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How to switch broadband

In June 2015, Ofcom introduced sweeping changes to the process of changing broadband provider to make it easier to switch.

Gone forever is the need to obtain a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC). And in most cases, you'll no longer have to contact the provider you want to leave to cancel your contract, who will often try anything to keep you as a customer.

Under the revamped rules, for most switches the responsibility for managing the switch now lies with the provider to whom a customer is switching. This is what referred to as one-touch system and a 'gainer-led process'.

But that's not all. The changes also make it harder for providers to switch consumers without their consent, under the practice called slamming.

On this page, we'll take a closer look at the new switching rules with our FAQ. And we'll walk you through the new switching process in our handy, three-step guides.

Broadband switching FAQ

Does the new code of practice for switching apply to all providers?

The 'gainer-led' process only covers you if you're switching between broadband providers that use BT's Openreach network, such as BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk. They apply for standard broadband and faster fibre broadband services.

If you're switching to Virgin Media’s cable network or to a fibre to the premises broadband services via an independent network, a different process applies. This is known as the 'cease and re-provide' process.

Will I be liable to pay a termination charge for switching? Is there a minimum term?

That depends on your provider. Some providers charge an exit fee and enforce a minimum term during which this applies.

If there is a charge to pay, you'll be notified of this once the switching process is in motion, at which time you're free to cancel the switch if want to.

What happens to my telephone line rental?

Once again this is something that depends on the provider you're joining. Some providers' terms and conditions insist that if you want to transfer your broadband to them, you'll also have to switch your home phone to them too.

What about slamming? What's happening with that?

The change in rules obliges providers to keep a record of consumers' express consent to switch. That means that in the event that your provider is bought out, you've got a choice whether to continue to be a customer.

Three steps to switching broadband with a gainer-led process

This is the system to use if you're switching between the likes of BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk.

1 Check your postcode

Enter your postcode into our postcode checker to see which packages are available in your area.

2 Compare packages

Find the ideal package for your needs, taking into account your usage habits and budget.

3 Contact the provider you want to switch to

The new rules mean you no longer have to cancel your contract with the provider you're leaving. Instead just contact the provider to whom you wish to transfer your business and tell them you want to switch. It's their responsibility to handle the switch from start to finish.

From here you'll get written confirmation that the switch is in motion. This will come from the provider you're leaving and the one you're joining. The letter from the one you're leaving must tell you which services are affected, which are unaffected and whether you're liable for any early cancellation charges.

The letter from the provider you're joining must give you a date for when the switch will occur as well as firmly set out the terms of the switch.

In the event that you change your mind while the switch is being affected, you're free to cancel without penalty. But only if you do so within 14 calendar days of the start of the new contract.

Three steps to switching broadband with a cease and re-provide system

This is the process to follow if you're switching to or from a cable network. This is mostly likely to apply if you're switching to or from Virgin Media.

1 Check which providers are available with our postcode checker

If you're not sure whether you can get Virgin Media cable in your area or what other services are available, insert your postcode into our handy checker.

This will provide you with a list of providers and an idea of the sort of connection speeds you can expect.

2 Work out what you need

Do you really need a super fast broadband service? What kind of download allowance is best for you? Once you've worked this out, you can choose a package.

3 Contact your providers

Under the cease and re-provide system, you'll need to inform your existing provider that you're leaving and tell your new provider that you're joining.

The former will switch off your broadband at some stage. So to minimise the time you're without a connection, it's best to co-ordinate the end and start dates.

The provider you're leaving will usually provide you with a letter telling you that your contract is ending and whether you're liable for charges. Your new provider will then send you a new contract when it starts.

If you change your midway through, once again you're free to cancel. Provided you do so within 14 days of starting the new contract.

Tips for switching broadband

  • Check your terms and conditions to see whether your contract has expired. If you have been with your broadband provider for longer than 24 months, the chances are that you are out of contract.
  • Be firm. If you're using a cease and re-provide process, don’t allow your old provider's sales person on the other end of the phone to talk you around.

Most broadband contract lengths are either 12, 18 or 24 months in duration. If you are out of contract or not receiving an acceptable service, you are free to change broadband supplier and find the deal that suits your needs.

I use my broadband provider's email service. What do I do about my account?

  • If you've been using an email address supplied by your old provider, you'll need to turn on 'autoforwarding' on the account you're not going to use any more and set up a new account to receive your email.

  • In the event that your provider is bought out and is closing its email service, you'll also have to notify your contacts of your change of address. The good news is that your old broadband supplier will usually give ample notice, during which time you'll still be able to log in to your account and pick up emails.

  • To avoid having to change your email address every time you change provider, we'd recommend you resolve to switch to an email service that's not linked to your broadband supplier. Pick from Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook. This will make switching much less hassle in future.

Reasons to switch

  • Faster download speeds
  • Better value for money
  • Higher download allowances
  • Improved customer service

Visit our switch broadband page to try and beat your current deal.