The UK's worst mobile phone provider

Mobile phoneThe mobile phone has evolved substantially since the days it resembled 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.

Which is why receiving good customer service from your mobile operator is now more important than ever.
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Ofcom complaint figures
Ofcom publishes data on the number of complaints it receives about each of the big telecoms providers, including mobile phone networks, each quarter.

It's now reporting complaints separately for Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go providers.

These are its results for Pay Monthly mobile phone providers from the most recent report, covering January to March this year.

Provider

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q2 Apr-Jun 2012)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q3 Jul-Sep 2012)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q4 Oct-Dec 2012)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q1 Jan-Mar 2012)

T-Mobile

0.18

0.18

0.20

0.19

Orange 0.14 0.16 0.21

0.16

Three

0.19

0.16

0.13

0.14

Vodafone

0.15

0.14

0.12

0.09

Virgin Mobile

0.10

0.10

0.08

0.06

O2

0.05

0.05

0.06

0.05


As you can see, T-Mobile has reclaimed its spot as the as the most complained-about pay monthly provider.

Its customers mainly complained about billing and complaints handling.

Orange, T-Mobile and Three all generated above-average complaint numbers over the past three months.

By contrast, O2 and Virgin Mobile have consistently enjoyed lower numbers of complaints over the past three months and for the last year.

As Ofcom receives very few complaints about Pay As You Go providers (which, by their nature, are far easier to switch), it doesn't provide a company-by-company breakdown. It says it receives fewer than 30 complaints per month per provider, which means the statistics are subject to small fluctuations and, as such, could be rendered meaningless.

Which? research
Last 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

Resolving issues

UK call costs

Network coverage

Handset range

Accuracy of bills

Incenti-ves

Customer Score

Tesco Mobile

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

5/5

4/5

72%

Talk
mobile

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

67%

O2

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

63%

Virgin Mobile

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

57%

Three 3/5 3/5 4/5 2/5 3/5

3/5

3/5 56%
T-Mobile 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 56%
EE 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 4/5 3/5 3/5 56%
Orange 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 4/5 3/5 3/5 55%
Vodafone 3/5 4/5 2/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 4/5 55%

Here are the results for Pay As You Go:

Network

Customer service

Aftersales care

UK call costs

Network coverage

Handset range

Incentives

Customer Score

GiffGaff 3/5 3/5 4/5 3/5 - 3/5 81%

Asda Mobile

4/5

4/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

2/5

74%

Tesco Mobile

4/5

4/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

71%

Three 3/5 n/a 3/5 3/5 3/5 2/5 65%
O2 4/5 4/5 2/5 3/5 4/5 3/5 63%
Vodafone 3/5 3/5 2/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 62%
Orange 2/5 2/5 2/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 56%
Virgin Mobile 3/5 2/5 2/5 3/5 2/5 2/5 56%
T Mobile 3/5 2/5 2/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 52%
So Tesco is the most consistent performer at the top end, while Orange 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.

O2
Orange
Three
T-Mobile
Talkmobile
Virgin Mobile
Vodafone

You're spending on the wrong card

8 PHOTOS
Beware the small print
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The UK's worst mobile phone provider

It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.

Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.

Financial service providers always refer to 'typical APR' in advertising to attract customers with favourable rates of interest.

Yet the typical APR on loans and credit cards is only available for those applicants who have a squeaky clean credit record, everyone else could end up with a much higher rate. For example, under EU rules, credit card providers only have to provide the typical APR advertised to 51% of applicants.

So always consider this when applying for accounts and products, and if approved – look out the actual APR that you will be charged.

The highest paying savings accounts on the market tend to come with a string of strict terms, which if you fall foul of, result in a drop in interest. Common requirements include paying in a set sum each month and not making withdrawals during a set period.

Make sure to fully understand these terms before opening a savings account and if you choose an account with a six or 12 month bonus, remember that this will plummet when the bonus period ends.

Cashback credit cards that pay you a small percentage each time you spend on the card are full of loopholes in the small print. All have a maximum spend, but many have a minimum spend too.

For example, the Sainsbury's Cashback Low Rate card advertises that it offers users 5% cashback for the first three months. However the 5% cashback is capped at £50 a month. A further 5% cashback is subject to you spending £500 a month on the card (£250 of that at Sainsbury's).

Attempt to repay your mortgage early and you may be greeted with a hefty fee in the form of an early repayment charge. These penalties vary from lender to lender and even deal to deal, but are typically be around 10% of the outstanding balance.

Details of any early repayment charges should be clearly outlined in your mortgage contract but it is worth double-checking with your lender before you try to make a payment.

Insurance is an incredibly complex area of personal finance and different forms of cover are riddled with different hitches that make it crucial to read the small print. Failure to do so could lead you to pay for a product you would be never be able to claim upon, or unknowingly do something that invalidates your claim.

Always buy the right level of cover for your needs and pay close attention to any exclusions in the policy wording. For example, many travel insurance policies for winter sports won't pay out for treatment of injuries incurred while under the influence of alcohol.

Think a credit card can't do any damage at home in your drawer? Think again. Some credit and store cards charge a dormancy fee if you don't use them regularly.

For example, all Santander-issued store cards, including Topshop and Laura Ashley cards among others, charge a fee of £10 if you remain in debit for three consecutive months.

Exceed the monthly usage allowance in your broadband deal and you could be hit with a huge fee. Common with the cheapest broadband deals on the market, penalty charges for going over your contracted limit can push your bills up even higher than if you paid for a deal with unlimited usage.

According to Talk Talk, some households are being forced to pay an additional £40 per month for exceeding their usage allowance. BT for example, charges £5 per every 5GB extra used.

Familiarise yourself with the download limit in your package and the penalties for exceeding it, decide whether you are better off with an unlimited deal.

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