UK’s Least Favourite Mobile Networks

Poor old Vodafone! Rated yet again as the UK’s worst mobile network provider for the eighth year in a row, according to the consumer lobby group Which? in their 2019 survey. The consumer watchdog aims to highlight the best network choice in terms of customer service, technical support and value for money. Thirteen networks in total were included in the survey of 6,135 Which? members in February.

What were the findings?

The survey showed that Vodafone had been awarded pitiful one-star ratings.  20% of its customers said that customer service was “poor”, especially the handling of complaints and the way in which they dealt with queries.

As was to be expected, Vodafone said that it “regretted” that Which? customers were unhappy with them, adding that they were working hard to understand the issue and improve the situation.

EE and O2 also finished in the bottom three. Only 27% of EE customers said they had received good or excellent technical support, while 10% of O2 customers rated value for money as “poor”.

However, although languishing near the bottom for customer satisfaction, EE has been named as the the UK’s best mobile network in terms of performance, according to research carried out by OpenSignal. The company collated more than 1.4 billion measurements from 260,000 devices between December 2018 and February 2019 to determine how each provider operates in real-world scenarios.

The research found that EE had the fastest speeds, lowest latency and greatest availability of all four major networks, including O2, Vodafone and Three. A finding that is supported by independent reports from Ofcom and RootMetrics. EE say that Ofcom’s latest figures show that they receive some of the fewest complaints in the mobile industry because they continue to invest to achieve the best customer service of all network providers.

On price, the “Big Four” providers proved on average around 30% more expensive for SIM-only deals than smaller networks. And the average monthly contract price for an iPhone XS was around 20% more with the “Big Four”, while a Samsung Galaxy S10 was 6% dearer.

Which network came top?

Giffgaff, uSwitch Network of the Year Winner in 2019 and Recommended Provider awarded by Which? in 2018. Almost all Giffgaff customers found the service “good or excellent” value for money, adding that they would happily recommend the company to family and friends.

Why is giffgaff so highly rated?

The company is community-based with ‘members’ not customers, who help one another in place of a call centre, a fact that has led to very positive feedback. Giffgaff is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) which uses the O2 network and means that as a customer you’ll benefit from the coverage and 3G/4G speeds that O2 provides nationwide. The absence of a call centre and high street shops means it can offer some of the cheapest SIM-only and handset deals in the UK.

Tariffs and plans

You can buy new or used phones from the giffgaff marketplace. You can also sell your phone to them and take the cash or put it towards a new handset. A wide range of SIM-only deals with varying amounts of minutes, texts and data is offered. In terms of positioning in the market, it’s almost always the cheapest. But that does not mean the service is in any way inferior.

Customer service

How good the community is in answering questions depends on how responsive and knowledgeable its members are. Your first port of call will be the knowledge base. Treat it as an encyclopaedia covering all the problems experienced so far. You can then ask the community or if the problem is account-related, you can ask an agent, which involves submitting an online form. Although giffgaff has a rating of only two stars on Trustpilot, it may be because people are more inclined to write a review if they want to complain.

Value for money

Giffgaff is often the best choice for value for money because the savings achieved through not having infrastructure are passed back to its customers in the form of lower prices.

The continuing supremacy of smaller networks over the big firms shows  how important customer service, technical support and value for money are to mobile users.

Shop around for a better deal, if you think you’re paying too much or not getting the level of service you expect from your provider. You could save yourself money and a lot of hassle!