I’ve been devoting my last few columns to helping you save some cash ahead of bills going up in ‘Awful April’.
Of all of the price hikes on the horizon, mobile phone and broadband bills are among the highest, with price increases of upwards of 14% in both sectors in many cases.
Here’s my guide to switching and saving some cash.
In or out of contract?
In 2020, Ofcom estimated that 20 million mobile and broadband customers were ‘out of contract’ – where people are stuck on often expensive deal when the contract ends.
If you are out of contract then this is fantastic news, as there are a ton of much better deals out there. I managed to halve my broadband and TV streaming bills by jumping ship, saving over £600 a year! In addition, if you are receiving certain benefits, you could quality for the new broadband ‘social tariffs’. These reduce your broadband bills to between £10 and £20 a month.
However, if you are mid-contract, you will find yourself facing my least favourite thing in the world… exit fees.
These fees are charged when you try to leave a contract early. So though broadband and mobile phone companies can raise your bill mid-contract, you can’t usually leave without paying a hefty fee. And these fees can be outrageous and hard to calculate, as they are based on how long you’ve got till the contract ends. I’ve seen charges of £300 or more.
How to get out of a contact mid-term
A contract works both ways. You agree to pay for a service over a set period, but the firm agrees to provide you with a certain level of service. If they don’t deliver, you could escape for free.
Mobile phones and broadband only work effectively if the signal is sufficiently strong. This is one of the biggest causes of complaint in the communications sector.
Firstly, if your Wi-Fi, phone signal or broadband isn’t working properly make a formal complaint and go through the firm’s procedures to check the service.
Your phone settings also monitor signal strength, so check the options in the ‘settings’ function. You can also download a range of signal and broadband checkers through a range of free apps. Take regular readings and screenshots to prove there is a problem. Always do this when the systems go down too.
Lots of things can happen to us over the course of a 2-year broadband or mobile phone contract. Relationships can end, you might move house, a job change might mean you are based in a different location for the bulk of your day, or you simply might not be able to afford these services anymore.
If the service you are paying for doesn’t work where you move to, then no firm should be charging you an exit fee. Disappointingly though, many do try it on, in defiance of logic or fairness. So make it clear that you are going to make a formal complaint to one of the two free communications ombudsmen if they don’t play ball.
If you are struggling financially or you’re experiencing some upheaval in your life, communications firms are expected to be understanding and come up with solutions to help you through the situation. This might mean reduced bills, social tariffs or even a compromise on an exit fee.
Mis-sales and poor service
If you didn’t realise that you could end up paying more mid-contract, then you can argue that you were mis-sold.
Businesses are expected to keep records of sales calls, just in case a dispute arises. But sometimes these aren’t always available. So if you feel you were misled during a sales call, jot down what they told you, just in case, including the date you signed up.
You can also complain about poor service too. So if the relationship has broken down between you and the business, then ask to leave without the fee too – and take it to an ombudsman if they say no.
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.