O2, EE, Vodafone and Three customers ‘pay more for poor customer service’

Mobile phone users say the UK’s biggest networks let them down in terms of value for money and customer service, according to research by consumer champion Which? found.

O2, EE, Vodafone and Three were rated lower by users on both fronts than their lesser-known rivals. This is despite smaller virtual networks using the same masts and other infrastructure as the “Big Four” rather than running their own services.

Three had the lowest Big Four score and received the lowest reliability rating of any network.

Almost half (45%) of Three users have experienced problems in the past year, compared to three in ten (29%) of all mobile network customers surveyed. The Smarty virtual network uses the same infrastructure as Three but tops the rankings with five out of five for value for money.

Britain’s largest network, EE, came in 11th out of 16 providers analyzed, with users reporting poor customer service, technical support and value for money. Network download speeds were the only category to earn it a four-star rating.

The big four providers currently serve three-quarters (76%) of customers in the UK, according to Ofcom. But which one? say the flexibility of virtual networks lowers mobile phone costs and could better help consumers facing a squeeze on household budgets. Their customers pay on average nearly £10 a month less than Big Four customers across all contract types.

Natalie Hitchins at who? said: “The vast majority of mobile users are with one of the big four carriers, but our research suggests that consumers could save money during the cost-of-living crisis and get better service by switching to one of the networks challenging their domination.

“Anyone looking for a reliable carrier with a flexible contract and value for money should consider one of the virtual networks, which continue to outperform the Big Four year after year.”

Who? said Big Four customers saw price increases of up to 11% but remained the most loyal, with more than half of EE, O2 and Vodafone users having been with the provider for more than five years . Experts warn that those customers who stay longer will likely pay more than necessary for their phone contract.

Who? suggests challenger vendors have an advantage over bigger players by focusing on rolling out monthly sim deals to phones with long contracts.

An EE spokesperson said: “EE customers love being part of the biggest and fastest network in the UK with more 5G coverage than any other provider. EE has been named the best network in the UK for the past eight years by RootMetrics. We provide the best customer service in the industry, as evidenced by the most recent complaints data from Ofcom.”

Three and O2 have been contacted for comment.

For more stories of where you live, visit In your region.

Comments are closed.