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ASA Probe Broadband ISP TalkTalk Over Mid Contract Price Hike

Friday, July 2nd, 2021 (8:52 am) - Score 2,880
talktalk uk broadband isp 2020

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has confirmed that they’re investigating budget broadband provider TalkTalk after the ISP announced a price hike earlier this year (here), which somewhat controversially also hit some customers who had previously signed-up under the promise of “no mid-contract price rises“.

Annual price hikes are fairly common among all of the largest providers in this market. This is because they’re frequently adding all sorts of new services (e.g. FTTP etc.), running big first term discounts, adapting to new rules (e.g. automatic compensation) and developing new systems (e.g. improved switching). Consumers are also gobbling significantly more data, which has been further boosted by COVID-19.

Most of the price increases affected customers on their legacy packages who would be out of contract, but we later discovered that some more recent customers on their slower “fibre” (FTTC) plans – Fibre 35 and Fibre 65 – who signed-up BEFORE 1st March 2021, would also be hit.

The issue is that some of those who joined or upgraded just before March had done so after seeing the same packages being promoted as offering “no mid-contract price rises for the duration of your contract – guaranteed,” or similar language, in various promotions (TV, email etc.).

In June 2021 TalkTalk began informing many in this group that they too would face a price rise from this month, which obviously hasn’t gone down well (MSE examples) and that has prompted complaints to the ASA, which is now investigating.

A Spokesperson for TalkTalk said:

“Over this extraordinary last year, we’ve seen broadband usage soar by 40% and we’ve had to invest heavily in our network as a result. Unfortunately, this has meant that, alongside other ISPs such as BT, Virgin and Sky, we have had to raise our prices.”

The situation is embarrassing for a provider that, in late 2019, made a big song and dance about its support for Ofcom’s fairness commitments on pricing for consumers (here). Nevertheless, we suspect they won’t be too concerned about the ASA probe, since the worst that the advertising watchdog could do is ban the related adverts and say they’ve been a bit naughty.

One problem above is that the adverts have already stopped because, since the pricing announcement, TalkTalk no longer promotes “no mid contract price rises” as standard alongside their products. Instead, those who want such a feature will need to optionally take their paid Fixed Price Plus add-on.

The good news, if you’re affected by this problem, is that you should be able to leave your contract penalty free. Unfortunately, TalkTalk’s stance is very much reflective of a historic problem with big broadband ISPs in the UK, where pricing policies often change like the wind.

Most recently, many providers adopted a CPI (inflation) + 3-4% style annual increase which, while more transparent, could be brewing up trouble for the future if inflation surges to c.4% by around the turn of the year (a 7-8% price rise will not go down well). If that happens, then we suspect those pricing policies may have to change.. again.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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20 Responses
  1. Tom says:

    Meanwhile Andrews & Arnold broadband pricing has not changed in many years. If anything their VoIP and SMS prices have gone down!

    *in b4 “its not unlimited”. Its stupidly high enough that 3 adults in a house can use the Internet heavily for games and video for many years and have never hit the cap nor had to modify behaviour to fit within it. While it may not suit others, it’s no bother for what I believe to be normal gamer and streamer usage. *

    1. Matt says:

      Well yeah?
      A&A usually much more expensive than any other provider – and they still run with usage caps – so they aren’t working on overselling and oversubscription model of others.

      You could almost get 2 lines with a cheapo “unlimited” provider for the cost of a decent amount of bandwidth on A&A.

    2. Tom says:

      That’s a bit like saying the cost of a Bentley hasn’t increased in years.

    3. Ed says:

      Would rather have one Bentley than two (or more) Ladas though, amirite?

    4. Tesco Tearaway says:

      And how many people can afford a Bentley? Not only do AAISP charge ridiculous prices but they seem to be stuck in a time warp: still having monthly data limits when nearly every CP abolished them donkeys years ago, no new products (eg nothing above 160/30 on FTTP) and their website was produced when everyone was still using BBC Acorn computers. Still, I guess someone’s got to pay for the Reverend’s luxury cruises and a new Tesla for his son every 12 months.

    5. Ivor says:

      I used to be in the “small ISPs are always better” mindset, and I think that was true in the past. At least they weren’t trying to force Phorm on me, or decide that some of my traffic was less important than others.

      Since changed my mind. I’ve actually had fewer performance issues on BT than I did at the tail end of my time with my previous small ISP.

      A&A do stand out though. Other small ISPs have moved past 2006 and offered truly unlimited service. I mean they might not have an IRC channel, but oh well…

    6. Ferrocene Cloud says:

      A&A are being left behind in the 90s, technology and the world has moved on. It’s much harder to sell a customer on reliability when the market is moving to pure fibre which is incredibly reliable compared to xDSL. In 3 months with Zen I’ve had 5 minutes of downtime, and almost all of that would probably be planned works as it happened during the usual change window. Certainly a lot more reliable than Virgin Media. No contention. Even the levels of packet loss I’ve seen (something like less than 1 in a million) are better than many of the leased lines I’ve come across.

      There’s also an irony that with their business model of “not being the bottleneck”… they actually ARE the bottleneck. I can get a 1Gbps FTTP connection from various providers, A&A can’t offer that because they don’t have the capacity. Also, A&A’s size means a lot more reliance on 3rd party transit instead of peering over aggregated 100Gbps links.

      If A&A don’t adapt, then eventually they’ll go out of business. As it currently stands, copper’s upcoming retirement will be their death knell.

    7. 125us says:

      It seems unlikely they are stuck in the 90’s unless they genuinely only offer dial-up connections. Wind down the hyperbole.

    8. John says:

      They are very much behind the curve.

      FTTP and G.Fast isn’t offered above 160Mb/s.

      While they will say this is because “we don’t want to be the bottleneck”, it’s really because they insist on using their own Firebricks, which still only have gigabit ports.

      I know a few users who have jumped ship from A&A because they have had FTTP installed and wanted more speed than A&A could offer.

      While not “stuck in the 90’s” they do need to catch up with other players, not just keep up.

  2. Peter says:

    @Ferrocene Cloud, I’m with Virgin Media and haven’t had downtime this year at all, and yes I’m still on their HFC network.

    1. Ferrocene Cloud says:

      I’m glad your experience is better Peter, in the past year I’ve had problems with their network causing my work VPN to go down about 10 times a day (lasted several months, immediately resolved when switching and several colleagues had same issue), had days of packet loss due to a bad amp in the cabinet, had my Internet taken out for hours due to an LG routing issue, not to mention numerous instances of the connection going down for hours because the CPE is “not allowed” to access the network, which over a year would probably come to a day or so of downtime.

      And I’m not even one of those poor people who lives in an oversold area.

      I’m still under contract with VM for a couple more months, worth every penny to switch as soon as Openreach went live (helps if their contractors splice correctly!).

  3. Sysadmin says:

    I laughed so much at: “their website was produced when everyone was still using BBC Acorn computers” Brilliant but resoundingly true.

    Sadly some companies still think it’s acceptable to have NetScape Navigator 1.0 web design. How can that be secure in this day and age?

    WHO keeps promoting ZEN on here? All my team had expensive ZEN business broadband at home (which we claimed back from our company) to do remote software upgrades overnight.

    We all had regular and persistent full outages with ZEN at night. Useless company. Wouldn’t touch them with a barge-pole. Whoever it is, please stop promoting them. Even Post Office broadband is more dependable than ZEN.

    1. CarlT says:

      Zero downtime in a year and a bit on Zen here that was due to them. Only brief outages BT Wholesale planned works.

  4. Buggerlugz says:

    “no mid-contract price rises for the duration of your contract – guaranteed,”

    Where did it say in the small print they didn’t actually mean what they’d stated?

  5. André says:

    Surely this is a matter for OFCOM if they’re in breach of contract?
    The ASA will just say “don’t advertise that again” (which they no longer do) and that’s it…

    1. Aled says:

      Imagine any other industry doing this.

      “It will only cost £35pm forever.”

      ”Well chap, it costs around £20pm to provide these services and our owners won’t pay themselves. We know we 100% promised to never increase the price, but we’re advertising sales executives and lying is basically all we do. Just ask our ex wives. I’m awfully sorry. LOL. But look, some of our competitors are doing this funny annual price increase, so our directors think we should hop on the bandwagon. We know the price of your data actually has reduced spectacularly over the last 20 years, but we deserve more money because we all know you’re going to switch plans once a better deal comes around.”

  6. Rob says:

    Just left talktalk. This has beengoi going onfor months. 16 month into fix contract. TOLD it was going up. Contacted then to ask why. Say I had been sent a email the repevous month which neither of us could find??? So move and paid a early contract fee for one month just to get away from them (it was cheapper then staying with them). SO BUYER BE WARE…

  7. Rahul says:

    TalkTalk also betrayed me in a couple of ways, not just contract price rise!

    I signed up to a 24 month contract for the FTTC 80/20 package in February 2020 via online chat.

    They told me I will receive new telephone line installation for free with the condition that I sign up for a fixed 24 month contract at £21.95 (no price hikes).

    I wanted a new line because the existing one was too long, circulating around 10 meters extra copper around the walls of my passage area, which was unnecessary.

    Openreach engineer was sent and he only installed me NTE5C MK4 Master Socket Faceplate, which doesn’t need separate micro filter. He insisted that I didn’t need a new line and cutting 10 meters worth of extra copper inside my flat will not make a difference at all. So he also refused to cut the existing copper line to make it shorter.

    That’s in spite of the fact that in the contract it said £60 new telephone line chalked off as free. I didn’t complain any further as the service did indeed turn out to be reliable after all unlike with ADSL previously.

    However, in April this year price jumped to £23.95 a month. My contract ends in February 2022.

    Instead, I could’ve simply signed an 18 month contract with TalkTalk via Uswitch and not only that, I would’ve received a £90 reward card for free! I would’ve been better off and buy NTE5C MK4 Master Socket Faceplate separately for £11 from amazon and could install it myself.

    I have basically been cheated! My advice, never sign via TalkTalk Support Chat or via Telephone especially not on a 24 month contract (you’ll get a worse deal)! Sign up via Uswitch, Comparethemarket, etc. You’ll at least get a free voucher, that way the price hike will somewhat be compensated.

  8. Michelle Hoskin says:

    In November when my contract was due to expire I asked if I would get a new router, since the one I have is their older HG633 model and doesn’t seem up to the job, it has very poor wifi. Sky had a good deal on at the time & I was going to change providers if not. They said I would & then I discovered at the end of the online chat conversation that they had signed me up for a new contract without me clicking/signing anything! That annoyed me. 6 months later, I still have no new router & I find out they’ve upped my so-called fixed priced contract by £2.50, informing me of this by email, all whilst putting flyers through my letterbox offering new customers the same thing for £2 less! They wouldn’t need new customers if they looked after the ones they’d already got. I wouldn’t recommend them.

  9. Paul Taylor says:

    Alas talktalk has a joker up it’s sleeve. Under it’s terms and conditions clause

    16 MAKING CHANGES
    16.1 We may need to change your services, equipment, charges or agreement
    for legal, regulatory or business reasons. If so, we’ll tell you about this in writing or by publishing
    a notice or updated terms and conditions on our website.
    16.2 Except for any price increase referred to in paragraph 9.2 above, if a change is to your material
    detriment, we’ll give you at least 30 days’ written notice (by letter, email, SMS or via your
    monthly bill). If you object, you may end your agreement without charge (other than accrued
    charges), provided you contact us (see paragraph 19 below) within 30 days of receiving the
    notification. If the change is to your mobile agreement, you may only end your mobile
    agreement as this is a standalone agreement, unless we’ve told you otherwise.

    Sadly applies. Letter of the law BUT NOT THE SPIRIT!!!!!!!!!

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