I often get asked to review the big Black Friday offers each year. *Spoilers* – there aren’t many*. However, this year I noticed that some of the big broadband suppliers were offering Black Friday deals.
I love a good discount, but when I looked at the details, most of these contracts locked people in to contracts for 18 months.
This is something of a worry, because broadband contracts allow most service providers to raise the price you pay each April. Sometimes this may include an opt out option, but more often than not they don’t. So in practice, that lovely discount offer could result in two major price hikes during the duration of your contract.
Last year broadband service providers raised the amount you pay far higher than the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI is the main measure of inflation – the change in the cost of a typical basket of goods and services – which is currently standing at 4.6%. Broadband providers tend to chuck an extra 3-4% on top of that. This could mean broadband prices could go up by around 9% in April 2024, depending on inflation rates. Suddenly, that Black Friday deal might not seem so enticing.
Knowing how the quirky world of broadband works can still save you a packet though. Here’s my guide on how to get the best deal.
Is broadband essential?
Every time I talk about broadband on the TV or radio and suggest it’s an essential service, I get loads of comments from people arguing that it’s not as important as heating or water.
Well, that may be true, but broadband is still a vital service. In 2025 the analogue phone service will be disconnected, moving us all on to digital communications methods. And with analogue TV a distant memory, you’ll need broadband to stream television, operate gadgets and access essential services through the internet. I worry about the impact on older or more vulnerable people as applying for and managing benefits is largely online now. And as bank branch closures sweep the land, online banking is rapidly becoming the only option for millions of people.
The way we live has also changed dramatically. Though many of us have been dragged kicking and screaming back to the office, millions of people are still working from home, at least some of the time. Keeping in touch with your family might be dependent on a good Wi-Fi signal to communicate too.
Of course, the best way to establish if something is essential is imagining how you would cope without it temporarily or long-term. Complaints about broadband system failures have been increasing dramatically in recent years – and I’m often asked to untangle problems with disputed bills too. Oh, and ask your friends or colleagues about their experiences with broadband customer service and you’ll discover that there’s a lot of dissatisfaction out there. In fact, many people tell me they stick with a broadband provider they are not happy with for fear of being stuck with a worse option if they switch.
But don’t be afraid to vote with your feet. You could save a fortune.
Out of contract? Get saving today!
If you’re out of contract, all it means is your contract term has finished. This means your bills will increase each year and you might get moved on to a more expensive tariff. It’s estimated that 7.4 million people were ‘out of contract’ in 2021 – which adds up to lots of free money for the industry.
If you are out of contract then you’ll generally be paying much more for your broadband package than new customers. If you’ve been out of contract for a few years, then you could be paying massively over the odds. I regularly speak to people paying upwards of £100 a month for their broadband and TV packages. You can easily halve this, just by renegotiating you contract or jumping ship.
So why are so many people out of contract? I suspect that the move to online bills means the majority of people don’t realise they are paying over the odds. If you’ve forgotten your broadband online password, get it reset today and check out your current agreement and package so you can price up the savings you could make.
A good tip for any contract is to add the renewal date to your calendar. I put my reminder in a month before the renewal day so I can do some research and find the best deal. This can be super lucrative with insurance contracts too.
A word of warning. You usually get cheaper broadband deals if you sign up for a longer period of time. But as I mentioned at the start of this article, factor in a hefty price rise each April. Check out the exit fees for leaving a contract early too. These can be ridiculously high and hard to understand. Ask the broadband provider to explain roughly what an exit fee would be to leave the contract when prices go up each year.
The cost-of-living crisis focused the Government’s attention not just on energy, but on other sectors that provide essential services. The new deals are known as ‘social tariffs.
According to Ofcom, over 8 million people are struggling to pay their broadband bills. What’s incredible though is the vast majority of people who might qualify don’t know about social tariffs – and the information isn’t that easy to find on websites. That means millions of people are struggling to pay the bills needlessly.
There are a few quirks with broadband social tariffs. The agreements are not new regulations or law, which means there’s quite a bit of variance on what benefits qualify you for the deal too. But overall, people on most benefits should be able to move contracts to a cheaper one without penalty. If in doubt, ask.
As a starting point, contact your broadband provider and ask them about the social tariff deals they have available, then see if you can find anything better elsewhere online. Prices range from around £10 to £20 a month, so it really is worth it. If you need faster broadband speeds for work or keeping in touch with your family and friends, then this is usually possible for a little more too.
You should be able to leave your existing deal mid-contract without having to pay an exit fee. In addition, set up costs should be minimal, there will be no mid-contract price rise and you should be able to leave without a fee too.
What if you are stuck in a contract?
If you don’t qualify for a social tariff and you are mid-contract, you’ll need to get a bit crafty. You are usually stuck with exit fees which can be outrageously high. Nethertheless, if the business isn’t meeting its side of the contract, you might be able to leave early without charge, or at least renegotiate a better deal. Remember; contracts work both ways and if you aren’t getting what you paid for, ask to leave without a fee.
If the business has changed the way it operates, withdrawn services or introduced significant changes, you can ask to walk away and have the exit fees dropped. Make a complaint asking why the contract has changed for the worse. This is especially useful if the price goes up mid-contract and you can’t afford it. You can go to the free Ombudsman service if you’re unhappy. The same goes for poor service and the failure to address problems with the service.
If your broadband speed is poor, then tell the firm, take regular signal tests using one of the many free apps there are out there. That way you can demonstrate that there’s a problem the firm should let you go without charging you. If the business is not providing the average speeds it promised you, it’s possible to break the contract early.
Featured in Mirror – Martyn James