Exposing Hidden and Confusing UK Broadband ISP Charges - ISPreview
Exposing Hidden and Confusing Broadband ISP Charges
By: Mark Jackson - February 15th, 2010 : Page 2 -of- 3
"Ofcom's guidelines states that consumers who end contracts early should never have to pay more than the payments left under the contract"

So here’s a little tip for examining the small print. Use the 'Search' feature of your website browser to look up special characters, such as "£", or words like "usage", "contract", "fee" and "exit", to help locate some of those hidden costs. We tend to find this is quite effective at pointing out gremlins in the text that you might have otherwise scrolled over or ignored completely.

Exit / Leaving Fees (Deferred FREE Activation/Setup/Connection Charges)
Most ISPs have a cost associated with taking on new customers, especially those who are getting a broadband connection for the first time (on a BT line this can be quite expensive, about £50); such costs cannot easily be covered by the monthly fee. One rather crafty way of getting around it is for the ISP to defer the charge until you leave, though some providers will wipe it out at the end of a long contract.

In other words, if you choose to leave the service an ISP could levy an “Exit Fee” or “Cancellation Charge” against you, sometimes even if your current contract has finished. This will merely be the charge that you would have paid at signup but that was scarified so the ISP could promote “FREE” connections or something similar.

Don’t forget if you leave a service while still under contract then the ISP can legally require you to pay out the remainder of the period. Typically if you are leaving because the service has been very poor then you should still pay but after 8 weeks it can be disputed through an official Ofcom approved ADR scheme. More on that here:  http://www.ispreview.co.uk/new/complain/complain.shtml .

Interestingly Ofcom's guidelines states that consumers who end contracts early should never have to pay more than the payments left under the contract - in fact they should often pay less, to reflect the costs providers save because the contract ends early.

The Hidden 12 Month Contract in a 1 Month Wrapping
Be sure to pay extra attention to the small print of ISPs that claim to offer a 1 month or monthly (“no long term commitments”) contract. A small number of providers will hide a devil in the small print that states, if you leave before 12 months have passed then you may be charged an additional fee; this can sometimes be quite costly. Suffice to say it is effectively a 12 month contract by stealth.

Non-Direct Debit Payments
Ofcom stipulates that non-Direct Debit charges (e.g. by cheque, cash or credit card) should be clear and limited to the cost of dealing with the payment (where these aren’t part of the price for the service being bought). Never the less some providers will tack an extra £1-£2 on to your monthly bill if you don’t pay by Direct Debit. Worse still, they often prefer not to mention it until after you’ve spent a good few minutes of your precious time filling out the signup forms.

Paper/Itemised Billing Costs
Some ISPs can charge £1 - £3 extra per month for sending you a paper itemised bill instead of one issued via email or the ISPs website, which will not always be made clear during signup. Ofcom recommends no more than £1.50.

Premium Rate Support Lines
At some point most of us will need to contact our ISP and if the service is down then email is unlikely to be a viable option, leaving only that telephone support number. So take extra care and be mindful before you sign-up that a few providers do adopt expensive premium lines, charging anything from 25p to £1 per minute for your call. Sometimes providers will even leave you on hold and in a queue for several minutes, while others will be so utterly useless at answering your problem that the only thing you’ll get at the end is a big phone bill. Excessive charges for being stuck in a queue or left on hold can sometimes be disputed, see http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk for more.

Router/Modem Return and Delivery Charges
Just because an ISP advertises a free broadband router or modem doesn’t mean to say that they won’t require you to pay a fee of around £5-£7 to have the device delivered. Some others will also request to have the router sent back to them when you leave, occasionally even if you’re out of contract.

Telephone Line Fault Finding and Fixing Engineer Charges (e.g. SFI)
It’s unfortunate but every once in awhile a telephone line will suffer problems, which may require the operator to send out an engineer. Now you might think that the monthly “line rental” you pay is designed to cover faults and that the operator will fix anything without charge but this is not the case. In fact, especially if your line rental is with BT, you could be faced with a significant bill amounting to hundreds of pounds. Do not blame the ISP for this unless they have full control of the voice line too.

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