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Ofcom: Where's the broadband beef?

Mobile grumbles down, silent call complaints up

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UK regulator Ofcom has been looking into what customers dislike in their communications, culminating in the publication of the third annual report on what's been riling users most over the last 12 months.

The report covers every aspect of the communications industry, and runs to 167 pages (pdf). Mobile phone users seem remarkably happy, with only three per cent dissatisfied with their service, compared to 25 per cent of broadband users who reckon they aren't getting the speed they deserve. Most of those seem pretty sanguine about things though, as despite poor speeds only ten per cent of broadband users told Ofcom they were unsatisfied with their supplier.

Mobile phone cashback deals, which have been the subject of a crackdown after a couple of high-profile failures earlier in the year, aren't attracting the same level of complaint these days: only 70 people complained in September 2008, compared to 600 in the same period last year.

More worrying is the increase in silent calls, where a computer connects the call expecting a human agent to be available at the right moment, and just leaves the callee hanging if no human is available; to most of us an irritation, but to some rather scary. Those calls are attracting 1,050 complaints a month now, more than three times the level in 2007 despite Ofcom taking action against Abbey and Barclaycard amongst others.

Recipients of such calls can now turn to new leaflets from Ofcom explaining how to complain - though there's nothing revolutionary in the advice. Everyone should join the telephone preference service, which helps but can't stop calls from abroad; though they will send you a nice letter explaining that if you complain.

Silent calls can be hard to identify, and Ofcom recommends reporting the matter to your telephony provider if you can't work out who it is calling you, and provides alternative contacts if that doesn't work.

The complainers' guides are available from Ofcom, and probably worth getting hold of before the removal of termination fees leads to the inevitable increase in cold calling. ®

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