back to article Brits stung for up to £625 when they try to cancel broadband

Thousands of Brits are being slapped with costly cancellation fees worth hundreds of pounds when they try to switch broadband providers, the Citizens Advice charity has warned. The group found that the average cost of extricating oneself from a rubbish broadband deal was £190, but customers had been handed out fees of up to £ …

  1. Colin Miller

    cost no more than outstanding contract

    £625? That's £52pm. If if the customer cancels a contract, they should be charged no more than the total outstanding amount, when there is no fault on the suppliers part. Even for a quadplay service £52pm seems expensive.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: cost no more than outstanding contract

      £625? That's £52pm.

      Not if it's an 18 month contract. And 24 month contracts exist ;)

    2. The BigYin

      Re: cost no more than outstanding contract

      £52pm is reasonable, in fact that's cheap!

      1. Alan Edwards

        Re: cost no more than outstanding contract

        > £52pm is reasonable, in fact that's cheap!

        If you're paying the broadband bill for an entire town, maybe.

        I'm paying £20/month for unlimited (and as far as I can tell it really is) FTTC broadband,

    3. SuccessCase

      Re: cost no more than outstanding contract

      Document the problems, and if they don't listen to reason, sue them through the small claims court. It's really easy to do and costs very little to submit the form. Many will think "I'm small fry, what chance do I have against a company with deep pockets and expensive lawyers," but actually that is why it will work as a tactic. One thing I know from my days of working in a large corporate is that they always take note of legal claims. Lawyers live in fear of being seen to have missed something they should have known about. Indeed usually the law department is quite small, and the claim will be handled by someone relatively senior and whose salary and time is worth a hell of a lot more than the cost of the claim. Almost always, they will resolve it by cancelling the debt rather than waste an expensive corporate lawyers time on it, and at that almost regardless of the merits of the case. Their thinking will be, "since this customer has been so pissed off as to bother to sue us, he's probably right. Even if he's not, he's a customer, and it's not worth our time." So if you have bothered to collect even a modicum of evidence of bad service, the chance they will just cancel the "debt" is very high indeed.

  2. DJV Silver badge

    Please

    Name and shame!

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: Please

      Won't work. They have no shame.

      1. Arachnoid

        Re: Please

        And its present customers may well not be able to see the post

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Please

        Well it's more about naming so people can avoid signing up.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Please

        Won't work. They have no shame.

        Indeed.

        I had that one ~ 2000 with NTL. When they started the initial Cable Modem subscriptions, they had US contractors doing the data entry for them (there was no cheap Indian staff yet I guess). One of these guys put me in the database "by hand" bypassing half of the stages. As a result the service worked for 6 months or so (on a 12 month contract). After that their OSS installed a filter that denied any TCP SYNs outgoing from me on my line. So you have a line, but cannot use it. Due to the MAC being in parts of the database and not in others there was no way the muppets in support could re-activate it.

        After I failed to sort it out with their support, I cancelled it on non-delivery.

        Guess what, one month of _NO_ service according to all UK "powers that be" is not non-delivery. Trading standards were a bunch of useless corporation bottom licking cucking funts - they put that one (sure, it is OK to have no service for a month, you still have to pay) in writing. At that time Of-whatever was not doing anything either (not that it does now). I was not familiar enough with UK law to know the finer details of small claims court at the time so at the end of the day when they passed the debt to collection agency I decided that 150£ are not worth the hassle and chickened out.

        Looking back at this I can understand Cameron trying to exit the Eu. If you deploy correctly all Eu consumer protection and telecoms regulations, incidents like this should result in the consumer and telecom watchdog performing a form of plastic surgery on the telco known as "rip a new a***hole". And surely, such things should not happen - the regulators should remain the corporate lapdogs they are in britain today and chase only small market stall traders selling pillows that have not been fireproofed correctly. Not for any other reasons - because the traders compete with the real regulator masters.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Please

          This has nothing to do with the EU, your fault was that even if there were laws to protect you, you were not prepared to go to the small claims court and argue the toss. This is exactly what companies rely on. Case in point, the EU compensation scheme for delayed flights - every airline will claim the delay is not their fault, it was not reasonably foreseeable. Unless you're prepared to go to the small claims court, you'll not get any joy.

          And take a look at the British parliament. Let me ask you - do you see a public-spirited bunch of capable, trustworthy and selfless individuals dedicated to make the world a fairer and better place of only the evil shackles of Brussels were removed from their delicate, hard-working hands?

        2. Da Weezil

          Re: Please

          My local Trading Standards were very helpful to me. when Pipox were throttling my connection daily from 3.30 pm I had a long chat with TS after Pipex denied all knowledge, It was so bad I was even having trouble with large content pages (simple text was ok but anything else? - Forget it!).

          TS gave me chapter and verse to quote to them about the relevant legislation and the nature of their failure. Suddenly Pipex were willing to admit what was happening (it is now a widely known fact but at the time it was something they flatly denied.)

          Just had something similar with XLNTelecom trying to sting my boss for £299 to migrate the out of contract Phone service at work, I clued him up about the rights of Domestic & SME customers since about 3 years ago and suddenly they backed down and offered him a retention deal instead.

          The telecoms sector is full of scammers - its nearly as corrupt as Banking!

      4. MrXavia

        Re: Please

        well at the very least name them so we know to avoid them!

      5. Tom 13

        Re: They have no shame.

        You're right about that. But at least if you name them, punters can be aware of the potential problems up front.

    2. janimal

      Re: Please

      Indeed! Especially the outrageous and surely criminal £625 one!

  3. Jason 24

    Setup costs

    "in fact they should often pay less, to reflect costs providers save because the contract ends early,”"

    Expect that with the margins on Broadband being so slim it often means a customer has to be retained for 2 years before a provider breaks even on the setup cost, let alone making any money, so the providers are out of pocket if you leave early.

    This may be different when a MAC code is used, I'm not sure what BT charge for processing them.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Setup costs

      If they're not providing the service they should then fuckem.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Setup costs

        If they're not providing the service they should then fuckem.

        One problem with that is that the most complex and error prone part of a connection - the last mile - is often not being supplied by the ISP. Everyone except for VM customers and people living in Hull(*) are reliant on BT openreach for the physical cable. Even LLU only replaces the DSLAM and is still reliant on BTor. Even the exchange backhaul is usually BTor.

        And FTTC is BTor for cable and cabinet.

        It's entirely possible for an ISP to only own whatever is in their server room. And I imagine there are companies that will rent that kit as well. It could be that your ISP is nothing but support and billing staff.

        Legally your ISP is still responsible but they don't always have much control over the last mile. With FTTC they can't even request a DLM reset. The disconnection charges being levied here are probably just the ISP passing on BT's charges.

        (*)Oh and a handful of people on alt nets.

        1. Ol' Grumpy
          Coat

          Re: Setup costs

          Didn't something pass recently that said BT have to investigate and resolve faults within two working days or did I just make that up?

        2. Jason 24

          Re: Setup costs

          "And I imagine there are companies that will rent that kit as well."

          I'd hazard a guess that that is part of the problem. Once upon a time to be an ISP you had build and own a physical infrastructure and employ well trained and highly paid staff to run it.

          Now anyone can become a virtual ISP with minimal effort (compared to building a network across the country) and since you don't have highly trained staff to pay and you're happy with a smaller cut you undercut everyone who has to run their own networks, thus starting the race to the bottom.

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Setup costs

          Legally your ISP is still responsible but they don't always have much control over the last mile.

          Well still fuckem - and with luck BT too. I dont care whose fault it is if its not up to contract its not MY fault.

          I have a great deal of sympathy for the ISP's being fucked over by BT but in the end its not the customers responsibility to keep shit businesses going. They should shake OFCOM to its core to get something done about it.

        4. Tom 13

          @ AndrueC

          As the consumer, I don't give a damn whose fault it is that the service wasn't delivered, the long and the short of it is the service wasn't delivered. If the problem for a given customer was in the last mile and the ISP doesn't control the last mile some other government protected monopoly does, the ISP can sue the monopoly for THEIR failure to deliver the service and collect the appropriate fees from them. Because one of the few thing in life of which I am certain is that 90% of the time, the ISP is going to be in a better position to sue the jackwad at fault than the consumer is. The only power the consumer really has in the market place is to take his business elsewhere. Take that away and he is back to being a serf.

        5. Da Weezil

          Re: Setup costs

          The thing is there is the problem by where we have no relationship with Openjoke and it falls to the ISP to chase problerms. Some are great at this (AAISP for example) others really "CBA"

          If they are not pushing really hard and persistently for a resolution then they seserve to lose the business and should not be able to hold customers to a contract where thiey are failing in customer service top provide an acceptable level QOS - one technically possible for that line.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Setup costs

        I was with a shit ISP who gave bad service and low speed. I left before the contract ended and I did pay the leaving fee. Why? Because I told them they failed to live up to their end of the contract. I told them that I could not surf the web or even collect emails. If they wanted money from me they would have to take me to court and explain to a judge why they want money for failing to deliver. I got a couple of letters after that then, nothing.

        If your ISP fails to give you the service you pay for then leave as they are in breach of contract. You don't need to pay extortion money for ending a bad contract.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Setup costs

          I had a similar incident, The Phone & Broadband was down for the entire area for weeks, called ISP (Talk Talk Business I believe it was), told them enough was enough and I was walking, they tried to say I was still within the 24 months and there'd be a cancellation fee (a few hundred pounds as I recall). I told them they weren't delivering so where in breech of contract for failure to delivery, they said something about the problem being with BT lines and out of their control. Not my problem I told them.

          Got 1 letter asking for money, can't remember if I responded to it or not.

          As a result I decided to use Virgin Cable, if it's BT then everyone else would be effected as well (shrug).They're not perfect but any outage tends to be for at most 15 minutes. One engineer that came round said it was probably people doing unscheduled work (hooking some one new up or similar). Annoying but not the end of the world.

  4. Chris Jasper

    And as for the compensation for poor service, ever dealt with Sky?

    Not happening.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Companies in wallet-raping shock. Whatever next?

  6. moiety

    "The regulatory rules also call for early termination charges to be limited and for charges to only apply if the supplier has met its commitments, which is arguably not the case when broadband speeds turn out to be less than promised or outages are frequent."

    If the ISP haven't delivered what they said they would deliver then surely they were first to break the contact; which is then null and void. Less speed is probably unenforcable due to the "up to $speed/sec" weasel-wording; but frequent outages would certainly be cause to tell them to go fuck themselves.

  7. nil0

    BT

    The problem with BT is that you only have to breathe in the wrong direction and it starts a new contract with them, regardless of how many years you've been with them. And of course the landline contract and the broadband contract are guaranteed to be out of sync, so you're always going to be stung for something...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BT

      Unless you actually sign the blessed thing then it ain't a valid contract.

      An ISP (not BT) tried that on me. A snotogram threatening immediate action in the county court and they backed down. Still it took them right down to the wire (OFCOM limitation) to come up with a MAC code so I could move to another ISP.

      ISP's will try to pull a fast one over charges in the hope that we wil simply pay up in the hope of that being the end of the matter. Fat chance of that.

      The other thing is to make the transfer happen on the final day of your billing period. Then if they take another payment by Direct Debit they are committing fraud.

      1. xyz

        Re: BT

        Quick question for BT users here in respect of this sign up for free BT sport . I can't quite reconcile the fact that they want you to watch sport but have a 10GB monthly usage cap.. I know when I watch an F1 stream of a race (non BT) it chomps through over a gig, so does this mean that when you try to footy up, BT are lying in wait with excess charges? Just askin'

        1. rhydian

          Re: BT

          Best double check, but I don't think Sport/Youview/Vision traffic counts towards your usage.

      2. tfewster Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: BT

        Agreed, when I transferred away from TalkTalk (be nice - I signed up with Pipex Business!), I cancelled my DD the moment they sent me an incorrect invoice for the last few days - so they added on a "failed Direct Debit" charge.

        After a few months of threats, I sent them an invoice for my time. They closed the case shortly after that.

        1. MrXavia

          Re: BT

          "After a few months of threats, I sent them an invoice for my time. They closed the case shortly after that."

          I find just telling them you will be billing them for your time gets them to back down and pass you to a supervisor who can usually sort things out.. (except that damned £30 disconnection fee for BB, nothing I did got them to waive that!)

    2. Tapeador
      Stop

      Re: BT

      I think there are new Ofcom regs which preclude the 12-month auto-rollover contracts since a few months ago. But yeah you're right it has been extraordinary - and likely not enforceable under the ordinary rules of contract formation.

    3. MrNed
      Childcatcher

      Re: BT

      14 months on a BT contract has taught me how to hate. Not your standard "oh, you scoundrel, you murdered my family" sort of hate, but a visceral level of detestation that it is impossible to put in to words (or not without risking a visit from plod's "namecalling-crime" unit). I've asiduously avoided taking any additional services so hopefully, in just a few more months, I can extricate myself from the grips of this evil corporate behemoth without losing my shirt.

      The only thing now is to work out which evil corporate behemoth I should sign up with instead (sigh - depressing, innit?!)

      1. Mr Flibble
        Pint

        Re: BT

        The only thing now is to work out which evil corporate behemoth I should sign up with instead (sigh - depressing, innit?!)

        Definitely not A&A, then – they fail on both counts. Not evil and not a corporate behemoth.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. TheBloke

    "Thought that Verizon phonecall was painful?" :

    s/Verizon/Comcast/

    s/phonecall/phone call/

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which companies? name and shame!!

  10. rhydian

    BT Retail used to be masters at this

    BT Retail's ploy was to offer a line rental saver (a one-off line rental payment) that ran for 12 months

    BUT

    All their broadband and calls contracts ran for *18* months. Therefore when your line rental save came to an end you had three choices:

    1: Pay 6 months line rental monthly via your bill (loosing out on the 10% or so discount), and then leave when the calls/BB package ran out

    2: Renew your line rental saver, then move once that had run out (BT wouldn't refund line rental savers if they left)

    3: Pay the cancellation charge for the remaining months of your calls/broadband package

    Luckily, when BT launced their BT Sport service, you could sign up for free if you agreed to a 12 month contract. I never watched my BT sport subscription, but it did get my line rental and package end dates to line up again, so no cancellation fees for me!

    1. Tapeador

      Re: BT Retail used to be masters at this

      BT's business model: offer people expensive, uncompetitive contracts, because they don't trust other brands.

      Actually ironically BT own plusnet I gather, who offer the same at vastly reduced prices - which goes to show there's price-reference-point marketing going on too.

      1. rhydian

        Re: BT Retail used to be masters at this

        I moved from BT to plusnet (who are indeed part of the borg collective that is BT Group). The service is much better and prices are lower (quite a bit where plusnet have an LLU presence).

        Unless you truly want/need BT Youview then there's no reason for bothering with BT.

        1. Alan Edwards

          Re: BT Retail used to be masters at this

          > Unless you truly want/need BT Youview

          A £10 Sky NowTV box will give you everything YouView does. Not as pretty perhaps - separate apps for the catchup services - but at least you're not tied to BT.

    2. Rol Silver badge

      Re: BT Retail used to be masters at this

      I managed to sort my phone v's broadband contract in a very neat fashion indeed.

      When the contract came up for renewal I transferred my phone number to a voip provider and negotiated a broadband only contract.

      The phone service is way beyond what my ISP offered with many features, I would normally have had to pay for, supplied as standard.

      I use my normal phone and have never had a problem.

      £21 ish for broadband £6 ish for phone and the knowledge I can keep my exact same number no matter where in the world I move to, which incidentally means I can call anywhere in the UK from anywhere in the world for free and they similarly can call me as if I was still in Blighty.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: BT Retail used to be masters at this

        or say to them "give me discount or I go to sky", sky then give cheaper line rental than BT on the same BT line.

  11. jason 7 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Hang on...

    I get customers to cancel their ISP deals quite often when they just aren't working or not good value and not a single one has been charged to cancel and move elsewhere. I would know very quickly if they had.

    "You just told us to do XYZ and its going to cost us £500!"

    So what are all these other people doing? Is it what I call the "Non IT user conundrum?

    This means that if a simple IT process has say three very basic steps then the non IT person will somehow add in 67 extra steps, one of which will involve swallowing it.

    Like the installing a new mouse scenario.

    Method 1. IT guy way - Unplug old mouse. Plug new mouse into same socket. OS detects and installs mouse.

    Method 2. Non IT User way - Unplug old mouse. Plug new mouse into VGA/HDMI/Ethernet/any socket other then the one it's supposed to go in, try installing the Mac driver on a PC, thumping it, switch PC on and off, Call Mike round from next door to have a look (well he fixes motorbikes after all) Mike can't do it. Plug and unplug it 56 times. Call up support. Swear at support and hang up. Plug old mouse back into all the wrong sockets. Throw new mouse against the wall. Put a curse on PC World. Call local IT guy swearing that its crap and doesn't work. Local IT guy pops round applies method 1. Non IT person says "Well it didn't do that when I tried it 78 times!"

  12. briesmith

    Why Special Treatment for Utility Suppliers?

    I don't understand why it is that utility suppliers seem to live in a legal world of their own making.

    The law otherwise is very clear when a contract is breached - as in early termination - the person suffering loss is entitled to recover that loss by way of "damages".

    They have a duty to mitigate any loss and are only entitled to recover any actual loss; usually seen to be as the profit that has been foregone.

    An example would be a caterer getting ready to cater for a wedding. In the event of cancellation that caterer isn't entitled to the whole fee. It would have to offset any notional loss by the value of the food it didn't buy, the wages it didn't pay and any other costs it otherwise didn't incur - with a duty to mitigate those costs as I said earlier - before sending in its bill.

    That's the common law as it's been for 100s of years.

    Which brings me to two points.

    What is the ISP's loss in the event of early termination? It must be based on the lost profit element and not simply the monthly revenue it would otherwise have received.

    And, secondly, why is the regulator giving legal advice (and to the contrary) when it is not a legally qualified body?

    My advice? You don't want debt collectors calling you and you don't want your credit record affected so send a letter to BT, Plusnet whichever saying that you don't accept their charge, offer to pay the lost profit element. When that letter gets ignored send them a letter before action - it should explicitly say "Letter before Action" - insisting that they answer. When that gets ignored, pay the amount demanded and immediately issue proceedings in the Small Claims Court - see here https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/overview - for that amount. I guarantee you'll get your money back with the issuing fees almost by return.

    Basically this could all be avoided if utility service contracts longer than 3 months were simply banned - that's long enough to recover the cost of a company's computer system recording the arrival and departure of a customer - and the separation of any goods supply into a separately priced and managed contract.

    This is long overdue.

    1. Tapeador

      Re: Why Special Treatment for Utility Suppliers?

      I agree, the reasons are severalfold.

      Mainly that our legal system is complex, jargon-ridden, and costly and time-consuming to use; consumers don't have standing to injunct utilities to desist in using certain practices with other consumers (so the utility just settles, or pays up in small claims, no precedent is set). Even were a precedent set, nobody would know how to use it. The regulators don't even use the ordinary rules of contract formation to guide their regulatory instructions. The law views the disutility (or displeasure) of a breach of contract as relating to that individual alone, in consumer cases - rather than looking at aggregated disutility. I could go on and on.

      But it's a problem with the nature of consumer law in the UK, and the ordinary norms of the law of contract not applying to it because of collective action problems, and structural problems with our legal and regulatory systems.

      1. John H Woods

        Re: Why Special Treatment for Utility Suppliers?

        The other problem is that if you believe you are within your rights to refuse to pay, they won't take you to court where you can make a case and perhaps defeat them, but hand it direct to debt collectors, who will harass you and record bogus info on your credit record, making your life hell.

        It seems to me just like extortion, "if you don't pay this money now [...]it could make it impossible for you to ever get a mortgage".

    2. Vic

      Re: Why Special Treatment for Utility Suppliers?

      for that amount. I guarantee you'll get your money back with the issuing fees almost by return.

      I issued Small Claims proceedings against PlusNet when the took an additional month's payment to which they were not entitled.

      I got my money, but it was most assuredly not "by return". It was on the very eve of giong to court - indeed, the cheque did not clear before the court date, and I had to ask the court for a delay. That usually costs, but they understood the situation and waived the fee.

      Vic.

    3. Scroticus Canis
      Thumb Up

      Re: Why Special Treatment for Utility Suppliers? @briesmith

      Excellent advice. Got me a new bookmark and some notes. Cheers my dear.

  13. JaitcH
    WTF?

    Married or Sharing? Just tell them you are moving overseas.

    In Ontario, Canada, the local gas outfit screws people for a monthly charge for a 'connection' during the hot summer months. This is a 'standing charge'.

    So every March, when the weather warmed up, we would call the gas company and ask for a final account. The following Fall we would call and ask for a connection using my wife's name.

    Being 'smart', the gas company never billed for those intervening months.

    So do this with your tardy InterNet connection, using your wife's maiden name.

    Or sue them in Small Claims Court for poor service.

    1. briesmith

      Re: Married or Sharing? Just tell them you are moving overseas.

      This is the very best way to manage contracts with utilities; otherwise known as cheating, robbing bastards.

      The stratagem is sometimes called the Blair manoeuvre due to he and her having completely different names and the way it work is like this.

      You are an existing utility user and you see an offer which is much better than your deal but it's new subscribers only. Once your rant about the CRBs is over, cancel your contract and get your wife to take out a new contract in her, perfectly legitimately, different name, taking advantage of the offer otherwise closed to you, and, then, when the next "special deal" comes round, cancel her contract and take one out in your name.

      This can be repeated ad infinitum, costs you nothing and gives the CRBs a good kicking at the same time.

      Let joy be unconfined, the Sky's :) the limit.

    2. tfewster Silver badge

      Re: Married or Sharing? Just tell them you are moving overseas.

      I guess you only use gas for heating, but the pipes still need to be maintained and staff kept on in Summer, so a standing charge is a reasonable principle - As long as they're not taking the piss. When UK suppliers listed the standing charge as a separate item it was easier to understand than "First X units charged at £££, then after that units are charged at ££" [Where (£££-££) *X = the hidden standing charge]

      You're lucky you don't get hit with a "connection charge" and have to pay a deposit as a "new" customer!

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Married or Sharing? Just tell them you are moving overseas.

        the only thing we do this for is car insurance. That is just to keep both our no claims up though (in reality). As long as we declare the "main" driver then it isn't fronting. If we didn't need gas for hot water production then I could see this being a good idea too.

  14. jeremyjh

    I wonder...

    The new 18-month contract after moving house is certainly something I've experienced. As a tenant in London, it's sure a good way to make sure I can never afford to move my broadband.

    *cough* Virgin Media *cough*

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: I wonder...

      Andrews and Arnold are 6 months, not too eye gouging on prices either. I recommend them to people wanting shorter terms but a decent connection.

    2. Soruk
      Go

      Re: I wonder...

      If you're inside their coverage, Relish (relish.net) would be worth a look - month-on-month contracts, service delivered over 4G with unlimited usage - and if you move house within the coverage area, you just move the box to the new location, plug in and use.

  15. SoltanGris

    Ah, it isn't a problem

    Ah, it isn't a problem at that people in general don't bother to read contracts. Nah.

    Nor is it a problem that people sign up despite reading the obvious pitfalls in said contract.

    Nah, it couldn't possibly be the people.

    Like this idiot, elected by a bunch of idiots to represent them:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACbwND52rrw

    What can you do, what can you do?

    Don't buy said contract or live with consequences of ones stupidity.

  16. I'm counting

    It would help if there was an agreed "minimum level of service"

    Had this argument with Sky. I don't think that 1.3 mb down is actually broadband.

    Tough we define it as 1.0. Pay up to leave.

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: It would help if there were an agreed “minimum level of service”

      I’m counting, the OECD definition of broadband is 256 kb/s down. (Sometimes it’s “at least”, and sometimes it’s “greater than”. Consistency? They’ve heard of it.)

  17. YoungSod

    Lies and contracts

    Was caught by a BT contract renewal when moving house 18 months ago, then stung for £125 of cancellation fees when we moved again and swtiched to ("the horror") virgin. Managed to argue them down to £30 in the end (though felt sorry for the CS girl after 30mins of discussion on the finer points of contact law).

    All struck me as sharp practice by the ISP, details hidden away in fine print and clearly an attempt to deter people from leaving and, if that fails, suck the last few drops of profit from the poor customer. ISPs setting up barriers to switching supplier and locking people in strikes me as the sort of practice OFCOM should be stamping down on.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Lies and contracts

      "Was caught by a BT contract renewal when moving house 18 months ago"

      Ofcom outlawed autorenewals far longer ago than that. Did you complain to them?

  18. M-AD
    Alert

    Virgin Media

    I was recently in this situation with Virgin Media. Signed up to an 18 month Fibre offer in April and less than two months into it my landlord handed me my two months notice to move. Called VM and gave them my new address and was told that they did not serve the area, that I would need to break the contract and therefore incur a £260 cancellation fee.

    Luckily a legal bod at work heard my tale of woe and read through their contract, and found a small hole - it stated that if I moved and cancelled my service, I would be charged. However, it did not say what would happen if I moved and was willing to take my service with me but VM were unable to fulfill my request. A quick complaint email with the threat of sending my story to Anne Robinson et al and VM called me back and waived the fee.

    Still out of pocket since I paid line rental upfront (so the £260 was on top of the £160 I had already paid), but much happier I dont have to pay them another penny.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    demon

    It's not just money, there's also good old incompetence. I've been a Demon customer for years. When I moved house I took the service with me and it worked fine. Then Vodafone bought them and I moved house again. There was a delay getting a free line into the new address so after discussions with Demon technical people they changed my account to dial-up temporarily. This was meant to keep my account open so that my email address and Web site would remain live. What they actually did was delete my account, kill my domain name and delete my Web site. So I called from the new house and asked for them to be reinstated. They refused, saying it was impossible. So I now have a new email address and I'm moving my business broadband and hosting away from Demon. What a bunch of arses.

  20. Ben Norris

    how is this a story?

    Customers surprised to find that they are expected to pay what they agreed to pay!

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: how is this a story?

      "Customers surprised to find that they are expected to pay what they agreed to pay!"

      The laws regarding unfair terms in contracts come into play.

  21. Cookieninja

    Don't get it ...

    The TV/(Land line) Phone and Broadband companies just love ripping us off with these 12/18/24 month contracts .. and they also love every excuse they have to renew lengthy commitments for any old trivial reason. Hell, Virgin made me enter into another min. term of 12 months just for taking their Spotify promotion where I got 3 months for free. I only got it because: 1) The service was OK and 2) I expected it to remain so.

    There should be an upper limit of 6 months, and withdrawal from the contract due to poor service should be a legal right. I'm surprised it isn't already.

    Does anyone know of a *good* reason for them to lock customers in, besides filling their coffers? The desire to lock customers in doesn't inspire much confidence that they'll provide a good enough service to keep you :-s

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Don't get it ...

      "Does anyone know of a *good* reason for them to lock customers in, besides filling their coffers?"

      BT charges a hefty fee for new FTTC installs. My current ISP offered a choice of an upfront connection fee and rolling monthly contract or no fee and a 12 month minimum term.

      If there are no installation costs incurred then there's no excuse for contractual terms other than "because we can" - which pretty much covers all the power/gas/water contracts out there.

  22. Retron

    This whole contract malarkey has passed me by. I started out with Compuserve, moved to Demon in 98, then to Metronet in 2005 when ADSL came along. Then when Metronet was bought out by Plusnet and service standards dropped, I moved to Entanet. In no case have I ever been tied to a contract - I always associated them more with certain mobile phones. Landlines and ISPs are traditionally paid monthly, with no minimum-length contracts.

    It's quite depressing to see that people willingly tie themselves into 18 or 24-month contracts just to get a cheap router thrown in for free! Far better IMO to pay a bit more and get better service from a smaller ISP.

    1. badger31

      Rubbish

      There's nothing wrong with getting a bargain deal with a lengthy contract, if you know you'll need the service for at least the contract length. The problem is that you should be able to get out of the contract if the ISP, or whoever, is not providing the service they should.

      I am currently going through this process with a client whose internet is dog-slow or none existent, despite having an excellent DSL link to the local exchange. His ISP claims they are not in breach of contract as they are making efforts to rectify the situation. They want £185 for early termination. Bastards. At least BT Business have a reasonable SLA to go with their unreasonable prices. Seriously, £19pm just for line rental. FFS.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Rubbish

        "His ISP claims they are not in breach of contract as they are making efforts to rectify the situation."

        "Making efforts" is not good enough - they actually have to rectify it

        If you give them a reasonable period in an "unfit for purpose" recorded delivery letter (14 days is ok) then that gives them a deadline they have to comply with.

  23. Mr_Pitiful

    My opinion

    I've been with my ISP since they first came into exsistance in 1995, Eclipse internet. I've moved house on numerous occasions and changed 'options' a number of times, depending on my needs.

    I've recently started paying for my phone calls with them and I'm now saving on average £50 per month.

    I still have to pay BT for line rental, but they do 'own' the wires after all and will fix usually within 24 hours. I would recommend eclipse to anyone who can get it in their area, customer service & support is pretty good.

    Not sure if there would be a problem if I wanted to cancel, but as it's fast, reliable & cost effective, I don't see the need at the moment!

    1. Vic

      Re: My opinion

      I've been with my ISP since they first came into exsistance in 1995, Eclipse internet.

      I've just left them after they decided to restrict my DNS server.

      Useless bunch of crooks. Their "support" is quite the opposite.

      Since moving to Andres and Arnold, all the mysterious disconnections I used to get have simply gone away, without me changing any hardware. It turns out that it was a forced disconnect, just tlike the LLP traces I sent to Eclipse said it was...

      I am so happy to have migrated, I really am.

      Vic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My opinion

        Another thumbs up for A&A (http://www.aa.net.uk/) I've been with them for over 3 years and they are really really good. Not the cheapest, but XKCD compliant support.

    2. Mark Allen

      Re: My opinion

      This is a thread about ranting... surely bad form to mention the good guys who do it right?

      A couple of years back I had a client who needed a short contract. Eclipse were going to be charged £60 by BT to install the kit. So they passed this on to the client as part of the monthly contract. Want to leave six months in? Then they'd ask for £30 of that £60. 8 months in they'd ask for £15 to leave. Once you got to the end of the 12 months, they'd ask for nothing. Seemed sensible. No contract renewal - just on going service.

      Even better, you could just pay the £60 connection fee up front and then take a monthly contract.

      Far too much common sense at Eclipse. Could be why they keep winning those awards for customer service.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: My opinion

      "I still have to pay BT for line rental, but they do 'own' the wires after all and will fix usually within 24 hours."

      You must know a different BT to the one I know. I had my line down for a week at one point, before they bothered showing up.

  24. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Same in the US

    This is why I won't use Comcast. I must use their business plan for what I want to do, and their offensive contract explicitly guarantees nothing except that customers pay money for a long time. The only signature I could put on that is "GFYS."

    I learned this lesson the hard way after signing a contact with Sprint for cellular. Sprint will only ask you to buy a service plan if the plan you bought in your contract isn't working.

  25. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    How very odd

    I've changed ISP twice in the last 10 years, and it hasn't cost me a bean.

  26. chris lively

    Isn't this the sort of thing the regulators are supposed to fix?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Isn't this the sort of thing the regulators are supposed to fix?"

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture

      Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure; it creates an opening for firms to behave in ways injurious to the public (e.g., producing negative externalities). The agencies are called "captured agencies".

      $HINT: Look where Ofcom's executives/staff come from and where they go to after leaving Ofcom.

      It's hardly restricted to Ofcom and is a form of corruption. Regulatory staff/ministers should be prohibited by law from working in the industry they regulate for at least a decade after leaving the agency.

  27. tempemeaty

    Delivery of service is part of the contract, right?

    If the internet provider has not provided a proper delivery of working service then they have broken the contract and should be held accountable. Right? Either they make it write or the contract should be null and void. Period. Just my worthless two cents worth...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dodgy ISPs

    A client of mine was being caught out by one of these evil contracts as mentioned in the news item. In this case it was Supanet. So many nasty scams built in. Supplying the customer a really rubbish router, but not allowing them to have the username and password to be able to install their own. The router obviously gets out of date, so they "supply a new one" but force a new 24 month contract. Yet service is still lousy, router is still rubbish, but any call their staff mess with customer's head and make it hard to leave. The phone contract is on 18 months, but the broadband is 24 months, but they never line up due to confused renewal dates. Of course, auto-renewing contracts as each come to an end. It is was a total minefield to try and extract from those contracts.

    Any attempt to leave was being threatened with £500 bills. Stunning levels of costs. (I just looked back at some of the emails!!)

    They were managing this as it was a poor old lady they were threatening. She would just crumble under their threats.

    I won't even bother touching on the lousy security or website and router. Just amazed that these people can get away with it. Yet this is no different to other businesses on the high street selling you a snake oil service. Marketing sounds good, looks pretty, saves you a quid... and then stitches you up for ever more.

    Been some useful legal tips in this thread. Thanks

    1. staggers

      Re: Dodgy ISPs

      Supanet! Do they still exist?

      They were truly dreadful. Al Capone would have been proud of the way they operated.

  29. dorsetknob
    Thumb Up

    Re: Dodgy ISPs

    Started out with BT on Dial up years ago then Broadband (with BT) saw out the inital contract and as soon as soon as local exchange was llu enabled switched to Bulldog on a rolling one month contract.

    Still on the rolling one month contract (company was sold/merged and now is)

    Home Telecom Ltd

    Global House

    60B Queen Street

    Horsham

    West Sussex

    RH13 5AD

    service is good

    Band width is good for the for the Distance i am from the exchange

    NO Download Capping or Bandwidth throttling

    Line rental is under £10 a month ( not £16.50 + like from other isp's)

    Price is on par with what other ISP's charge

    at best if i changed ISP i would probably only save pence per month and have to be tied into a 12 to 18 month contract ( I like my rolling monthly contract IT SUITS MY CIRCUMSTANCES don't know if any Other British ISP that would offer a monthly contract).

    I Also could upgrade my bandwidth to up to 40Mb keeping the same one month contract ( cannot afford to do so due to CIRCUMSTANCES).

    So as far as i am concerned A BIG PAT ON THE BACK FOR MY ISP

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You have to remember that...

    ...all telecoms companies are fundamentally fucking shite and they'll do whatever it takes to remain fucking shite like they always have been. If they ever stop being fucking shite then people will start to expect an un fucking shite service which just wouldn't do at all. It is OFCOM's job to ensure that global standards in fucking shiteness are maintained throughout the telecoms industry.

    1. cray74

      Re: You have to remember that...

      "...all telecoms companies are fundamentally fucking shite and they'll do whatever it takes to remain fucking shite like they always have been."

      Gee, and I was about to say, "I'm glad I don't have service from a British telecom company." After reading the daily screw-ups of America on the Register, I think I've found something that isn't so messed up over here. I get a human-written response to my service complaint emails within 12 hours, have fairly timely service calls (even if it takes 3 visits to figure out someone left a weather cover open and the apartment complex's gear was getting rained on), and have never been hit with a cancellation fee, which was handy when I was laid off and had to move.

      Then again, I don't have Comcast and, yes, rainbows have been known to shoot out of my arse.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Complain to OFCOM

    Complain to OFCOM

  32. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Your contract is with the ISP

    "Legally your ISP is still responsible but they don't always have much control over the last mile."

    That's a contractual issue between the ISP and Openreach - and is explicitly not your or my legal concern.

    If you want to get out of a contract for non-performance (particularly if throughput is shite or there are lots of disconnections), send a recorded delivery letter stating that the performance is not as advertised and therefore is "unfit for the purpose it was sold" - this is a contract breaker. They have a short period to try and remedy the situation, but after that you can close your account without penalty. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but this is the advice I got from one). They may try to go after you for termination fees, but proof of delivery of the letter is a powerful tool in small claims court.

    You are NOT bound by Otelo or any of the dispute processes - they can be leapfrogged and small claims actions taken.

    You can also invoke the Protection from Harrassment Act 1997 if they're making a real nuisance of themselves.

    On the actual problems side:

    Some ISPs are far better than others about badgering Openreach to actually fix duff lines. (Mine is pretty good - http://phone.coop), whilst some (ie, the big 6) seem to have some kind of cozy agreement with openreach to not bother and then get their ScriptReading Monkeys to divert/distract/delay.

    This is especially important when there's a faulty cable involved. $LARGE ISPs are utterly focussed on "closure rates" and not on patterns of complaints, which means they don't put 2 and 2 together when a large number of customers in the same street are complaining about service issues (or when a single customer is repeatedly complaining about the same problems). BTOR contractors will happily sign off a non-fixed fault as "closed" because they're focussed on closure rates (they should be flagging patterns of fault reports, but they don't, because it might mean they have to spend money.)

    A smaller ISP is often willing to keep badgering BT to fix the bloody fault - and there's none of this "you have to wait 2 weeks" bullshit.

    My personal experience of cable faults is that it took 8 _years_ of complaining before openreach finally worked out that the underground 7 pair cable into my property was shagged - despite every contractor coming out finding foreign battery, shorted pairs, etc etc and changing to the "least bad" pair over that period - and 4 months for them to actually get around to replacing it.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      > Some ISPs are far better than others about badgering Openreach to actually fix duff lines

      It's worse - some specifically pay less to get a worse service. Put another way, BTOR have multiple charging structures - if you want decent fault response times you pay more than if you will accept "when you feel like looking at it". Ever wondered why some ISPs can charge less than others ? There's one element.

    2. Andy Taylor
      Thumb Up

      Phone Co-op

      I'm with the Phone Co-op too, they are not the cheapest, but have nice options like paying £30 extra up front for a 12 month contract instead of 18 month one. Support is pretty good (UK based) as well.

      Their biggest advantage seems to be that we are treated like business customers when there is a fault. Shortly after our FTTC link was installed, we had an issue. The Openreach engineer was on site within 4 hours (to fix the line that his colleague had broken doing the FTTC install).

  33. Roj Blake Silver badge

    How to Avoid Charges

    1) Inform them that you will not be paying on the grounds that they have breached their contract

    2) Tell them that if they really want you to pay them that you'll see them in court

    3) Report them to Ofcom.

  34. freebsd124
    Thumb Up

    Broadband, Fiber Optics and ISP's & Cancelations

    It still amazes me that ISP's still charging line rental. Thats something we've done away with for a long time. I got fiber optic (100/100MBit/s) 14/14MBytes/s on a fair use policy. I can cancel on a monthly basis, without being charged!!!!

    I'm in the proces of getting 500/500MBits/s (about 50MBytes/s up and down)

    The sort of practice Comcast and UK's ISP doing would be punished severely here in the netherlands.

    My ISP is xs4all.nl (formerly demon.nl).

    The banks here work different; if a ISP would charge me unjustified, I myself, can reverse that thru my bank, no questions asked.

    If they would send a collection agency, hard luck for them, because collection agencies have no "legal" status up here, although a lot of people are NOT aware of that.

    Obviously, a lot comes down to infrastructure which, considering the size of the Netherlands, is very good.

    Where I live the whole county is connected to fiber optics, irrespective whether people are using it or not, we all got fiber optics into our houses and apartments. Its up to the owner of the house and/or apartments to have it connected thru a contract with a ISP of their choice.

    From every town/village its then connected to a backbone, so I got full speed 24/7 365 days a year

    1. Adam Inistrator
      Joke

      Re: Broadband, Fiber Optics and ISP's & Cancelations

      "Only one thing I cant stand. Cultural intolerance ... and the Dutch!"

  35. AOD
    Flame

    ISP billing bollocks

    Several moons ago Pipex were my ISP of choice having established a decent service and also as they were one of the early UK ISPs to jump on the broadband wagon (I still recall sending in my trusty US Robotics 33.6 whistler and getting back a shiny Fujitsu ADSL modem in exchange).

    Anyway, I migrated from them (cleanly, MAC code etc) to Nildram, then Be and now Plusnet.

    However, around 18 months after leaving Pipex, I saw a direct debit going out of my account that I didn't recognise for a couple of hundred pounds.

    I did some digging with the bank (Abbey, in their pre Santander guise when their service was resonable) and found that Pipex/Tiscali had taken the money.

    Following up with Pipex/Tiscali, it transpired that although I had migrated away cleanly, some part of their monolithic billing platform hadn't got the relevant memo. It still thought I was a customer and should be paying them. Apparently they had a "sweeper" team that would look at accounts such as these and then follow up on getting the money.

    In this instance, they had my account details still on record (I switched my payment to Direct Debit just before leaving them so I could cancel the instruction myself). Several broadband related sites at the time were rife with horror stories about attempting to rescind card payment authorities when leaving/migrating and often advised customers to switch to DD as they left to sidestep this issue.

    Pipex had setup another Direct Debit against my current account without my permission or knowledge using the historic details and then used this to obtain the payment in question.

    I contacted their high profile incident team and let them know in no uncertain terms what I thought of their behaviour (tantamount to fraud in my opinion) and ensured that I got my money back along with some extra for my time/compensation.

    The stupidest part was, my old user account/details still worked on their legacy customer site and I could clearly see where one system said "long gone", vs the other one that cluelessly thought I should still be forking over my hard earned each month. So, if I could see that, why the feck didn't their "sweeper" team? Doubly ironic when you consider that they were supposed to be in the communications business.

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