Bad broadband isn’t just about WiFi speed

Which providers have the most complaints in the UK?
26 January 2024

How much does your choice of bradband provider matter? Image via Bing image creator.

• Pick a broadband provider with care.
• Which of the most popular providers in the UK has the most complaints?
• Welcome to the Xbox Pass “glitch.”

In the mood to change your broadband provider? After some gossip? We’ve got you sorted.

In the UK, BT customers have been taking to the broadband provider’s online forums for months to complain that they’ve been signed up to – and charged for – an Xbox Game Pass. An additional £10 per month appeared on their bills – despite their not requesting the subscription.

Some customers noticed the extra charge by checking their bills, while others received emails thanking them for activating the subscription.

Weird email from your broadband provider?

The email “confirmation” that some customers received for an Xbox pass they didn’t want.

“We’re very sorry that the customers mentioned in this article have had Xbox Game Pass Ultimate added to their account without their knowledge,” a spokesperson told the BBC.

Having apologized, BT advised customers to stay alert to similar problems.

“We recommend that all of our customers remain vigilant and if they notice changes to their account that are suspicious, to contact us as soon as possible to report this.

“We will support and guide them on how to take steps to ensure their account is secure.”

Which isn’t all that reassuring. It puts the emphasis for vigilance clearly on the customer, rather than the provider.

The reason the charges are being added is unclear, although you’d need a fair amount of anti-capitalist degree of paranoia to come up with a solid reasons why it might be happening maliciously. The scale of the issue is also unknown. One person discovered the extra charge as recently as Tuesday, while there’s evidence of complaints as far back as October 2023.

A BBC employee who was affected by the issue was informed by customer services that it was a “known issue.”

Also affect by the issue, Sue, contacted BT after noticing the discrepancy in her internet bill. “Xbox Game Pass had been added to my accounts without my consent – I thought that’s so odd, because I don’t even have an Xbox.”

She assumed she’d been hacked and called the broadband provider, who informed her that it was a BT issue. Sue was refunded but worries that less vigilant customers will pay for the service unknowingly.

Craig in Aberdeen said he found out about the charge when he received an email from BT and contacted the firm over its webchat service.

He was told the error was an issue between BT and Microsoft, “where this was being kind of randomly enabled and activated on people’s accounts,” he said.

“It says in the terms and conditions that there’s no free period with this – you are immediately charged. My concern is this might not just be me, this might be lots of other people who perhaps don’t really notice you get an email through.”

The surreptitious additions may have worked in BT’s favor, as Virgin Media takes top spot as the most complained about broadband, landline phone and pay-tv service in the UK, getting 32 complaints per 100,000 broadband customers between July and September 2023.

Ah, so before the whole BT Xbox pass thing, then.

According to Ofcom, a factor in Virgin Media’s high number of complaints was the regulator’s announcement in July 2023 that it was launching an investigation into difficulties cancelling contracts with the firm – and how it handled complaints.

“As well as engaging fully with Ofcom’s ongoing investigation, we are investing in every area of our business to give our customers the best possible experience, with a real focus on resolving any issues at the first time of getting in touch and making it easier for them to get support when they need it,” a Virgin Media O2 spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Sky was the best-performing broadband provider, only receiving five complaints per 100,000 customers. NOW broadband and TalkTalk were with Virgin Media in getting higher-than-average numbers of complaints for their landline services. NOW broadband also got an above average number of broadband complaints – although Fergal Farragher, Ofcom’s consumer protection director, said there had been an overall “slight increase in complaints” compared with the previous quarter.

The next quarter’s report will be an interesting one: does an unwanted Xbox pass warrant a higher complaint rate? If it doesn’t come with the console too, we’d imagine so.