back to article Wait a minute, we're supposed to haggle! ISPs want folk to bargain over broadband

Just like the market stall owner in the The Life of Brian, it turns out internet service providers want customers to bargain with them to cut better deals. According to a survey from Which?, 87 per cent of those who haggle with British ISPs get more attractive contract rates. In a poll of 1,000 broadband customers asked why …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plusnet FREE!

    Since PlusNet upgraded their accounts system last year, they've not taken any money from me for broadband or line rental. My account says nothing due until 2037. I've a ticket raised, but every month they just send another update saying that there is no update. Apparently, they will never take more than 90 days from me.

    Not sure how long this can continue, but I'm nearly £500 up now.

    1. groovyf

      Re: Sad times

      Similar story with British Gas a number of years ago... didn't pay for gas/electric for 18 months, despite me contacting them a number of times. There was never any comeback either. Some issue with supplier/meter number/different provider, etc.

      1. tony72

        Re: Sad times

        I had this with NTL for almost two years, back in the day. They would send me a bill every month, so some part of their system knew I owed them money, but whenever I tried to pay it, they would say I didn't owe them anything, and the unpaid amounts vanished into the ether. I always thought that was proof of how bad NTL were; most companies somehow manage to only make mistakes in their favour, so you know it's really bad when they won't take your money at all.

        1. skuba*steve

          Re: Sad times

          I once got disconnected by NTL for non-payment of bills, only for the internet to randomly start working again about two months later (I never bothered to unplug the gubbins, and was too poor to find another provider back then). They continued to supply me with free cable and internet for almost two years, until i moved out.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sad times

          I phoned NTL up to tell them that the bill payer was deceased and what needed to be done to update the bill.

          NTL refused to talk to me about it as I was not the bill payer, and would have to get verification from the bill payer that I could talk to them on their behalf.

          I got free TV, phone and broadband until I moved.

      2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        Re: Sad times

        I gather they sent your bill to me, some 10 years ago. I was able to prove that my home is not connected to the gas network at all and they had to drop it. True story.

        1. JJKing Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Sad times

          Telstra (aka Hellstra) sent a AUD$14,000 phone bill to some poor old aged gentleman back in the early 1990s. They insisted that he owed them that amount and were threatening to disconnect his phone line if he didn't cough up. TV and radio shows got involved and eventually the demand and threats went away but I think that was mainly due to the house having never had a landline connection in the 90 odd years since it had been built.

          Bit like the cops who insisted a young lady should be paying the 147kph speeding ticket in her Datsun 120Y. TV program paid a professional race driver to take the demon car for a drive to see how fast they could wring it out. He gave up just over 120kph because he said it was too dangerous and was becoming uncontrollable. Wouldn't be surprised if the cops then slapped an Unroadworthy Certificate on it since they had been publically embarrassed.

          1. Benson's Cycle

            Re: Sad times

            Slightly different - that's where the police manage to get railings or something like that involved in the radar signal, which gives a false reading. (Allowing to the angle of incidence, railings can multiply the recorded speed by up to two times.)

            This happened to the designer of the radar guns in use in this country. He told the police he was going to court to challenge them and would provide technical evidence. They told him if he lost he would be saddled with the fees for their expert witness.

            Then they contacted him to ask him to be the expert witness in question...

            They lost.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Sad times

              "Then they contacted him to ask him to be the expert witness in question..."

              Australian police lost a number of cases in the 1980s involving misuse of radar guns.

              The response was to get laws passed declaring radar guns infallible.

              When challenges went in due to photographs of "speeding" vehicles clearly showing that the oblique angles the mobile installations were setup at were incorrect (60 degree angles mean that cosine calculations are critical), further legislation was passed making the photo evidence infallible.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Sad times

            "He gave up just over 120kph because he said it was too dangerous and was becoming uncontrollable. "

            My 120Y coupe would do this with only the driver onboard - the shape meant it actually had lift, not downforce. With 4 people onboard it was a lot more stable and good for 160km/h - IF you had a long enough road.

            That said, in general terms exceeding 110km/h was unwise if there were crosswinds....

      3. irrelevant

        Re: Sad times

        I had this with Powergen some years back. We ended up with them due to their taking over our then supplier. And the bills stopped. We then got a letter saying oops, sorry, we won't charge you the the time we missed. And they still didn't bill us. Eventually they found the account, and tried to bill us for the lot. Hang on, we said, what about this letter? What letter? It took contacting the directors office to resolve, and, what with all the payments their policy said they would make if they made mistakes, I think we paid about £60 for two years electric..

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: My account says nothing due until 2037

      TIP: Cancel the service in 2037. The world ends in 2038...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_2038_problem

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Plusnet FREE!

      I got 2 years free from them in the early 2000s when they had their free dial-up at weekends deal for £9.99 per month. I signed up for it when it first came out, they took the first month's payment, then nothing after that.

    4. Nick Kew Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Demon

      Anyone here remember Demon billing?

      I had Demon when I first returned to Blighty, back in dialup days. Paid a year up-front ('cos it was cheaper than monthly). They never took a second year's payment[1], nor made any attempt to contact me about it, despite having email and snail-mail addresses and phone number. I wasn't paying attention, so the first I heard of it was when I got a letter from debt collectors!

      After one or two other UK ISPs, I ended up with Plusnet, where I enjoyed a decade of connectivity free of the kind of problems that push one to change. Until the move to a house with ADSL estimated max speed 0.5M (no fibre), and the Virgin nightmare to make dialup look like a golden age ...

      [1] Or that might have been two years OK and a third year vanished: memory is hazy.

    5. JJKing Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Plusnet FREE!

      I moved into a newly built house in 2001 so obviously it never had a electricity connection and account before that. I contacted the electron provider three times before we got a bill. Was a tad annoyed when I found out that since they were the ones making the mistake I could only ever have been charged for 12 months of power usage. This could have gone on for years.... :-(

      A friend purchased a gas ducted heating system from the gas provider. The deal was a 25% deposit and then it was paid off over 12 months with the monthly payments added to the gas bill. Imagine his delight when the first gas bill arrived and had PAID IN FULL on the part relating to the ducted heating unit.

      Guess it is not only ISPs who bork up their billing systems.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PlusNet Billing

    I have similar billing problems and like you have notified them and again the support staff are powerless to address the issue since their billing system is not under their control.

    I told them that if they allowed standing order payment then the issue could be bypassed since the money could be in their account regardless of what the all powerful billing system thinks but they seem to prefer not to charge.

    Legally my thoughts are that if they bill you for an amount long enough then that is indeed the agreed amount, so enjoy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PlusNet Billing

      There are legal limits on how far back utilities can charge you for. They have to accept liability at some point, if they fail to bill you. Even if it was technically your error, their failure to correct it or bill for it, eventually becomes their problem.

      1. robpomeroy
        IT Angle

        Re: PlusNet Billing

        Under the Limitations Act, an alleged breach (non payment) would have to be actioned within 6 years. So the max you could ever owe if the beach were deliberate would be 6 years' worth plus interest.

        If you've been trying to pay and can demonstrate you've tried to pay, and the ISP took you to court, the judge would probably make the ISP pay your legal bills. Unfortunately there's no tariff for incompetence.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: PlusNet Billing

          For electricity and gas, it is 1 year.

          There is also the defence that you "tendered" payment. If you offered payment in an acceptable form and they refuse it, that discharges your liability.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: PlusNet Billing

      I'm guessing that their billing and customer support are all off-shored to contractors? We have that issue here in the States. The only way to get anything resolved is to go into the local office. Even then.... they have an almost impossible time dealing with the contractors.

      As for pricing.... again I make a visit to the local office and in 15 minutes it's done.

      Footnote... as I said, I'm in the States. I only have one choice for anything really resembling broadband (cable). The rest are basically WiFi and slower than molasses in January.

      1. CountCadaver

        Re: PlusNet Billing

        local offices no longer exist for many companies, all call centres, which if your lucky are in the UK or at least somewhere they understand English i.e. anywhere other than India, rather than think they do (i.e. Bangalore, Mumbai etc - "I can certainly be helping you of that I am sure sir" "I will resolve this for sure for you sir" - all whilst failing to understand what the problem is.....)

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: PlusNet Billing

          Plusnet support is in Sheffield, UK. No disguising the accents! They're great unless something has gone wrong.

          1. Z80

            Re: PlusNet Billing

            Something seems to have gone wrong since renewing my Plusnet contract. The portal shows the next billing date is 4 weeks ago.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: PlusNet Billing

            Famous last words about any ISP:

            "They're great unless something has gone wrong."

            Oddly enough it's how they put things right that matters.

            That was the catchphrase of a retailer who came to dominate mail order in New Zealand in the 1980s-1990s - and why they came to dominate. The number of problems they had were tiny and when there were issue, they fixed them. Too many companies treat customer complaints as a cost centre - it's a far greater cost centre if you don't address the issue (Dale Carnagie - if you offer poor service, then the customer will tell ten people and they will tell ten people, etc)

        2. mark4155

          Re: PlusNet Billing

          Hey. Whatever you think about overseas call centres. The guys and girls have mouths to feed.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: PlusNet Billing

            I wouldn't care if a call center was overseas if it weren't for the fact that it's extremely painful to actually get help from them.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: PlusNet Billing

            "Whatever you think about overseas call centres. The guys and girls have mouths to feed."

            It doesn't matter if the script monkeys are in Bangalore, Sheffield or San Jose, poor service is a management _decision_.

            The _best_, most switched on techs I've ever had dealt with were in Bangalore - AFTER I got through the obstructive minions in Halifax UK.

      2. Dave559

        Re: molasses in January

        Molasses in January can be rather a lot faster than you might think, especially if you were unfortunate enough to be in Boston a century ago...

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: PlusNet Billing

        "The only way to get anything resolved is to go into the local office. "

        What local office?

        The nearest thing these companies have is a post office counter - and that's only there to pay bills as an agency. The staff there have even less ability to deal with anything than the call centres.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: PlusNet Billing

        " I'm in the States. I only have one choice for anything really resembling broadband"

        Until Elon gets Skynet running. This has the existing broadband monopolies cacking themselves and looking for ways to have it outlawed. Tracing the money sources for these astrotrufing astronomy protest groups is "interesting"

        I expect it will quite effectively knock out and expose the regulatory capture of the state PUCs

  3. status203

    Re: Marketing lies

    Of course they're happy with the idea of haggling; they can try raising the price (for no better reason than higher profits) and if you resist no harm, no foul, no incentive not to try it on in the first place.

    I prefer the try it on, lose a customer interaction. (Now if only I could get decent FTTC where I live - single digit Mbs at the moment - I could tell Virgin Media where to stick their price increases)

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Marketing lies

      Me too. My VM package gives me a full 200mb.

      I'm on a haggled discount. Just had the letter saying price goes up £4/month but even so I know I'll never get that speed elsewhere.

    2. HarryBl

      Re: Marketing lies

      I called Virgin last week to do a bit of haggling and the woman from the Philippines tried to convince me that I'd be better off paying £20 more than I was.

      I told her to cancel my account and was immediately put through to 'accounts' who asked me if a 60% reduction on my bill for the next year would be acceptable...

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Marketing lies

      I'm on the full-blast 350Mbps Virgin connection .. having endured 3 years of BT OpenRetch's idea of "Fast" broadband ("shaddup and accept that 2mbps in London is good"). My nearest and dearest recently phoned their customer service and, after doing the "we want to move away from Virgin" bit was awarded with a 20% discount on our existing bill, subject to agreeing to another 12 month contract in advance.

      I am not objecting.

  4. Warm Braw Silver badge

    How much time would you need to invest?

    I've long given up haggling - takes to much time to get through and then fend off the upselling of unwanted extra "features"

    Much quicker to find a cheaper deal online - the switching process is pretty painless these days apart from the inconvenience of pairing devices with the new router.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: How much time would you need to invest?

      Why would you have to pair devices with a new router?

      Either set the wireless in the new one to match the settings in the old one (ideally customised anyway) or keep the old router and update the username/password it uses to log in.

      You don't HAVE to use the default settings.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: How much time would you need to invest?

        Sorry, poor choice of technology. It's precisely the issue of reconfiguring the router to marry up with the existing network configuration that's the pain. That includes re-establishing the DHCP settings: the last couple of routers I've been supplied don't allow you to directly input fixed MAC to IP mappings, you have to issue a DHCP request from the client, have a dynamic address allocated, then when the router has discovered the device configure a fixed IP address, then issue a further DHCP request to get it. I have quite a few devices with fixed addresses and it's a pain to go round them all. WiFi passwords aren't the problem.

        Yes, I should probably run my own DHCP server, but, inertia, etc...

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: How much time would you need to invest?

          reconfiguring the router

          I don't know who you are with, but the last couple of ISPs I've used didn't force their own router on me. If you swap ISP, all you need is the settings to connect to their systems and your own router can stay configured exactly how you like it. Of course, it helps if you have an ISP with staff who know what you mean when you ask for "the PVC settings please" (or whatever the terminology is).

          In fact the ISP I'm currently using offers a £1 per month rebate if you use your own device. It's not always visible on the website (it's not on the FTTC page, for example) but they do offer it if you speak to them on the phone. I use that £1 to pay for a fixed IP with a few pennies left over.

          Since my router (a Draytek model) does DHCP for me it does save a bit of reconfiguration, though it's also possible to export the clients list for later import to another device.

          M.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: How much time would you need to invest?

            "the last couple of ISPs I've used didn't force their own router on me"

            I haven't had that happen in a long while myself, but here's what I did when it used to happen all the time: I'd configure the ISP's router to run as a bridge, and plug my own router into that, effectively making the ISP's router logically nonexistent.

      2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: How much time would you need to invest?

        > You don't HAVE to use the default settings

        You should NOT use the default settings.

        FTFY ;)

    2. Halfmad Silver badge

      Re: How much time would you need to invest?

      Hassle of a new router?

      If I used it I'd just disable wifi/DHCP/upnp etc, change all credentials. Its not going to impact anything on my network or wifi, it's just there.. doing as little as possible.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. SpinningWheel

      Re: How much time would you need to invest?

      "the switching process is pretty painless these days"

      I tried to switch ISPs recently. 18 days and counting with no broadband.

  5. David 18

    And this is news?

    I've maintained for the last 15+ years during my time with Telewest, then VirginMedia that they are more like a Turkish bazaar than a large comms company.

  6. Uplink

    If they have discounts available they'll give them to you if you ask. If not, they won't

    Sometimes haggling is immediate, other times it takes them 3 days to get back to you.

    This time around I didn't need to haggle with Vodafone. They were happy to "upgrade" me from my old plan (30 quid/month) to a new 18 month contract at the same speed (the maximum available on VDSL), plus a new router (23 quid/month list price). There was Sky cheaper by one pound, but I didn't think it was worth it to switch just for that.

    But in the past I got Virgin to give me a kicker of a deal by rejecting all their discounted offers that were undercut by regular providers. They came back with an offer I just couldn't turn down: more speed, less cost than everyone on the market at that point.

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: If they have discounts available they'll give them to you if you ask. If not, they won't

      Virgin Media used to be pretty easy to negotiate with, they even had a direct menu path to retentions skipping all the upselling, didn't even need to threaten to leave unless you wanted to squeeze the last few £'s out of them.

      Recently Liberty Global have really applied the screws. Just getting to the real retentions dept pretty much requires actually cancelling the contract, no-one before that can offer decent deals. Most don't seem to want to either. Got so pissed off with the runarounds and ludicrously unrealistic offers I finally walked, after being with them (and the companies they took over) since the dial up days.

      Virgin have been protected from real competition for far too long. Despite that for most of their existence they actually competed and really did embrace haggling. Now they seem determined to be crushed by the competition.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: If they have discounts available they'll give them to you if you ask. If not, they won't

        I had that with a VM mobile contract. Price went up. I phoned. They didn't want to know. I walked.

        Then they contacted me. New offer.

        But it still wasn't as good as my new one.

      2. Nifty

        Re: If they have discounts available they'll give them to you if you ask. If not, they won't

        Agree. Only way I could get to VM broadband retentions was to actually cancel. Now I'm still with them at half the price but it was a close thing (for VM).

        If you're nervous about ADSL, do speed tests on a 4G sim from the convenience store to see how good Three data is and if acceptable at all sampled times of day, get a rolling Smarty contract for a month and try it for all needs. You'll now be able to leave VM with confidence.

        Won't work for serious gamers mind as pings are the weakness at around 40ms. They'll have to wait for 5G.

    2. CountCadaver

      Re: If they have discounts available they'll give them to you if you ask. If not, they won't

      I swapped Sky at £38 per month for Zen at £29.99 per month....

      I once got dialaphone or phones4u to pay for a simcard line rental for a year, they seriously wouldn't take NO I DON'T WANT ANYTHING FROM YOU I JUST WANT TO CANCEL MY CONTRACT for an answer, so said simcard sat on a shelf for a whole year while they paid for it...must have had some set number of customers they had to have in contract to keep xyz perk with the networks....so it was better to shell out for line rental than miss their target or something.

      O2 a couple of years back gave me over 50% off my bill for the duration of the remainder of the contract due to poor CS performance as a goodwill gesture, I was 2 months into a 24 month deal...I was expecting to get "We'll give you 10% off your next bill" at most, instead I got over 50% off your next bill" and then read "and any further bills till the expiration date of your contract" that was a pleasant shock....

  7. Uplink

    Penalising loyal customers - helps competition?

    Regarding that super-complaint:

    I'm not in any way an expert in economic competition, but doesn't this "penalty" help competition (when people switch frequently), while removing it can create a few big players because people are too comfy to switch or "haggle"?

    (It's not really haggling. It's just asking "I can haz discount?" They already have a list of approved discounts on their wall for those who ask)

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: Penalising loyal customers - helps competition?

      Depends on your definition of 'haggling'. Not accepting the 1st N offers on that list seems close enough.

    2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Penalising loyal customers - helps competition?

      An ideal market would be one where the consumer has all the necessary information upfront so they can make a like for like comparison.

      Haggling obscures that as you'd have to phone up every supplier and ask them what their price *really* is.

      1. Barry Rueger

        Re: Penalising loyal customers - helps competition?

        An ideal market would be one where the consumer has all the necessary information upfront so they can make a like for like comparison.

        This! In Canada at least it can be impossible to figure out what exactly you'll be charged for wireless or Internet services using the provider web sites.

        Prices are either entirely hidden or require you to assemble features a la carte, excluding the one critical tool that is entirely absent from the options. Only once you've spent an hour on the phone do you know the real price.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Penalising loyal customers - helps competition?

          This applies to pretty much every network provider I've seen in any country.

          "Get our new UNLIMITED DATA plan just 29.99/month"

          "How many lines do you want? 29.99/month/line above four, 43.99 for three and four, 59.99 for the second, and 85.99 for first."

          "How much data at usable speeds do you want? 29.99 for 2 GB, 39.99 for 3 GB, etc."

          "Do you want to be able to make voice calls with that plan? Add 4.99/month/line above four, 6.99/month for three and four, ..."

          "Choose your free phone to go with this plan. Your choices are the latest iPhone at only 54.99/month for the rest of eternity, the Samsung flagship for the same price, a weirdly chosen midrange Android for 34.99/month and wondering why that's the one chosen, the Huawei for 44.99/month, [scrolling, scrolling] [option to choose no device not found in list]"

          "Enter discount codes. [These codes may exist, but the most you'll get is a 15% discount on the first month]"

          The companies might have a better plan, but I'm too busy hating them to be able to call and ask about it.

  8. Teiwaz Silver badge

    The meek shall inherit a larger bill.

    I companies are quite willing to hike prices up come renewal with some automated process that picks the most expensive for the consumer deal.

    While, of course, telling you they are competitive - which they are, quite willing to elbow anyone out of the way to win.

    Fleece the sheep

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The meek shall inherit a larger bill.

      Nothing stopping a meek person changing suppliers. In fact, a meek person will just swap over, leaving the haggled up supplier without a clue as to why they are losing customers.

      Win win in my book.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: The meek shall inherit a larger bill.

        As an American I'm marveling at the idea of having more than one broadband provider to choose from.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: The meek shall inherit a larger bill.

          The benefits of a regulated market over those of the free market?

          1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: The meek shall inherit a larger bill.

            The benefits of a regulated market over those of the free market?

            Actually, the other way around. We don't have a "free market" for telecom, cable and internet in the US. Instead, we have various communities that, some decades back, accepted bids (and bribes) from various companies to establish **MONOPOLY** presence to a particular area. These "providers" accepted regulation in exchange for perpetual monopoly ownership of that particular area. Then any smaller companies would get absorbed by larger and larger neighbouring monopolies, eventually having major swaths of the country under one particular unresponsive behemoth or another. The "free market" has never had an opportunity to even start growing.

            Don't confuse the ideal of a free market with actually having one.

            1. Orv Silver badge

              Re: The meek shall inherit a larger bill.

              I'd argue the actual cable "plant" is a natural monopoly. The cost of wiring up an entire city is so high that it's really only feasible for the first company to come along. (Plus people understandably tend to take issue with streets being repeatedly dug up.)

        2. Spanners Silver badge
          Linux

          Re: The meek shall inherit a larger bill.

          I used to come across people from the USA trying to tell me how their "free" market was superior to my, supposedly, government controlled one.

          Now I just get incredulity at my level of choice, QOS and prices.*

          And ISPs and telcos can make tidy profits too.

          .

          .

          *If you are in the UK and think we've got it bad, look to the "land of the fee".

        3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: The meek shall inherit a larger bill.

          As non-Americans, the rest of us marvel at how the US of all places ended up with probably the most dysfunctional market in broadband suppliers in the developed world. (Perhaps it is the same process by which the Mother of Parliaments ended up being the most dysfunctional legislature.)

    2. TopCat62

      Re: The meek shall inherit a larger bill.

      Fleece the sheep - agree. If the regulator enforces a 'lowest price available' policy on the providers, then I will end up paying more, as the provider will have to put prices up to compensate. Why should I subsidise people too lazy to ask for a lower price? Of course this only works if there is competition - when each company has an effective monopoly the consumer is screwed.

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Next week there'll be a story about telecos complaining about churn

    I wonder how on Earth that could have happened.

    All of this nonsense is to feed the monster that is Marketing. If they just kept the prices reasonable meaning customers didn't walk as soon as they could, they wouldn't have to make so many marketing campaigns to attract new customers and then were would they be?

  10. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
    Coat

    Contention Ratio...

    So the idea is to get the Consumer/ISP contention ratio close to unity before closing the deal.

    I'll get my MAC --->

  11. Pirate Dave Silver badge
    Pirate

    "In a poll of 1,000 broadband customers asked why they do not haggle,..."

    I'm guessing the remaining 43 percent didn't even know that haggling was in the cards?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this an east-side-of-the-pond thing?

    The feeling I get on the west side (the States) is more like "take it or leave it" / "our way or the highway" and years of loyalty don't seem to matter.

    Except when you find a backdoor...

    Former coworker told me that when calling AT&T about *anything*, tell the automated system you want "Retentions" -- basically meaning you're planning on leaving if it isn't done right. They're always US-based and have special account privileges to do things normal helldesk staff can't, like:

    -- issue immediate and/or recurring credits

    -- offer the unpublished/unknown discounts

    -- actually listen to the problem and not follow a script.

    Twice now I've tried this trick and it really pays off, saving me time and frustration and saving them a loyal customer.

    I will also give mention to Vonage, which offered an unpublished plan to keep me as a customer when I told them I was done. I think they also gave me a bill credit equal to a former plan month (~$25), because they didn't charge me for a few months after the switch (at $5-10/month).

    I also got good service from my home alarm company lately -- they're local, so they have extra incentive to be nice to the customers of the area. They said my auto-billing would carry over from old account to new because of moving houses. It didn't, and I didn't realize it until a few months passed and late fees were starting to be assessed. I asserted it was their own fault and they should waive the late fees, to which they agreed AND took off one of the past months of service; I gladly paid the rest that I owed.

    In all these, *I* didn't really haggle; I just made my desired goal known. It was the service folk who offered compromises when necessary. Guess you just have to talk to the right folks in the right way (and "angry" isn't it).

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Is this an east-side-of-the-pond thing?

      We have a highly competitive broadband, TV and phone market in the UK.

      1. MadonnaC

        Re: Is this an east-side-of-the-pond thing?

        Here in the US, We have a highly manipulative broadband, TV and phone market.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this an east-side-of-the-pond thing?

      That's the department that gets involved if you tell sky (in the UK) that you are cancelling.

      They don't like to lose customers and, like magic, deals suddenly appear.

    3. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Is this an east-side-of-the-pond thing?

      The feeling I get on the west side (the States) is more like "take it or leave it" / "our way or the highway" and years of loyalty don't seem to matter.

      Except when you find a backdoor...

      ...

      How is that not haggling?

      Anything other than blind acceptance of the list price is haggling.

  13. Andy Non Silver badge

    Haggling on closing account

    After BT put up their line rental yet again a couple of years ago (we didn't even use the telephone land line, just broadband) I signed up with another provider then phoned BT to cancel their service only to be offered a good discount. They wanted to haggle to keep my business. I told them it was too late, I'd already switched. If I cancel my current subscription (Vodafone) I'll be sure to "cancel" first before switching just in case I can get a better deal staying.

    They seem keen to haggle when you are wanting to leave.

    1. Jim Mitchell

      Re: Haggling on closing account

      I've had similar. Left a provider and then they tell me they could have given me a deal. If you want your customers to stay, don't wait for them to call you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Haggling on closing account

      When Vodafone killed Demon ISP they sent me an offer that involved moving all my comms services to them. They followed up with a phone call. Their attitude was a hard-nosed "accept or leave". So I left and moved the broadband to A&A. Their termination acknowledgement letter merely said they were sorry to see me leave. Costs me more - but it revealed that several long-standing niggles had been in Vodafone's remit. Price isn't everything.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Haggling on closing account

      That would work, ONLY if you did not want to keep your number, which is not often the case withmost customers.

  14. AJames

    Same in Canada

    In Canada you have the choice of the local telephone company (offering fibre or VDSL internet service) or the local cable TV company (offering coax cable internet service), or a dozen or more 2nd-tier ISPs who offer service through one or both of those infrastructures. The Canadian government branch responsible, the CRTC, mandates that the telephone company and the cable company must offer reasonable wholesale rates to these 2nd-tier ISPs for using their infrastructure.

    Standard practice is that the telephone company or the cable company offer attractive deals for new customers in return for signing a contract of up to 2 years. At the end of that time the rate jumps significantly, usually 30-40%. If you call them and complain, they will bring the increase down to about 20%. From there it gets more difficult, as the first-tier phone agents have no further power to negotiate. You must threaten to cancel service, and they will transfer you to their "customer retention department" where the agents have the power to negotiate. There the pattern is that you must make a meaningful threat to cancel, citing a specific offer from the competition and demanding that they meet it. About half the time they will make you a significantly better offer. But unfortunately the fact remains that you will get the best price if you actually switch providers and become a new customer of the other major competitor, so the best strategy from a price viewpoint is to keep switching every two years. It's inconvenient though, and many customers don't want to do that.

  15. rnturn

    Switch?

    > In a separate piece of research last month, Which? found that out of 8,000 customers polled, only around half had ever switched provider.

    I'm impressed that half of them even had the option of switching.

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge

      Re: Switch?

      side effect of market regulation

  16. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Haggle? You mean the price on the price tag is not the actual price? You mean it's a lie? I can't trade with liars. Haggling is a presumption that my and your words are not our true words, surely charging people different amounts for the same item is immoral.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      You mean the price on the price tag is not the actual price?

      I think the legal term for the price in an advert or a shop is an "invitation to treat". They tell you what they want, you're free to make a counter-offer.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        I was inderectly refering to the Quaker invention of honest pricing. If the price on the tag is £1, then it's £1, if you don't want to pay £1, go somewhere else. If the price on the tag is £1 but I'm willing to accept 50p, then that means I've been lying to you.

        1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Price

          "I was inderectly refering to the Quaker invention of honest pricing. If the price on the tag is £1, then it's £1, if you don't want to pay £1, go somewhere else. If the price on the tag is £1 but I'm willing to accept 50p, then that means I've been lying to you."

          Because price is not an absolute. Perhaps a minimum, certainly for goods, but this is a discussion of services.

          It's like my labour cost. If I'm asked to quote for some work, I'll give an honest rate. So normal rate if I don't have anything on, and a cancellation rate if I'm bumping something else. It's considered unprofessional, even discriminatory, to not quote someone. So I won't say "no, I'm busy" rather "give me two thousand on top of my usual fee and I'll do it".

          I consider it fair that I only ask for parts cost from my friends, family, neighbours, mechanic, plumber et al, but that I'll charge Jo Public for the same pleasure. Hell, not even parts for a plumber* who will actually show up on a Sunday.

          Even with basic mercantilism (buy for a buck, sell for two) there may be times when you need the cashflow more than profits, so selling twenty items for $30 is more useful to the seller than the "honest" price of $40.

          As for lying, does that apply in the other direction? I often buy things to resell, people want quick cash rather than maximum value, so take less money than the items are worth.

          I guess I'm slightly dishonest when going someplace that I'll be haggling. No suit, paintballing hoody, beat to shit backpack etc.

          Oh, and bear in mind that for many places you're haggling, the thing you're buying is not actually the product the salesman is flinging. For cars and some degree property, the loan is where everyone makes money, not the goods.

          How to determine the correct price of something is a fascinating study in microeconomics. The best answer still is "what ever the parties decide"

          1. eldakka Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: Price

            So I won't say "no, I'm busy" rather "give me two thousand on top of my usual fee and I'll do it".

            So you are willing to break your contract with someone else, to put that other person to the inconvenience of having to go through the processes again of finding someone to replace you even though you had already agreed to do the work? Push back that other persons deadlines for perhaps services they were offering to other people because someone else gave you a better offer after you have already agreed to one? Perhaps ruining that persons business? Or do you now expect them to offer 4k on top of the already agreed price, 2k above the extra the new person was offering, to stay and complete the job as per your original contract?

            Sorry, that is not only immoral, it is possibly illegal, and likely both you and the person who is offering that extra 2k could both be sued. You for breach of contract, that other person for interfering in a contract.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Price

              "So you are willing to break your contract with someone else, to put that other person to the inconvenience of having to go through the processes again of finding someone to replace you even though you had already agreed to do the work?"

              Sadly, this is a common enough practice that it's even a joke: "Where does your contractor go when the job is half done?"

              I have a one-strike policy for this dishonest nonsense. When someone I've hired does this, they don't see my money ever again.

            2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: Price

              My business hours are fully booked, but if you're willing to pay the extra I'm prepared to forego some of my social time to fulfil your request.

              That doesn't mean that someone else gets bumped just that my life is temporarily not as pleasant... but the extra income will make the later social time more enjoyable, so it's a trade that I'm prepared to make occasionally.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Price

              Forgetting its not uncommon for employers to decide they suddenly don't need you and without warning cancel contracts or pay you off quickly...

              Contractors though aren't employees they are service providers in a nutshell and can can cancel contracts for a myriad of reasons or delay start dates.

              For those decrying this, what happens if said contractor falls down the stairs and breaks every bone in their body? Their wife/father/husband/mother gets cancer? Or worse said contractor drops dead in the night?

              You should ALWAYS have a backup plan if the worst happens, not the first place I've worked where there has been a chosen candidate and a reserve or 2 for that very reason...

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      It's like buying a car. The asking price is on the windshield. Once you decide you like that car, the haggling games begin.

      1. CountCadaver

        Unless you deal with the chains (i.e. 90% of the new market) where unless your buying premium (i.e. overpriced to start with) your told "we don't do discounts anymore, its our clear pricing policy, what you see is what you pay"

        Though Arnold Clark told me that, I told them Evans Halshaw could do better and turned and started walking out, salesman "suddenly" discovered a discount from "manufacturer" (BS) and could match the price. Though they did some warranty work recently and forgot to reconnect the cable to the hazard warning light switch, some blue words were uttered when I went to use it and it didn't work. Ended up sorting it myself, took me less than 5 minutes inc removing the trim on the dash, va the 2.5 hours they had taken to remove the same piece of trim....

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        That's the main (but not only) reason why I will never buy a car from a dealership again. I buy them used, directly from the owners, and have never regretted it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I shall impart the wisdom of the sages that has been passed to me by my neighbour and my neighbours wise old cat.

    When you are ready to switch at the end of your contract phone retentions as they are the oracles that wield the power you seek in reduced broadband costs, they also have the mystical yet little known power to put a note on your account so that when that contract is up you can reapply the same discount again. However beware, for it there be a better deal elstwhere make them knownst and they will usually match it.

    I leave these words for future generations and must depart for on a perilous journey. It is Friday after all.

  18. Commswonk Silver badge

    A Pedant comments...

    The Headline: Wait a minute, we're supposed to haggle! ISPs secretly want folk to barter for broadband

    On a point of order; if I haggle about the price it means that I attempt to reduce the cost to me, perhaps by suggesting that I go elsewhere for the service. If I try to barter it means that I try to pay in something other than money... eggs, coprolites, shiney pebbles or something.

    Haggle and Barter are not synonymous.

    1. jonathan keith

      Re: A Pedant comments...

      Another pedant comments: 'shiny'.

      Other than that, have an upvote.

  19. GrapeBunch Silver badge

    Everywhere in Canada you say? Pity.

    Definitely true in Canada. The major ISPs have ridiculously rich published rates. They want you to haggle. One of the majors had a "no contract" policy, every deal was month-to-month. That just made the haggling more intense. That major has since changed their policy to 2-year deals. Haggling is still a big thing. By contrast, if you tried to haggle the price of an item at a store (unless "price-matching"), you'd be politely laughed at.

    I think that the underlying reason for the haggling (which, as Quakers confirmed, is a terribly wasteful endeavour for society) is that ISP majors are required to rent space on their networks to the ISP minors. If the published rates are way high, they can pass along enough costs that the ISP minors cannot compete on price. The ISP majors probably have additional ways to discourage the minors.

  20. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Big Companies Billing

    In my experience the big companies have the worst billing systems going. I suspect that it's due to them having taken over many other companies and had the pain of (trying) to consolidate multiple billing systems and usually failing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Big Companies Billing

      When EE killed the Orange brand - they told PAYG customers they would need to buy an EE SIM and their outstanding balance would be credited to the transferred account/number.

      So I paid the required £10 for the new SIM and the number was transferred to it. After a few days the account still only showed the £10 top-up - with no sign of my substantial old balance. The EE chatline tried to be helpful - but as the Orange account had been automatically terminated they had no idea what my balance had been. Eventually I calculated the probable balance - and they added that to my EE PAYG.

      About a week later the Orange balance suddenly arrived in my EE account. I explained the situation to the EE chatline and they deducted the original "guesstimated" credit. I asked them to confirm the new balance - which they did. All fixed.

      Except the online EE account has never reflected that change - which I now treat as a "zero" baseline. They're welcome to have the money back any time - even if only when I close the account.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT reward cards

    Complained to BT because my mobile was out of contract but if I took out another one, as an existing customer, I wouldn't get the MasterCard reward card for, I think, about £65.

    Told them I was leaving to PlUSnet.

    They apologised, gave me the reward card, my old rate, upped the data and two months free.

    When I say I complained, I mean it took about ten minutes via the online support chat.

    Job done.

    Lie, haggle and deceive, you'll win every time.

  22. JohnFen Silver badge

    I absolutelyhate haggling

    I absolutely hate haggling. Everything about it is detestable. So here's how I haggle -- if the sticker price is more than I'm willing to pay, I move on.

  23. Lee D Silver badge

    Get this:

    I will pay more to a company that does not force me to spend time and effort playing games to get them to give me a reasonable deal.

    I'll literally PAY MORE to not have to deal with that crap. But I'll only pay that to someone who doesn't play that game with any of their customers, not to the companies that do.

    This is what bugs me about the USwitch thing and the official regulators saying "just change your supplier" and then wondering why nobody does. I have other things to do, and I'll gladly pay more for better customer service - which means that I hardly ever take "the cheapest deal" on anything. The race to the bottom is really a stupid idea, consumer-wise, as we all end up fighting to get on an underpaid supplier just desperate to make every penny they can from you.

    Treat me like, say, a paying customer... one whose business you wish to retain. Then see what happens.

    Case in point: Car insurance renewal came up. Was £300 last year. There has been literally no chance in circumstance, so you'd expect another year's no-claims would mean it'd be cheaper or - at worst - the same, right? No, they quote me £700+ for a renewal. Get stuffed! I go on comparison sites - the bottom 25 companies are all in the £300 area. I choose on that I know and get the exact same insurance and breakdown from them. I phone up the original insurer to cancel - they desperately try to keep my custom. Well, you had your chance, and you blew it. But out of interest, as someone who literally is leaving your company now and has a much better deal for no obvious reason... what can you do for me? "Well, we could knock a tenner off".

    Cancel. Cancel now. Never contact me again after that's cancelled.

    Quite what you think you gain by treating your customers like that, I can't fathom. And I'm hardly an insurance risk that you might want off your books to improve your portfolio (I'm 40, and I've had one single claim in that time).

    Honestly, if the renewal had been, say, £50 a year more, I'd have probably just let it happen automatically. But the price quoted I can get TWO insurance policies. out of over 25, with the same cover on the same information within ten minutes.

    I will not haggle with you. I'll pay you for a service. I expect YOU to keep me on a decent deal. If I find a better one that you aren't even trying to compete with, I'll go with the competition. If I find you're deliberately over-charging me (i.e. giving other customers a better deal than you're giving me), I'll pay more to someone else. If you try and make me phone up and "haggle" to get a deal, especially for AN ONLINE SERVICE, you can go to hell.

    Tell me what you sell.

    Tell me how much it costs.

    Offer me that. Offer everyone that.

    Update that offer as time goes by and don't bother me with nonsense.

    There's a reason I do not use any of the major ISPs - for me, an IT guy, they cannot cost-effectively compete against a 4G router and a SIM that I can change whenever I like to a different company. BT wanted £150 to activate my line, plus line rental, plus a monthly broadband subscription. Sure, I could sign up for 18-24 months and get a reasonable price for those (going back to ridiculousness soon after) but the install charge etc. covered most of that. They were offering me "1Mbps on ADSL, up to 10Mbps on VDSL"... I kid you not. And I'm inside the M25.

    So I bought a £50 4G router, and a £20 a month SIM with unlimited data that can also go with me wherever I go (I just took it to the Balearics and it worked better than the wifi over there and didn't cost anything extra). At home it runs a VPN, CCTV, streaming live and recorded TV (via tvHeadend), Amazon Prime, Steam with 1000 games, etc. etc. etc. just fine.

    Everytime you force me to negotiate, research or mess about - I will spend twice that effort on finding something better that I *never* have to do that again.

  24. Chris the bean counter

    Last Friday of the month or quarter best

    Fridays are best as many companies have weekly / monthly / quarterly sales targets. If a little behind on target they may be more willing to give a bigger discount

  25. irrelevant

    Sky

    I had a good deal from sky for bb and phone, £18 and change for unlimited fibre, including line rental. I got it a couple of years ago through MSE. They renewed it last year for the same price when I asked. This year, best they could offer me was the same they were offering new customers, £27. If I'd done nothing, it was going to go up to £44! I ended up just taking a new customer deal from Vodafone; with cashback it worked out cheaper than before.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rang my electricity supplier E.on to enquire about changing to a new tariff as advertised in my latest bill. After a little discussion I decided it was not worth doing. Almost immediately they rang me back. Accessing my account details with regard to a possible tariff change - it automatically wiped out the Direct Debit details even without a confirmed change. They did give me a "goodwill" credit to make up for my inconvenience in giving them the details again.

  27. Jules 1

    Don’t haggle - switch!

    Haggling might get you a small discount but the best deals are almost always for new customers only. I switch every year at the end of the 12 month contract. Thanks to new customer offers and Cashback via sites like topcashback or Quidco, I’ve paid £12-£16/month for 40mbps fttc broadband every year for the last 5 years.

    1. Adelio

      Re: Don’t haggle - switch!

      I have been using Virgin BB for oh, MANY years, proably > 15.

      I am on the slow rate, 200mb with unlimited DL, I know it is not that cheap BUT it is reliable (at least for me) and FAST enough. A.F.A.I.K the berst I can get from a BT line would be abour 80mb. No competition. Virgin do offer ~400mb via cable (COAX) and i think it can be increased.

  28. Nifty

    I hate to be the one to add the Brexit angle here. But 'tis true, you really have to show you are leaving before true haggling can begin.

    1. Neal L

      Not really. The EU have no real need to haggle with us. We're chopping our noses off to spite our face and it's pathetic.

  29. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    not here...

    Not here... we've got a duopoly. Centurylink dsl and mediacom cable. They have deals to poach each others customers (even the deals are like $40 a month minimum though, for some decent speed) then like $40 a month might get you 3mbps after that. No haggling, just switching back and forth. What a pain in the ass.

  30. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Haggle for what exactly?

    Most of them want to lock you into a new contract period in exchange for even _talking_ about lower rates.

    Perhaps the competition and markets authority should be looking into _that_

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