Revealed: the cost of cancelling your broadband
A PC Pro investigation has revealed that you may be charged anything up to £40 just to cancel your broadband connection, even if you’ve seen out your contract.
The investigation was sparked by PC Pro reader Keith Nicol who noticed his friend had been charged £25 by BT to have his broadband disconnected, despite the fact he’d surpassed the minimum length of his contract.
BT claimed the fee arose because the customer wasn’t transferring to another provider, and thus an engineer had to physically disconnect him from the service. According to BT, the fee is also intended to encourage customers to use the “correct migration process”.
The story drew plenty of ire from our readers and so we hunted through the terms and conditions of the major ISPs to determine if this fee was standard. The discrepancy in pricing is staggering, with ISPs such as Tiscali reserving the right to charge £40 while Zen and Sky charge absolutely nothing.
We contacted Tiscali about the fee and recieved the following statement: “We do retain the right through our terms and conditions to charge for cease, however in practice we do not enforce any charge at present. Ceasing a broadband line does come at a direct cost to us which varies depending on the customer connection type, so we do try to encourage people to take a MAC code instead.
“The fee covers the cost of the work, which can be anything up to £40. Not all ISPs are LLU, so their cost would be lower and fixed.”
Madasafish claims it’s forced to charge customers £20 because “this charge is applied to us by BT”, while companies such as Zen absorb the cost themselves.
When we raised the issue with Ofcom, the watchdog admitted it was investigating these “cease charges”, but admitted it currently has no say on how much ISPs charge and wouldn’t give a date on when its investigation was likely to be complete.
“The charges aren’t directly regulated, as in they must be £20, but they must be fair and be direct costs as a result of the supplier having to stop the service,” says an Ofcom spokesperson. “It can be variable depending the provider but it shouldn’t be extortionate.”
“As of April everyone’s materials and contracts should have been amended to reflect that point. Whether they have or not is what we’re looking at now. We have an enforcement program we opened on 1 April to assess whether they’re in line with our rules and we’ll begin to take action.”
What kind of action when it’s likely to be taken remains a mystery. The spokesperson was also cagey when we asked whether the £40 charged by Tiscali could be considered extortionate.
“We’ll have to see whether it actually costs them £40. We can’t say at the moment whether that’s right or wrong. If we think it’s wrong, we’ll take action,” she said.
The cost of cancelling
1. Tiscali – £40 in Ts & Cs (no fee charged)
2. Pipex – £40
3. Nildram – £40
4. BT – £25
5. Virgin – £23.50
6. Plusnet – £20
7. Madasafish – £20
8. O2 – £15
9= Sky – no fee *
9= Zen – no fee
9= Freedom2surf – no fee
9= Demon Internet – no fee
* It’s worth noting that while Sky currently doesn’t charge a fee for terminating a broadband contract, the firm admits it “is working towards implementing charges for broadband, but as yet we have no timescale.”