Big consumer businesses are often accused of treating their customers in a less than fair way – and energy providers, utility firms, airlines, banks and mobile phone providers are often included in the ‘biggest offenders’ list of poor service. So what are the biggest gripes that customers contend with?

Unhelpful Contact Centres

British businesses have increasingly moved to cost effective models that minimise the amount of face to face interaction. This means that customers often have no choice but to hang on the phone for prolonged periods of times, waiting for call centre staff. Those staff may be based overseas and have a varied grasp of English, which can cause even more frustration.

Mobile Phones

Consumer body Which? is leading the way on a campaign to tackle unfair mobile phone contract pricing in this industry, which has often been accused of being misleading and unhelpful to customers who find themselves signed up on complex contracts for extended durations of time.


Whether it’s down to preferential mortgage rates for certain customer groups, confusing packages and terms, varied credit card deals and heavy handed sales techniques, banks have really come in for huge amounts of criticism in recent years. From over-lending inappropriately, they are now making it very difficult for some customers to borrow – and consumers have had enough. Happily, the only good outcome of the credit crunch was that the industry is now more heavily regulated and scrutinised than it ever was before, and banks are under huge pressure to tidy up their operations and make them more equitable and transparent for customers. Banks that are doing well in this regard include relative newcomer, First Direct, which has been praised for its simple and clear approach to customer marketing, customer service and product delivery. The bar has now been laid for other banks to follow suit.

Confusing Pricing

Utility firms have been criticised in the past for confusing pricing practices that make it very hard to compare tariffs accurately. The government has stepped in to ensure that greater work is done in the industry to ensure transparency and fairness of tariff pricing, particularly for more vulnerable sections of society. Utility firms have also been criticised for retaining credit customer balances when those customers switch to new providers – and again, the regulators are working to ensure that this money is returned to the owners. Meanwhile, customers are finding they can name and shame a business quite effectively on soapboxshout – and are doing so in a bid to help other people avoid the same experiences!

Phone Pests

Everyone knows the experience of sitting down for tea and having the phone ring – only to find it’s a firm trying to sell you insurance, a broadband or TV upgrade or some other service that you really don’t want. This cold calling practice is highly irritating and big firms are finding that their practices are coming under increasing regulatory scrutiny. It’s always worth signing up to the Telephone Preference Service to minimise chances of these interruptions if you don’t want them.

Are your main customer services gripes on this list? What else drives you mad in the world of big business?