Until recently, it’s been dependent on you, the customer to know whether you’re in or out of contract. And because of this, it has been estimated that more than 8 million households across the UK continue to overpay for their broadband after their initial contract has ended, unaware they were eligible to switch to a better deal.
But in February 2020, telecoms regulator Ofcom brought-in new rules to help protect customers against being overcharged.
The rules now mean all broadband providers are legally obligated to notify their customers of when their contract is about to expire with what is known as an End-of-Contract-Notification (ECN).
When will I receive an End of Contract Notification? (ENC)
Your broadband provider is required to contact you between 10 and 40 days before the end of your contract with an ENC.
Should you choose not to switch once your contract has run out, your provider is required to contact every year with an Annual Best Tariff Notification (ABTN), which is to provide you with information pertaining to your current tariff and the best deals available to you.
What kind of information will be in my ECN?
There are four main pieces of information that each broadband provider must include in an CAN:
- The price you are currently paying for your broadband
- The end date of your contract
- The new price you will be paying once your contract ends
- The best alternative deals that that provider can offer
How will I receive my ECN?
Regulations set out by Ofcom state that your broadband provider must communicate to you your ECN via your preferred method, which could be email, text, or post.
Will I be charged if I don’t wait for an ECN and leave my broadband contract early?
If you decide to cancel your broadband contract before your minimum term ends, you’ll normally have to pay an exit fee (sometimes known as Early Termination Fees or an Early Disconnection Fee).
How much you’ll pay will depend on your provider, but generally, you will need to give your provider a 30-day notice period of intent to cancel, and after that, any months remaining of your minimum term.
For example, if you want to cancel your contract and have 4 months of your minimum period remaining, you will need to provide 30 days’ notice, during which you’ll retain your services, and be charged an Early Termination Fee (ETCs) for the remaining three months.
Is there any way I can leave my broadband contract within my minimum term without having to pay?
Most broadband plans will be for 12 or 24 months, with select providers offering contract terms of 18 months.
If you wait until your contract minimum term ends, you will be able to switch away without incurring any exit fees.
If you think you’ve been with your provider for longer than two years, you’re probably paying a lot more for your monthly broadband than when you first signed up. This is because once your minimum term ends, it’s common for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to raise your monthly costs – in some cases by as much as 96%.
Some providers, like Cuckoo Broadband, Direct Save Telecom, and NOW Broadband, have no-contract, 30-day deals. Although 30-day rolling contracts are usually more expensive, it does allow you the freedom to cancel or switch provider’s without incurring any exit fees.
You're within the 14-day cooling off period
When you sign up to any broadband deal, you’ll automatically get a 14-day cooling-off period during which time you can leave your contract for any reason without having to pay any exit fee
Your provider has raised your monthly bill without notice
It is common for broadband providers to implement mid-contract price rises. These rises are inflation-linked and are typically calculated in the formula of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or Retail Price Index (RPI), plus a certain added percentage, usually 3.9%.
Although providers are allowed to increase their prices annually, you might be able to leave your contract without incurring a penalty if: -
- The terms and conditions of your contract does not specify a price rise (either a set amount or one linked to inflation) and then your provider raises their prices, you are free to exit that contract without penalty. Your provider should send out a notification at least 30 days in advance of this intended price hike.
In this instance, you have the legal right to cancel your contract within this 30-day period without incurring any exit fees. But you will need to contact your provider directly within this timeframe to let them know you are cancelling.
Ofcom stated at the beginning of 2023 that they were investigating whether providers have been setting out intended price rises clearly enough in their terms and conditions before signing up.
If you do not think your provider did this, Ofcom advises you complain directly to them, and that, if you are not satisfied with how they deal with your complaint, to escalate it to the ombudsman for an independent ruling.
Your broadband is too slow
If you’re experiencing broadband speeds that are slower than the minimum speeds promised in the deal you signed up to, and are with a provider that is part of Ofcom’s broadband speed code of practice, you have the right to cancel your contract without incurring any charge.
In the event you're experiencing slower-than-promised speeds, you will need to inform your provider who then has one month to rectify the issue. If they fail to do this, you can leave your contract without penalty.
You can also cancel any other services you have connected with this provider at the same time, such as landline or TV package.
Your broadband provider has not done enough to solve an issue
Similar to the above, if you’re experiencing an ongoing issue with your provider that is yet to be resolved, you may be able to cancel your contract early.
In order to leave your contract early without penalty, however, you will need to keep a continued record of any outages you experience during your contract, contacting your provider each time this issue arises. Keeping a record of the times and frequency of these issues, as well as when and who you speak to each time you contact your provider, can be used as evidence to help back your complaint.
If the problem persists and you’re finding your provider is not being forthright in resolving the problem, you can escalate the matter. Depending on the provider you are with, you will either need to contact the Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) or the Communications Ombudsman who will look into your case further.
Can I keep my router if I cancel my broadband?
Whether you decide to cancel your broadband contract within or outside of your minimum term, most broadband providers will request for any equipment – including routers – be returned to them.
The return of any equipment will usually be arranged by your ISP, and you will not need to pay anything out of pocket for the return.
However, if you fail to return your equipment within the specified period set out by your provider, you could face a charge for the replacement or recovery of said equipment. This is often referred to as an Equipment Return Charge and will be separate to any ERCs.
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