Over 3 million broadband customers pay £251 million more than they should

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Almost three million broadband customers whose deal expired in the past 12 months say they did not receive an End-of-Contract Notification (ECN) — potentially costing them up to £251 million a year in savings, according to a survey of more than 17,000 broadband users by price comparison service Uswitch.com.

More than eight million broadband bill-payers whose contracts have ended since February 2020 should have received an ECN in the weeks leading up to their deal expiring – but a third (33%) say they didn’t get one. Being on an expired broadband tariff costs about £90 extra a year on average.

ECNs were introduced by Ofcom on 15 February last year and require broadband, mobile and pay-TV providers to tell customers when their contract is ending, and what they could save by signing up to a better deal. Consumers whose contract is coming to an end should receive an ECN by letter, text or email between 10 and 40 days before their deal expires.

Of the five million broadband consumers who received an ECN, more than four million (88%) used the information to switch to a better deal in the last 12 months, either with their current provider or a competitor. About one in eight people (12%) did nothing.

Customers whose deals have ended should receive an out of contract reminder once a year. This means that those whose deals had expired before 14 February 2020 should get one before 13 February 2021. However, by 1 November, only six in ten broadband users (62%) in this situation had received one.

The language used in these notifications could mean that people fail to realise they have even received the document, reducing the chances they will open it or take action promptly. Subject lines for some ECN samples seen by Uswitch use a neutral tone and talk about “An update to your broadband service” or “A little reminder about your contract”, in contrast to the more urgent language deployed by providers in other circumstances.  

Uswitch has also seen examples of providers extending pricing discounts beyond contract end dates, creating a loophole and avoiding the requirement of sending a formal notice when these new discounts end. 

Uswitch.com is calling on telecoms providers to be consistent in ensuring that ECNs and out of contract notifications engage all customers who qualify for one, and calls on Ofcom to crack down on any behaviour that attempts to dissuade consumers from reviewing whether they are on a good deal. 

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at Uswitch.com, says:

“Life is challenging at the moment and with people juggling so many responsibilities it’s important to make sure that consumers can access information about their household bills easily. 

“Millions of broadband customers have received an end-of-contract notification or out-of-contract reminder in the last year, and it’s great to see that the vast majority have acted to get themselves a better deal.

“However, the fact that a third of consumers whose contract was due to end say they didn’t, or couldn’t recall, receiving an end-of-contract notification should ring alarm bells.

“More must be done to build on the success of these notifications so that all customers have a fair chance of engaging when their contract comes to an end.”

Chris Price
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