Broadband customers ‘held captive’ by poor service and high cancellation fees

1st August 2014


Broadband users suffering with poor service are being punished with sneaky charges for trying to cancel and providers are even passing fees on to debt collectors.

Citizens’ Advice Bureau said it has seen evidence of people being locked into unsuitable broadband contracts or hit with ‘arbitrary’ fees for cancelling when they try to switch to get a better service.

The average cost of getting out of a broadband contract is £190 and fees up to £625 have been reported to the bureau in the first six months of the year.

Those who move house are also being hit by cancellation fees despite the fact that they would not be able to use the service after they moved.

The bureau said half of the claims it received about broadband providers were to do with substandard service, including slow connection speeds, persistent faults and bad customer service.

It received 4,500 internet and broadband complaints from July 2013 to June 2014, 3,300 of which were from people living in England and Wales. Of those in England and Wales, one in five of the complaints focused on cancellation and withdrawal from a contract. Another 18% of problems were around complaints and redress and 15% were about concerns over billing, costs and payment.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens’ Advice Bureau, said the organisation is now calling for internet service providers to scrap cancellation fees if a customer is having a persistent problem with their service so people aren’t forced to stay in unsatisfactory contracts.

‘People are finding themselves held captive by bad broadband services. Some consumers who have stood up to problem suppliers have found themselves being punished for switching when they’ve been hit with a cancellation fee that is then passed over to a debt collection agency,’ she said.

‘Internet service providers must not shackle customers seeking a better service with unreasonable fees that can turn into shock debt. All internet users need to be able to easily have a way out of inadequate contracts and broadband speeds that only give them daily frustration.’

Broadband horror stories:

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau has revealed some of the worst complaints it has received from consumers about their broadband services and fees.

  1. One woman was hit with a cancellation fee which wasn’t in the terms of her contract after she tried to switch because the connection at her home was so bad she had to use an internet cafe.
  2. One 70-year-old man saw his service stop working after months of problems and when he switched provider he was sent a bill for £200 for early cancellation that was then handed over to a debt collection agency.
  3. One person who moved home was told she would be put on a new contract instead of carrying the old contract across and was then informed she was tied into a new 18-month contract when she called to say she did not want to continue with them. She was sent a bill for £170 that she was concerned debt collection fees would be added to.
  4. A man who was offered faster fibre optic broadband but was later reverted back to his old service when the installation of the fibre optics proved problematic. He decided to move providers but was then harassed over an early cancellation charge.


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