.09

0.06

Vodafone

0.08

0.07

0.07

0.06

0.06

0.05

Virgin Mobile

0.07

0.07

0.08

0.05

0.05

0.03

Orange

0.07

0.17

0.07

0.07

0.06

0.06

O2

0.02

0.02

0.02

0.02

0.02

0.03

As you can see, O2 has enjoyed the fewest complaints for six straight quarters, a pretty impressive performance. By contrast, 3 has had the most complaints for five of the six quarters.

Which?
Earlier this year the consumer group Which? carried out its own research into mobile phone operators by speaking to 8,000 customers. These stats not only took into account the handsets, costs and clarity of bills offered by providers, but also included a wider range of operators.

Here are the results for contract and SIM only phones:

Network

Customer service

Aftersales care

UK call costs

Network coverage

Handset range

Incentives

Customer Score

O2

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

66%

Tesco Mobile

4/5

4/5

5/5

4/5

4/5

2/5

66%

Virgin Mobile

3/5

3/5

4/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

60%

Orange

3/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

4/5

4/5

58%

T-Mobile

3/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

4/5

2/5

57%

Three

2/5

3/5

4/5

2/5

4/5

2/5

55%

Vodafone

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

4/5

2/5

55%

Talkmobile

2/5

3/5

3.5

3/5

3/5

2/5

54%

Here are the results for pay as you go:

Network

Customer service

Aftersales care

UK call costs

Network coverage

Handset range

Incentives

Customer Score

Asda Mobile

4/5

n/a

4/5

4/5

3/5

1/5

72%

Tesco Mobile

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

70%

O2

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

64%

Three

3/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

3/5

59%

Talkmobile

n/a

n/a

3/5

3/5

n/a

n/a

58%

Orange

3/5

3/5

2/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

57%

Virgin Mobile

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

56%

Vodafone

3/5

3/5

2/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

56%

T-Mobile

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

53%

So Tesco and O2 are both very consistent performers at the top end, while Vodafone struggles in both areas.

The survey also shows that pay as you go operators emerged slightly better than their contract counterparts when it comes to customer service.

But customer service and price aren't the only factors you should keep in mind when shopping around for a new mobile phone.

Mobile coverage
Practically speaking, the most important thing to keep in mind when buying any mobile phone is the coverage and reception of the handset and operator. However, when it comes to comparing the best networks for this, the answer gets a little tricky as so much of signal strength depends on location.

The links below take you to each network's coverage map or coverage checker so you can get a decent idea of what coverage you can expect.

Vodafone

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The UK's worst mobile phone provider

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.
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