MILLIONS of broadband customers are facing bigger bills next month – but there’s an easy way to save hundreds of pounds.
Up to five million service users are missing out on average savings of £230 a year because they have remained with the same supplier after their deal expired, says comparison site Broadband Genie.
As major providers prepare to increase prices by around £44 a year, customers who are locked into contracts cannot avoid the extra costs.
But many do not realise they are out of contract and these customers are collectively missing out on savings worth about £1.1billion, the website estimates.
Here’s our tips on how to haggle and claim your share of the billion-pound broadband-switching bounty.
CHECK YOUR CONTRACT: Major providers are putting up prices for existing customers at the end of the month by an amount linked to inflation.
BT, EE, Three, Vodafone and Plusnet are increasing costs by up to 14.4 per cent, Sky by 8.1 per cent on average and TalkTalk by 14.2 per cent, with some exclusions.
Speak to your supplier to find out if you are still tied in, as you might have to pay an early exit charge of as much as £200.
If you are out of contract, you can switch whenever you like.
Most broadband deals are for 12, 18 or 24 months and your provider must write by email, text or letter in the run-up to your deal ending to remind you that it is expiring and let you know about its best offers.
WATCH YOUR SPEED: Don’t let your supplier charge you for speeds it does not deliver.
Use a speed test, like the one at Comparethemarket.com/broadband/speed-test.
If your speed drops below the promised level for three consecutive days, ask your provider to check for a fault and, if needs be, get it fixed.
If the issue remains unresolved for 30 days, you should be able to exit your contract penalty-free.
Many provider-advertised speeds are for a hard-wired ethernet connection from your modem/router, ie NOT over wifi, where speeds will be slower.
COMPARE OFFERS: Use a price-comparison site such as Compare The Market or Uswitch to find the best deals available.
These can vary by postcode and be sure to look out for any hidden set-up fees.
Check out suppliers’ customer-service ratings by reading online reviews and looking on Ofcom’s website.
If you pay for TV services, a bundled deal might work out cheaper.
When we compared costs for a home in Kent, Now Broadband was charging just over £23 a month for a ten-channel Sky Cinema membership and broadband bundle — a saving of nearly £49 a year compared to buying similar services separately.
Most deals include the cost of a phone line, but you do not always need to have one.
Before deciding on a deal and signing up to it, take time to check on cashback sites such as Topcashback or Quidco to see if you can get a bonus of up to £155.
If you receive Universal Credit, or a number of other low-income benefits, you might be able to save with a social tariff.
BT, Virgin Media O2, Sky, Vodafone and others all offer these discounted deals, with varying criteria, starting from £12 a month.
Jobseekers on Universal Credit can apply for six months’ free internet from TalkTalk via their Jobcentre.
Haggling can give you better deal
ARMED with details of the best deals from your supplier and its rivals, it’s time to test your haggling powers.
Here’s some tips . . .
- Call your supplier and select the menu option for “thinking of leaving us” or similar, to be put through to the customer-retention team. It is their job to persuade you to stay, which means they can offer big discounts.
- If you dislike using the phone, you can also haggle on the web-chat service.
- “Be polite, yet firm,” says Anita Naik, savings expert at Vouchercodes.co.uk. “It’s the best way to get the other person on your side.”
- Do not take the first offer, even if they try to hurry you by saying it is for a limited time.
- “Be creative,” says Stuart Jones, spokesman for GoCompare. “You can haggle over different aspects of your deal – for instance, the speed, any extras included, not just the price.”
- Make it clear you are prepared to leave. But if you need time, say you will call them back after talking it through with a family member.
- Call again on another day. A different staff member might cut you a better deal.
5.5 million pay extra £160 on energy bills
MORE than five million customers still face paying £160 a year extra for their energy because of the way they choose to settle their bills.
In last week’s Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt pledged to end the “premium paid by our poorest households” by bringing energy rates charged by prepay meters in line with direct debits from July.
It will bring relief to four million customers who pay an average £45 a year extra for their energy compared to those on direct debits.
But 5.5million who pay on receipt of bills by card or cheque, and those on standing orders, still face a premium of around £160 a year based on typical usage.
Anyone with higher-than-average energy use will pay even more.
Matt Copeland, at National Energy Action, welcomed the Government’s move to scrap the prepayment meter premium, but said: “It’s important those on standard credit are not left out in the cold. You should not have to pay more for your energy because you pay by cheque or in cash, on receipt of bill.”
He said customers in this category are mostly older and may not have internet access, leaving them unable to opt for cheaper payment methods.
But a Government spokesperson claimed the customers paying higher costs are “less likely to be vulnerable and more likely to have a choice on their payment method”.
They added: “Government has already acted to help families with energy costs this winter, with the average bill cut by £1,300.”
The Chancellor also announced the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee will be extended at the current level for another three months, so a household with typical usage pays no more than £2,500 a year.
The figure had been due to increase to £3,000 a year from April, but it will remain at £2,500 until July, at which point it’s hoped that energy prices will have started to come down.
But customers still face higher bills from next month as the Government discounts of £66-67 a month under the energy bill support scheme are ending.
These have been automatically applied to bills and prepay smart meters over the winter months, while those with traditional prepayment meters should have received vouchers.
Many of these vouchers sent by email, text or post have gone unclaimed, so check with your supplier if you have not seen yours.