Millions are overpaying for broadband
Millions of broadband users are paying more than they should for their connection as a result of providers failing to send ‘end of contract notifications’ (ECN).
That’s according to price comparison site Uswitch, whose latest research suggested that as many as three million households whose deals expired in the last 12 months did not receive an ECN.
This is important as the end of your contract means you can switch to a new, likely more competitive deal, without having to pay any exit fees. Uswitch reckons that being on an expired tariff costs a household an extra £90 a year on average.
ECNs were introduced by Ofcom, the industry regulator, last year. They force broadband, mobile and pay-TV providers to notify customers when their contract is coming to an end, and highlight how much they could save by moving to a new package.
ECNs are supposed to be sent out by letter, text or email between 10 and 40 days before their contract expires.
They appear to be effective too, with Uswitch’s study suggesting that around four in five people who receive one using the information to move to a better deal, whether with their existing provider or a new one.
However, with so many people apparently not receiving a notification, there’s a significant risk that they end up paying more than necessary for their broadband service.
Uswitch also raised concerns that the inconsistent language used within ECNs may mean that people are unaware they have even received one. For example, it cited emails sent by some providers with bland subject lines like “An update to your broadband service” or “A little reminder about your contract”.
In addition, it warned that some providers had extended price discounts beyond contract end dates as a way to get around the need to send out a notice when the new discount concludes.
While it's tempting just to stick with your current provider, the sad reality is the best deals are reserved for new customers, so if you want cheap broadband, you need to switch every now and then or at least pick up the phone and haggle.
We have put together a quick guide to help you with this process and hopefully get you a much better deal.
Find out how competitive your deal is
Before you switch providers, it makes sense to first find out if you’re actually paying too much.
You can use a service like Is My Bill Fair? to check if you’re being overcharged for the following services:
- Broadband, home phone and TV;
- Mobile phone;
- Breakdown cover;
When I entered in my results, I discovered I was definitely paying too much, as you can see below.
Of course, it's not only about price.
You should also consider the quality of your connection – how many outages you've had since you joined your current provider – and check whether the speeds you're getting are anywhere near those you're paying for.
A service like Broadband SpeedChecker can help with this.
If you are overpaying, you could decide to simply haggle with your existing provider.
This may be an ideal solution if you don’t want the hassle of setting up with another company and are currently happy with the level of service/speed provided.
You aren't guaranteed to get the cheapest deal this way, but it's your simplest bet.
If you do go down this route, be sure to note when your new deal ends so you can avoid a sharp price hike in a year or two by haggling again or switching.
Can you leave without incurring a fee?
If you want to bag the best possible price, it makes sense to use a comparison site to search the market for the best deals in your area, which we'll discuss in a bit more detail in the next section.
But before you do, it's vital you check that you can leave your current contract penalty-free.
If the minimum term of your contract has not ended, you’ll probably have to pay a fee which could wipe out most, if not all, of the savings you'll make by switching providers.
What you’ll pay depends on the provider. You may have to pay off any remaining months and for any equipment supplied.
According to comparison site Broadband Choices, you can leave your provider without a fee if:
- The minimum contract term has expired;
- You’re within the 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period;
- Your provider has hiked your monthly bill;
- You are lucky enough that your new provider will pay your exit fees;
- A fault has persisted, but your current provider has failed to fix it
How to compare broadband deals
It’s easy to compare different deals using various websites.
We have a deal with Broadband Genie, which means we earn a small commission if anyone switches through them from this article, but you can use any price comparison site you're comfortable with, really.
USwitch, MoneySuperMarket and the like all let you compare broadband deals from various providers.
Usually, broadband firms will try and sweeten the pot for new customers with contract and set-up discounts, as well as free vouchers or reward cards.
Speaking of which, if you're a member of a cashback site, check if that deal is available there as you could earn cashback on top of your deal as well.
Just make sure that you pick the right broadband package based on your needs, not on any possible rewards.
Factors to consider before choosing a deal
You should consider what you need broadband for – will you be streaming a lot of shows or downloading many games? If so, you may want to consider fast broadband speeds or unlimited downloads.
Which? has this neat guide that will help you decide what kind of speeds you realistically need, as there's no point in paying for speeds you don't need or on the flipside spending your entire contract staring at the buffering wheel.
Also, do some research to find out what kind of speeds you'll realistically get from providers. As mentioned earlier, a site like Broadband SpeedChecker can help you check speeds in your area.
Next, be sure to look at the length of the contract to make sure you’re happy paying the same amount over the term of the contract.
Finally, spare a thought for customer service. This can vary hugely from one to the next, so have a read of this piece on the best and worst broadband providers which looks at the providers with the most and least complaints.
It doesn't guarantee you'll get a brilliant service, but if two providers have similarly-priced deals, it makes sense to go with the one that has more happy customers.
Set a reminder to switch again
When you switch, it’s a good idea to set a reminder before the deal ends and to note down any notice period.
When that deadline arrives, this will give you some ammunition to haggle before you get hit with a higher bill.
If you can’t get a better deal and are likely to suffer from the loyalty penalty, then you will have time to compare the best offers and change providers.
It’s best to set a reminder at least a month before your contract is due to end as it may take weeks to get an appointment for broadband setup (if you decide to switch).
Using this approach, you’re more likely to have a seamless transition between broadband providers and keep bills down. Just make sure you time it correctly to avoid any early exit penalties!
Have you saved money switching using this guide? Comment below to let us know how you got on.
*This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any sales of products or services we write about. This article was written completely independently.