Broadband was so slow it left volunteer Pat at her wits' end

Regular Streetwise reader Pat Huxtable was left for months with abysmal broadband service speeds and poor mobile reception after EE failed to fix the problems when she moved home.

Thursday, 3rd March 2016, 6:01 am
Pat Huxtable

The 62-year-old from Southsea switched her broadband account from BT to EE five years ago when the phone firm made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

All went well initially, but broadband speeds at her new home, just a short distance across the city, were appallingly slow.

The connection kept dropping out and she had to strain to hear callers when they phoned.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Pat is involved with a number of voluntary community projects and is reliant on her phone and broadband package to keep her up to date and in touch.

EE advertises a broadband service with speeds up to 17 megabits per second (Mbs), but Pat’s download speeds regularly started dipping to 2.5 or even as low 0.5 Mbs.

It was only when she tried to contact EE to get the dodgy phone and snail-pace broadband service problems sorted that she realised how frustratingly little she was getting for her £24 a month basic subscription.

Trying to talk to someone at EE proved a communications obstacle course. Every time she tried to phone the firm she was left hanging on the line listening to a recorded voice, regularly interrupted by background music assuring her she was important and someone would answer shortly.

When finally she got to talk to an operative she couldn’t hear them, and was repeatedly promised they’d ring back on her landline number.

Pat said: ‘It wasn’t just the download speeds, but the fact it kept disconnecting when you were doing stuff. But when I tried to say this to their service people, it just didn’t register.

‘I just can’t remember how many people I’ve spoken to at EE. They repeatedly apologised and said they were so sorry, promising they’d get back to me but none of them ever did.’

As the weeks turned into months, this long, drawn-out saga took a turn for the worse.

Pat was assured that line tests had confirmed her modem was not at fault, but frustration turned to anger after she was repeatedly let down by BT Openreach engineers not turning up to check her line to the exchange and get the system sorted.

She added: ‘I just felt cut off from the entire service and left with the feeling that no-one cared.’

‘Increasingly life is conducted over the nebulousness of the internet, but it’s nigh on impossible to get through to anyone to speak to who is remotely concerned or interested in you as a customer.

‘More and more is being talked about the isolation that older people feel. Well as a result of this, I’ve experienced the impotence that you feel when you’re reliant on other people and the service just doesn’t stack up.

‘The frustration of not being able to communicate, to get things done, leaves you seriously disillusioned. The whole thing is really soul-destroying.

‘I’ve spoken to so many people who seem to have the same sort of problems, yet the feeling one gets is ‘‘get real – if you don’t like it, just change your provider’’.’

At her wits’ end, an exasperated Pat finally asked to be released from the service contract, but then ran into difficulty getting anyone at EE to confirm her request would be granted.

Streetwise put her complaint about unacceptable standards of service and customer care to the firm and shortly afterwards she received e-mail confirmation they’d agreed to part company.

In a short statement a spokesperson told us: ‘Our customer service team has e-mailed Mrs Huxtable with her copy of the disconnection confirmation and a gesture of goodwill.’

Pat thanked us for her help and confirmed that she’d received a phone call apologising yet again for any inconvenience she felt might have been caused.

The firm went on to admit the service she’d received and the behaviour of staff members during calls was certainly not the service it would expect a customer to receive. As a gesture of goodwill, EE would deduct £30 from her final bill.

Streetwise receives a regular stream of complaints from readers about telephone and broadband service providers failing to live up to their contractual obligations.

A common theme was being given the run-around when they complained and the inability to get service delivery problems sorted promptly.

We were concerned that the communications watchdog Ofcom was failing to bite as well as bark.

An Ofcom spokesperson told us the level of complaints about poor service standards had been a cause of concern for some time. As a result plans to force operators to make automatic compensation payments to consumers and businesses when they are cut off or suffering slow broadband speeds would be announced shortly.