As the cost of living soars and monthly bills for broadband, TV or mobile packages look set to rise, new Which? research finds that customers who make a nuisance of themselves by haggling with their provider could save up to £200.
The consumer watchdog asked more than 5,000 customers whose contract had ended on either their mobile, their broadband or their broadband and TV package whether they had haggled or switched and how much money they had saved in the process.
Which? found that nearly half of the people surveyed had haggled with their existing provider (46%) when their contract ended. These people reported saving an average £85 on broadband, £128 on broadband and TV and £35 on mobile bills.
One in five people (19%) switched to a different provider, with the vast majority telling Which? they did so because they felt they were paying too much. Those who switched reported saving an average £35 on broadband, £65 on broadband and TV and £40 on mobile bills. However, Which? found that customers who switched away from a large provider could save even more.
When it came to broadband and TV packages, Which? found that those who left Virgin Media reported saving over £200 a year and above-average savings were also made by those who left Sky (£180), Talk Talk (£90) and BT (£80), despite the average savings for switchers amounting to £65 a year across all providers.
Customers are often reluctant to change their broadband and television service because offerings can differ depending on the provider but Which?’s survey found many did not need to switch to another supplier to bag a good discount, as those who haggled reported an average saving of £130.
Which? found customers who left Virgin Media broadband packages saved over £190 a year, while those who left BT reported a saving of almost £160 a year and those who left Sky saved almost £100. Of all the large providers, customers switching away from TalkTalk were the only ones who reported paying slightly more – though this was just £8 over the course of a year. However, average savings for broadband switchers amounted to £35 a year across all providers.
When it came to mobile services, customers who switched away from Vodafone, Three and O2 told Which? they saved up to £100 a year. The average for switchers across all mobile providers was lower – £40 a year.
EE was the only large mobile provider whose customers were able to make a better saving from haggling, with an average £75 discount over the course of the year compared to the £50 saving for those who chose to leave and change provider.
The Which? survey also found one in five (22%) people did nothing when their contract ended. These people are the customers most at risk of overpaying on their bills as both switchers and hagglers were able to make a good saving.
Which?’s findings come as many providers have confirmed they will be raising their prices this Spring – some by more than 9 per cent. As these inflation-related increases are baked into customer contracts, they will leave many with no choice but to pay them or face costly fees to leave their provider mid-contract.
Which?’s research shows that out-of-contract customers who take matters into their own hands are likely to save large amounts of money on their bills – they can choose to stay where they are and renegotiate their current package or, if they are not happy with their service, good discounts can also be had by those who switch away.
Says Lisa Barber, Which? Home Products and Services Editor:
“With the cost of living soaring, it’s even more important to cut costs where you can. If you are happy with your current TV, broadband and mobile providers don’t be afraid to haggle when your contract ends as it is easier than you might think and you could save a lot of money.
“If you are not happy with your provider or are looking to avoid a costly price hike, or your service is just not good enough, shop around and consider switching.”
Tips for consumers
- While haggling may seem like an unwanted hassle for many who do not want to pick up the phone and barter with a customer services operative, companies expect it and will often let customers upgrade their service while still offering a discount – some of up to 45 per cent.
- Customers who are already out of contract can avoid a major hike by switching provider – some broadband and mobile phone providers offer price guarantees meaning that their bills won’t go up with inflation.
- Similarly, those who are out of contract with their mobile provider should consider low-cost SIM-only providers who offer monthly rolling contracts as this will be the best way to manage costs if they already have a handset.