Broadband customers demand end to long-term contracts


Two in five broadband customers (40%) want to get their internet without being tied into a fixed contract, while just one in ten (9%) back the standard 18-month deals

Despite the call for flexibility, over a quarter of the deals on the market are two-year contracts, with 12-month offers only accounting for one in ten available

Over 10 million UK households say the cost-of-living crisis has made them more likely to haggle about their broadband costs and over half (54%) would call their provider to cut up to £10 off their bill

Consumers are calling on broadband providers to abandon lengthy contracts of 18 months or more in favour of more flexible deals, according to new research by broadband comparison site Broadband Genie.

Demand for shorter-term packages is growing, as two in five broadband users (40%) say they would prefer monthly deals, similar to some flexible SIM-only mobile plans, which can be cancelled at any time, in order to help manage their money better.

Since 2014, the average broadband contract length has grown by a third — from just over 14 months to nearly 19 months — according to Broadband Genie research. Despite being the most commonly available deal, only one in ten (9%) UK consumers say an 18-month contract would be their preferred option.

Table: The average length of broadband contracts per year

Average length of broadband contracts (months)
2023 so far

Source: Broadband Genie

The number of 12-month contracts available on the market is scarce, with one-year terms making up just 10% of deals. However, 30% of Brits surveyed said they would opt for them given the choice. Meanwhile, despite representing over a quarter of the market, there was little love for 24-month contracts, favoured by one in ten consumers.

A move to deals of a year or less would have big implications for competition within the broadband sector.

Earlier this year millions of consumers were hit by mid-contract price rises while some companies, like full fibre provider Hyperoptic, have campaigned strongly against them.  Shorter contracts would not only make it tougher for providers to impose such bill hikes as part of their terms and conditions, but it would also mean customers had more power to vote with their feet and switch more regularly.

With more deals expiring each year, the change could also see more Brits negotiating with their current supplier to strike the best deal, a trend that is already being seen due to the cost-of-living crisis.    

A total of 40% of UK broadband users surveyed said the economic climate has made them much more willing to haggle with their provider — equivalent to over 10 million households.

More than half of consumers (54%) say they would be willing to call up their provider to knock up to £10 off their monthly bills, with a fifth (21%) saying they would only haggle if they could save over £20.

Despite a growing willingness to pick up the phone, about seven million people are out of contract on their broadband and could save an average of £227 by switching to a new deal

The research comes as a survey from Citizens Advice revealed that up to a million people had cut off their broadband in the past year amid the cost-of-living crisis and lack of awareness about cheaper social tariffs.

Meanwhile, the Government has recently launched the Smart Data Council, a special task force designed to help make it easier for consumers to get the best tariffs and save money on their bills. 

Broadband Genie is calling on providers to reduce typical contract lengths and increase the number of shorter deals on the market for consumers who are trying to get a grip on their finances.

Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie, comments: 

“The tides are turning in the broadband sector and consumers are steering the ship, with a clear hunger for more flexible internet deals.

“With contract-free SIM-only plans for mobiles growing in popularity, broadband contracts that typically last at least 18 months can feel like a costly commitment, especially when budgets are being stretched. Yet in recent years average terms have lengthened as providers responding to competition in the market have tried to lock in customers for longer.

“Rolling monthly contracts have the advantage of allowing you to cancel them for free at any time rather than paying the hefty exit fees associated with standard packages. The downside is that you’ll generally pay a higher monthly price for your broadband, as well as a set-up fee, but consumer pressure could help to narrow the gap and also see more providers offer these flexible deals.

“We’d like to see more 12-month contracts coming onto the market. These would make it easier for consumers to remember when they were expiring and help them avoid paying over the odds when their term ends. Shorter deals like this will also keep providers on their toes, knowing that poor service or hefty mid-contract rises are likely to have more of an impact if their customers have more freedom to switch.  

“This research also shows Brits are becoming more willing to speak with their providers to make savings. This is good to see, but remember that ultimately loyalty doesn’t pay.

“While haggling may help to lower your bills it’s highly unlikely you’ll get the same deals available to a new customer. When you reach the end of your contract, switching to a new provider is the best way to save you the most money.”


Chris Price
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