End of Contract Notifications: are you in or out? — We take a look at ECN timelines and what they mean for you.
What information will be included in ECNs — There's certain information your provider has to send out.
Out-of-contract notifications — If your contract has already expired, you'll receive a notification about switching.
Broadband end-of-contract notifications — Your broadband provider will contact you when your contract is about to expire.
Overcharged for your mobile contract? — Millions of UK customers have paid more than they should for their mobile phone contracts.
As of 15 February 2020, all broadband, phone, pay-TV and mobile phone providers are now required to notify customers when their contract is about to expire. This lets customers know that they can start shopping around for a better deal.
Both end-of-contract notifications (ECNs) and out-of-contract notifications (other known as annual best tariff notifications) have been put in place by industry regulator Ofcom, something which Uswitch has heavily campaigned for over the years.
When the time comes and you're eligible to switch, you’ll get a letter, email, or text to tell you your contract will soon be coming to an end.
This is a real victory for consumers, as you’ll now be told when you’re free to look at other tariffs, and ultimately save money with a better deal.
According to recent studies, as many as 8.8 million people in the UK pay over the odds for their broadband after their initial contract is up, and millions of UK customers continue to be charged for the price of their mobile phone long after they've paid it off.
Ofcom is now trying to put a stop to this 'culture of over-payment' by insisting broadband and mobile phone providers inform their customers when they're close to the end of their contract so they can seek green provider pastures in the shape of a better deal.
Networks and providers are now legally obligated to get in touch with you 10 to 40 days before the end of your contract to let you know you'll soon be free to shop around for a new mobile or broadband deal.
And if you choose to stay with your provider, they've still got to contact you once a year when you're out of contract to remind you that you're eligible to switch.
Until now, it's been down to the customer to know if they're in or out of contract.
And because of that, mobile and broadband providers have been able to get away with overcharging millions of customers who weren’t aware they were eligible to switch to a better deal.
Broadband providers, for example, often attract new customers with discounted deals. But the price of the deal normally applies only during the initial minimum contract term (usually 12 to 24 months). After this period, your monthly payments are likely to go up quite dramatically — something that isn’t always made clear to consumers when they sign up.
Meanwhile, millions of mobile users have been stung for extra cash as networks have continued to charge them for their handsets long after they’ve paid off the price of the phone.
But now that mobile and broadband providers have to let you know when you’re free to switch, it’ll be much easier to avoid being overcharged.
Both broadband and mobile providers will now be required to contact you between 10 and 40 days before the end of your contract. They'll also have to contact you every year that you're out of contract with information about your current tariff and the best deals available to you.
So even if you choose to take no action once your contract has run out, you'll be reminded of what else is out there.
These are officially known as Annual Best Tariff Notifications (ABTN) and began rolling out on 15 February 2020 to broadband, pay-TV and mobile phone customers. So if you’ve been out of contract for a while, you likely would have received one by now.
There are four pieces of information that every broadband, pay-TV, and mobile phone provider must include:
The price the customer is currently paying
The end date of their current contract
The new price the customer will be paying once their contract ends
The best alternative deals that the provider can offer
Here are some other things that should be included:
Information about the notice period (or if a notice period applies)
Confirmation that there will be no exit fees after the contract end date
Details of all the services included in your subscription, including pay-TV, streaming services, insurance or handset costs
Other contracts with your provider and end dates (where termination of one would impact the other)
How to terminate the contract
Options available to the customer
Regulations stipulate that providers communicate with your preferred method. This could be by post, email, or text message.
So keep an eye on your inbox and be sure to always read messages from your provider so that you don’t miss out on important information.
The great news is, anyone who has a mobile phone or broadband package will ultimately benefit from end-of-contract and out-of-contract notifications. So that's most people.
While there are some savvy customers out there who keep a close eye on when their contracts are expiring, most of us could do with a convenient reminder telling us it’s time to save some money.
And now that more customers than ever will be shopping around, we’re hoping to see deals becoming even more competitive.
Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at Uswitch.com, says: “For years, providers have profited from not always being entirely transparent about the status of their contracts.
“The introduction of end-of-contract notifications and annual out-of-contract reminders should finally put an end to this murky practice and help consumers know the best time to consider their options.
“Our figures suggest mobile and broadband consumers could be £1 billion a year better off if they take the opportunity to move to a better value deal.
“Uswitch has spent years campaigning for these measures, which we hope will give a much-needed shake-up to the industry and put more power in consumers’ hands to get off packages that are no longer good enough."
Officially known as Annual Best Tariff Notifications (ABTNs), out-of-contract notifications mean that every mobile phone and broadband provider has to communicate regularly with customers who are out of their initial contract to remind them that they don’t have to stay on the same tariff.
Some 20 million out-of-contract customers should have received their first notification from providers on 15 February 2020. From the date of the first notification, each customer not subject to a fixed commitment period will start to receive one notification per year.
Ofcom, the telecoms industry regulators, has put together the following items that legally must be included in your notifications:
The fact that you are not within a fixed commitment period for the contract
Your current monthly price
Information about your notice period (or if a notice period applies)
Your current services (including ancillary services)
Other contracts you have with that provider and their end dates (where termination of one would impact the other)
Options available to you
The providers’ best tariffs
Figures from Ofcom suggest that nearly nine million customers are collectively overpaying by a staggering £1 billion each year for their broadband and TV services.
As they complete their initial contract, customers are then faced with a jump in prices of about 28%. That's a big increase.
And as a lot of people aren’t aware of this, or forget when their contract is up, they keep paying the higher price long after they’re free to shop around for a cheaper deal.
End-of-contract notifications mean that millions of customers will be made aware of this and will be given a chance to switch and save rather than stay put and overspend.
Want to switch to a better broadband deal? Compare broadband deals with Uswitch.
As of February 2020, broadband providers must send end-of-contract notifications to customers whose fixed-term contracts are ending. However, Ofcom has intentionally left how they should communicate these reminders quite open to interpretation. So the notification you receive could be slightly different depending on the provider you’re with.
Here’s what we know about certain broadband providers’ end-of-contract notifications so far.
In 2018, Citizens Advice estimated that four million people in the UK were overcharged for handsets they'd already paid off, totalling £490 million in charges. 2017 was a similar case, with customers often paying up to £450 a year after they’d paid off the cost of their phones.
In the past, despite pressure to do otherwise, mobile phone carriers were under no obligation to make their customers aware or refund them any overcharged fees.
These instances of over-charging will be a thing of the past with the introduction of end-of-contraction notifications and annual best tariff notifications. Customers will now be made aware of exactly how much they’re being charged and what they’re paying for.
Want to switch to a better mobile deal? Here are all our best mobile phone deals.
Prefer a SIM-only deal? Take a look at all our best SIM only deals.
Similarly, since last year, all of the UK’s mobile networks have been sending out end-of-contract notifications to their customers in compliance with Ofcom’s policy. But since there’s currently not much guidance on how they should look, the providers have taken slightly different approaches to the way they communicate them.