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Broadband providers have little choice but to charge cancellation fees when consumers switch before the end of their contracted period, it has been suggested.

The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) explained that these fees reflect actual costs incurred by broadband providers in delivering internet connectivity to end-users.

For instance, if they are delivering broadband services via a wholesale network, they are required to pay for the line on behalf of the customer.

And if the consumer ceases to pay for broadband services, the provider could be left to foot the bill.

This is why the cancellation policies on contracts generally require the remaining subscriptions to be paid off, ISPA stated.

The association was responding to criticism from Citizens Advice over the fees charged to customers looking to switch to another provider before the end of their current contract.

According to the charity, many consumers are finding themselves locked into unsuitable broadband deals, due to the high charges they face for ending their contract before the full term.

ISPA said it could not comment on specific examples, where individual customers may have been asked to pay large sums to cancel their contract.

But it claimed the UK broadband market is "hugely competitive", with hundreds of providers delivering internet connectivity to consumers at "a low cost compared to neighbouring countries".

With this in mind, the association urged consumers to read through the terms and conditions, and shop around, before committing to any broadband contract.

ISPA added that its own data shows a "substantial reduction" in the number of broadband complaints over time, as users and average speeds grow. Service providers have also taken steps to improve their complaint handling procedures, it noted.

"The regulator Ofcom is actively looking at switching and has issued new ways in which a customer can exit a contract without penalty," ISPA explained.

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