According to our recent study into broadband switches in the UK, three million people are overpaying by at least £251 million for their broadband, despite being eligible to switch onto a cheaper tariff.
These customers' contracts have all ended in the last 12 months, which means the vast majority of them have since been moved onto more expensive, out-of-contract monthly prices. However, despite Ofcom's rule that providers should notify their customers that their contract is ending, these three million have claimed that they never saw this notification from their provider.
As a result, our research shows an average of £90 per household is being overpaid on easily-avoidable broadband bills each year. This is one third of the UK consumers (eight million) who should have received an end of contract notification (ECN) since Ofcom announced the policy in February 2020.
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Of the five million customers who did receive a notification in the last year, over four million took the opportunity to choose a better deal, whether that was with their existing provider or a new one.
Broadband providers must notify their customers 10-40 days before the end of their contract, and as part of the same message need to supply them with a view of similar deals to their existing contract. They also have to suggest customers can search elsewhere for a better deal should they choose to.
This means that going forward, you’ll always receive a reminder telling you when you can start looking for a new deal — whether it’s one that saves you more money, or if it’s an upgrade to something better. Plus, you’ll be able to avoid the hefty out-of-contract prices that kick in after your contract end date.
However, Uswitch has found that the way some end of contract notifications are communicated makes it hard for customers to notice or understand what their options are, and some even appear like they could have been designed to be unmemorable or glossed over.
Twelve percent of customers who received an ECN admitted to not acting upon the information they were given. Also, it’s likely that some of the three million who reported not receiving one may have indeed been notified, but they missed the notification as it may not have come across as important.
In addition, Uswitch has seen examples of providers increasing the length of their pricing discounts beyond the end date of customers’ contracts, creating a loophole that lets them avoid sending a notification out when the discount ends.
Responding to this news, Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at Uswitch, says: “Life is challenging at the moment and with people juggling so many responsibilities it’s important to make sure that consumers can access information about their household bills easily.
“Millions of broadband customers have received an end-of-contract notification or out-of-contract reminder in the last year, and it’s great to see that the vast majority have acted to get themselves a better deal.
“However, the fact that a third of consumers whose contract was due to end say they didn’t, or couldn’t recall, receiving an end-of-contract notification should ring alarm bells.
“More must be done to build on the success of these notifications so that all customers have a fair chance of engaging when their contract comes to an end.
“When providers choose language in their notices which lacks the priority or formality that might be expected for such important information, consumers can be forgiven for missing that they have received something which requires action.
“Ofcom must act to make sure providers cannot deploy marketing and pricing tactics designed to fly the chance of better deals under the radar.”
If you’d like to check whether you’re out of contract or remind yourself when your current contract finishes, it’s best to speak to your provider directly. See our guide on how to contact your broadband provider to find the best ways to get in touch with them.
Note: the information in this article is based on a survey conducted by Uswitch, the results of which were initially published here.