If you pay for a broadband or mobile phone bill in the UK, you might have noticed that your provider increased your monthly price in April 2023. And if you haven’t, it’s worth checking your bills to see if you're paying a different amount than before.
Because the inflation rate was so high at the start of 2023, monthly prices for millions of broadband customers increased by up to 14.4% — a very unwelcome price hike during a cost of living crisis.
Many broadband and mobile providers hike their prices each year to combat the inflation rate and rising business costs. They can even do this if you’ve agreed to a fixed monthly rate for your contract period.
But is that allowed, even at astronomical rates of nearly 15%? And can you leave your contract early if so?
Read on to find out whether you can cancel or switch if your provider increases your prices.
Unfortunately, even if you're in the middle of your contract, your broadband will likely go up in price again in April 2024. This is because most broadband providers have annual price hikes, linked to the inflation rate, set in their terms and conditions.
Our research revealed that 85% of broadband and mobile customers think mid-contract price rises are unfair. And roughly the same amount said that you should be able to leave your contract if your price goes up during your minimum term. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for most.
Some customers won't be affected by these price rises because they're with a provider that fixes their cost for the whole contract. But these are often smaller providers who aren't as widely available as the big brands. So while 71% of Brits would switch to a provider that doesn't hike prices halfway through, many are still unable to do so.
Often, the only other way you'll avoid them is if you're on a discounted social tariff - but these are reserved for people on financial support like Universal Credit or the Personal Independence Payment.
And the hardest part for customers is that there's no way of knowing what this price increase will be until January, because the amount depends on the inflation rate calculated for December each year.
Mid-contract price rises are when a provider hikes the cost of your monthly broadband bill during your contract term.
They usually occur once per year, and they're roughly tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate published each January.
And to combat rising business costs, many providers add their own set amount of about 3% to their price rises, which they claim is to ensure they can afford those rising costs each year.
This usually means a price increase of about 4-5% each year, regardless of the price you initially purchased your deal at. But because the CPI rate was so high in January 2023 at 10.5%, 2023 price increases for broadband contracts were significantly higher than usual this year.
And as a result, some providers raised prices by a huge 14.4% in April.
These annual broadband price increases happen around April each year.
Broadband providers tend to make their price rises effective around the Spring, but they usually announce them several weeks beforehand. So you should have heard from your provider about any potential price increase in January or February.
These price rises also take effect if you're out of contract. But if your initial contract term has ended, you will likely already be paying more than you need to. So you could seriously benefit from finding a cheaper deal right away.
There are lots of offers out there for a very reasonable price - just make sure to avoid packages that are too slow for your household's needs.
Find out below how much each provider increased their prices by this year.
If you want to know which mobile networks put prices up in April, take a look at our guide.
If you want to learn more about the level of service you get from each of the biggest UK broadband providers, take a look at our broadband provider reviews.
The CPI inflation rate in January 2023 was announced to be 10.5%, meaning broadband prices increased by a shocking rate of almost 15% this year, when you add the additional 3-4% yearly increase that many providers have in their T&Cs.
Taking the 14.4% increase rate that providers like BT, Plusnet, Vodafone and EE incurred, this could increase your costs by the following amounts:
This depends on the terms and conditions you agreed to when you signed up with your current provider.
Usually, a fixed contract for a service means you’ve agreed to pay a specific monthly price for a set time. This works both ways — your provider agrees to charge you that same amount each month, and you agree to pay that amount on an agreed date.
However, when you sign up for a broadband contract, you need to accept the terms and conditions (T&Cs) the provider has in place to use its services.
You don’t have to accept these terms, but you won’t be able to sign up for a provider that includes these charges if so. In this case, you’ll have to find a provider that doesn’t include a yearly price rise, but they are few and far between.
Essentially, if you continue to sign up to a provider that mentions price increases in its T&Cs, you will have officially agreed to pay that increased amount when charged. And if you want to leave your contract early as a result, you will have to pay early exit fees to do so.
This might seem unfair, given that these terms are often hidden away among a lot of text that most people never read. But if you’re concerned about this before joining a new provider, it's important to specifically search for any mention of price rises in the T&Cs.
However, if you're approaching the end of your contract soon, you may not have to wait too long before you can switch away from your current deal anyway.
So be sure to look out for a message from your provider about what your options are when your fixed term ends.
If you're currently receiving universal credit or another form of government financial support, you will likely be eligible for a discounted social broadband tariff from your provider.
This would let you immediately reduce your monthly cost, and these tariffs aren't affected by annual price hikes.
If you're a broadband customer of either Sky or Virgin Media, you can usually switch away from their price increase, regardless of how long you have left on your contract.
However, the window to do so for their 2023 price increases has now passed. These providers allow you 30 days from the date they told you about the price hike to move to a new deal. And since most of those notifications would have gone out in February, this year's deadline has likely passed.
These two providers are different because they don't have a set annual price increase in their terms and conditions for 2023.
So if they increase your bills mid-contract, you are free to look elsewhere in that 30-day period because you didn't agree to increase your monthly price.
Most major broadband providers have gone ahead with price increases in 2023. Here's some more information on how the price increase usually works for each of them.
Here's a quick view of some deals on offer from providers that don't do mid-contract price rises.
Note: These providers are not widely available across the UK. They are only available to homes that can access their broadband network.
After facing growing pressure from customers, Ofcom set new rules for broadband, mobile and pay-TV providers to display more clearly the price rises they should expect.
Beforehand, price rise information would often just be hidden in the terms & conditions, making it easy to miss among all the other information included. Now, providers must also display a short, simple and straightforward summary of all the contract details before you purchase the service.
This means you can review your plan's terms, such as the contract length, broadband speed and monthly price, all in one place before providing your bank details.
But just as importantly, it also makes clear whether the provider will increase your prices mid-contract and by what rate. For example, many providers have a minimum price increase of around 3%, plus whatever the inflation rate is at the beginning of that year. So make sure to keep this in mind when you're signing up for a new broadband, mobile or TV contract.
However, this still means that providers can't offer a specific amount, in pounds and pence, of what they're expected to charge you from the next price increase.
Ideally, providers would no longer attach their price increases to the inflation rate because, as we have seen in recent years, it's tough to predict how high it will be in a year. So, the hope is for price increases to be uncoupled from these rates in the future.
But in the meantime, keep track of the CPI and RPI inflation rates to better understand how much your prices might increase.
If you're on Universal Credit or receiving other financial benefits, you can find a much cheaper broadband deal with these providers.Read our guide on broadband social tariffs
Looking for ways to save money on your monthly bills? Here's how you can reduce what you spend on your broadband.Read our saving money on broadband tips