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Survey Claims Fear of Email Loss Stops 2 Million UK Homes Switching ISP

Friday, October 8th, 2021 (8:39 am) - Score 1,272
internet email

A new Opinium survey of 2,000 UK adults, which was commissioned by Uswitch, has claimed that more than 2 million UK households have chosen not to switch broadband ISP because they fear it would result in a loss of access to the email address supplied by their existing internet provider.

As a general rule we’ve always advised our readers to never rely upon the email services provided by your ISP, not least because it can make it harder for you to switch broadband providers (i.e. you run the risk of losing access to your address). In general, it’s far better to sign-up with one of the many free email providers (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook) and thus avoid ever getting into that situation.

However, the new survey found that 23% of respondents (estimated at 13 million people) still use an email address supplied by their broadband provider, with BT remaining the most popular. On average, those with such an email address have had it for almost 8 years and 46% have had it for more than 10 years! Such people would probably be generally very nervous about switching, regardless of email.

Some 30% of those with an email address from their broadband ISP would not change that address as they believe they will miss important information or messages. Older people are particularly afraid of losing access to their provider-owned email, which is true for 32% of those aged over 65.

The survey then makes the point that those who don’t switch tend to pay more because they’re unlikely to benefit from the same initial contract discounts as those who move to a new ISP. However, a lot of the bigger ISPs may allow you to retain your existing email after leaving, albeit often at an extra cost, which may counteract some of the benefits of switching. The experiences between ISPs can vary.

How the big ISPs handle emails post-switch

BT

BT’s website states that customers with BT email who stop their broadband have three options:

— Keep your email but with more basic features by getting Basic email, which is free
— Keep your email with the same features by getting Premium email, which costs £7.50 a month
— Keep your email with the same features, by linking it to a friend or family member’s BT Broadband, which is free

Virgin Media

Virgin simply says your email address will be deleted after 90 days.

TalkTalk

According to Ofcom’s May 2021 statement, TT are expected to provide ex-customers with 2-years of “free” access (web-based only) to your email, but after that you’ll need to pay for ‘Mail Plus‘, which costs £5 per month or £50 per year. But oddly, the Mail Plus page on TT’s website makes no mention of the 2-year period.

Sky Broadband

Sky allows you to keep your email after leaving, but it’s never wise to assume that this policy will be indefinite, as maintaining such services does carry a cost and approaches do change.

Plusnet

PN also allows you to keep your email after leaving, but we’d echo what is said above.

Customers stuck in this boat would be well advised to create a digital address book of their contacts and plan ahead for a future switch. Swapping personal contacts then becomes a simple matter of sending out a single message to multiple addresses (using BCC rather than CC because.. privacy), although updating key services (e.g. banks, insurance etc.) is a more complicated affair and requires some planning.

A useful tip for reducing the stress of all this is to start the transition long before you take the decision to finally switch broadband ISP, that way you’ll have completed the hard work before that day arrives. Admittedly this does mean running two emails side-by-side for a while, but these days most people already have multiple communication channels.

At the end of the day, the safest course is to never expect that a commercial ISP will indefinitely retain your email after you leave, since they no longer have any financial obligation to maintain something that the customer is no longer paying to receive. In addition, Ofcom does not regulate email services, so you shouldn’t expect much help.

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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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14 Responses
  1. Msh says:

    I have never even considered this but it makes total sense that it happens.

    You mention that Ofcom doesn’t regulate email, that’s expected. However, does Ofcom have any power to regulate what is offered with a telecom contract that may cause consumers to be artificially locked into a contract with these companies? Ultimately you can’t “transfer” email in the same way you can with phone numbers so it feels like the companies simply shouldn’t be allowed to “give” you these types of services.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Ofcom reviewed this a couple of years ago, based on the fact that it could discourage switching, and worked with the major ISPs to introduce some of the current policies (what you see above is more flexible than it was before). But their powers are very limited here, particularly with so many free alternatives in the market.

      Mostly, only the big ISPs seem to even bother offering email now.

  2. awelshman says:

    i had an email address with yahoo for 4 years then all of a sudden i could not access it so i contacted yahoo and they said ,that address does not exist so i tried to set it up again with the same address and i could not use it as it already existed. i sent an email to it but it just bounced back .since then i have set up multiple addresses with different suppliers so if i lose one its no hardship

    1. Gary says:

      Similar fore except BT interned closed my primary account email while I was still a customer, similarly not retrievable.

      They had somewhat unhelpfully emailed the unused address to warn me that it would be suspended if not used. It still blows my mind that what seemed to me to be one of the basic elements of an account would be deleted.

      It’s a nightmare updating login and contacts when you don’t have access to the email it uses as your account anchor

  3. Ixel says:

    One of the reasons I have my own domain name for my email address, auto renewing each year. It’s not expensive to pay for a domain name each year and something for emails (or perhaps already included as a bundle, or self-hosted if you have the necessary experience and bits and pieces to do so). It’s not as easy for some of the well known brands to potentially take a look at your emails either this way.

    1. tech3475 says:

      I tried self hosting once, but the emails sent from it just ended up in my junk folder on my hotmail account.

  4. John H says:

    I got my own domain with email 20 years ago for this reason, can’t understand why anyone would tie themselves to an ISP this way. The old landline number is with Sipgate for the same reason.

    1. Tech3475 says:

      It’s only now that BT/Openreach has switched me over to their digital service that separating the number from the internet has become worthwhile, the only issue now is when the contract is up figuring out the best way to do so since the person who wants the landline doesn’t want a new phone number (i.e. I have to port the existing number, which also cancels the broadband).

  5. Paul Grant says:

    Plusnet sent me several emails deleting all mailboxes at 05:00 the day after I switched ISP, but kept the account open for 3 weeks to send me a final bill for 5 hours out of contract charge. Luckily we have used a “free” service email addresses for years and only had the mailboxes as backup.

  6. Chris W says:

    Can easily believe this is true, my parents will stay with BT till the very end purely because that’s who their email accounts (and landline…) are with. Fortunately I have at least been able to teach them that *threatening* to leave does at least get you a decent retention deal.

  7. chris conder says:

    It is really easy in gmail to import other email addresses and contact lists. Just read their help file for full instructions. You can authorise it to reply as you old email address or your new one. That way all your old emails come into your gmail account. I agree with Mark, nobody should ever use the ISPs ‘free’ email these days.

  8. MilesT says:

    There needs to be primary legislation change to give Ofcom sufficient power to require all ISP to offer a lifetime email service at a maximum cost of £24 annually/one month notice (after a 3 month free transition period), with Ofcom managing a “provider of last resort” scheme (directly or by managed transfer to a viable ISP).

  9. Just a thought says:

    Maybe OFCOM should attempt to introduce a forwarding clause. You can pay to have your mail forwarded when you move house, so why not your email when you move ISP.

    Losing ISP would have the right to delete the mailbox itself, but would simply redirect mail to a new address for an agreed period. This would give people more chance to inform sender’s the address had changed. From an identity theft point of view, it would ensure a longer period before the email could ever be reused. If charges were similar to renting a domain name then people may choose to redirect indefinitely.

    1. Just a thought says:

      ** senders (auto correct made it possessive rather than plural)

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