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Long Broadband Contracts Cause Billing Woes for UK Renters

Thursday, Feb 1st, 2024 (12:01 am) - Score 2,840
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A new Opinium survey of 4,000 UK adults, which was commissioned by Uswitch, has claimed that 44% of renters – who typically move home more frequently than any other group – remain locked into 18-24 month contracts with their broadband provider and 23% had to pay exit fees to leave their ISP when their tenancy agreement ended.

The reality is that it’s not always possible to get modern broadband contracts to align perfectly with a tenancy agreement and, even when you can do that, unexpected changes in circumstance can still occur that may necessitate a move earlier than planned. In some cases, this may mean needing to pay Early Termination Charges (ETC) to your provider, which the survey says costs an average of £77.90 per month (£290m for the UK).

NOTE: Over 4.6 million households live in the private rented sector in England (19% of all households).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 47% of UK renters wish their broadband contracts were more suited to their needs and 33% of respondents indicated they would be willing to pay extra for a shorter contract option. But the survey found renters would only be willing to pay an average of £2.20 per month extra for this service (the pricing gap between 30-day and 18-24-month terms is often greater than this), although this rises to £3.90 among 18-34 year olds.

However, some 22% of respondents said there aren’t enough short-term contracts out there, while 11% agreed they feel penalised by a lack of short-term options. Given all of this, it may come as little surprise to find that broadband is the third-biggest concern for renters when it comes to household bills (18%), behind water (25%) and energy (67%).

Digging Deeper

Moving home tends to be one of life’s most stressful experiences, which is particularly true for renters who may have more experience of it than most. On the broadband front, it’s not just the costly issue of contracts and exits fees that you may have to deal with, but also the need to ensure that any previous occupants have fully cancelled their services to help prevent conflicts. Not to mention needing to ensure that the property owner isn’t going to impose any tedious restrictions on your service choice.

Likewise, there can be issues with service availability, which may mean that you can’t connect via the same network provider or speeds as you had before. This is a problem because some ISPs are more flexible than others when it comes to home movers, but that doesn’t always work if you’re shifting outside their network patch – a few years ago Virgin Media used to charge for this, but that changed in 2022.

Quite a few broadband providers do in fact offer 30-day contract terms on certain packages, but these are often much more expensive and can be harder to find. Smaller ISPs are much better at doing this than larger providers (see our ISP Listings), but experiences do vary and consumer familiarity with the smallest players is also much lower.

Finally, many people should consider mobile broadband (4G / 5G) as being a potentially effective stop-gap solution. In fact, in many areas, mobile data connectivity is often a lot better than people expect, but experiences still vary a lot between different locations and operators. Figuring out the best choice for each place thus takes a bit of time and money, although friends on different networks can be a useful barometer.

In any case, the first port of call is often to just contact your existing ISP and see what they suggest.

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
17 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Phil says:

    Time to recall 12 months contract by law! Get a grip Tory sort it out!

  2. Avatar photo Matt says:

    Surely if you move you just request a lift and shift of the service to your new property therefore you won’t encounter any termination fee’s as you are not terminating just moving to a new property.

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      You’re working on the assumption that they’re moving to address that has access to the same network. This won’t always be the case.

    2. Avatar photo Iain says:

      Moreover, people sometimes move into a flat where another tenant has a broadband contract.

  3. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Why not transfer the contract to the incoming occupier and apportion the costs, as is (or was) the case with council tax, electricity, gas, and fixed-line phone?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Complicated due to data protection laws and not everybody wants to use the same service as the previous occupant, due to various reasons (different needs, linked services, network availability, choice etc.).

    2. Avatar photo Iain says:

      You have a deemed contract with the previous energy supplier. However, you can almost immediately transfer to an alternative supplier. No lock in.

  4. Avatar photo Vince says:

    Trouble is people want it all – they want low prices, they also want really decent routers chucked in etc (not that they always get that sure) etc, free setup etc etc.

    The way this is dealt with is longer contracts.

    Indeed not consumer based, but we found that when we used to charge setup+equipment and then rental on shorter terms and lower pricing, we lost business because everyone else had close to £0 upfront cost and so on – so we just ended up switching to the same model and extending contract length to recover cost of equipment…

    1. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      > The way this is dealt with is longer contracts.

      Yes, but at the end of the contract period these costs have been recovered, so your price should go *down* not *up*. Plusnet is one of the worst offenders: your monthly cost almost doubles at end of contract.

      This is to force you onto another 24 month contract to get a decent price again – except this time they have no up-front costs to recover at all. All they want to do is make sure you’re tied in, so that you can’t jump ship to a cheaper or better provider when an offer comes along. And tie you into CPI+3.9% price rises too.

      You *can* vote with your feet. There are smaller providers with 12 month contracts and no in-contract or out-of-contract price rises. But you have to hunt them out; they don’t have big advertising budgets.

    2. Avatar photo Bedbod says:

      On the basis that nothing in life is free, some of the smaller ISPs take a different model are much more transparent in pricing. Set-up and routers (if you need one) are billed separately upfront rather than amortised into the monthly contract period billing. As such it’s easier for them to offer 1 month rolling contracts.

      Maybe the main problem is that anyone using Uswitch who commissioned this survey (and the other comparison sites too?) to compare “deals” will not be presented with most of the smaller ISPs, showing mostly the few big names who presumably pay them a commission.

      I agree with NE555 though on Plusnet’s punitive pricing strategy. I’m currently trying to un-bundle my parents from using Plusnet email and landline so they can more easily choose a different provider independent of the other services.

  5. Avatar photo kevin finch says:

    They should implement monthly contract like wight fiber does it makes life so much easier

  6. Avatar photo Berny says:

    No router, no signup fee.

    VM and even all the altnets should be forced to provide wholesale access to their network. This means that they have to provide last mile connectivity to anyone who wants to connect like what happens with OpenReach.

    All hardware should remain at the property or returned to the provider if the renter moves out.

  7. Avatar photo DaveP says:

    A friend had to leave his place, EE said either pay 13 months (remaining) termination fee or transfer a/c to his new abode BUT it had to be the 1Gig fibre two year contract. It’s a bedsit, just him and only watches streaming TV and works nights £37/m. The original EE contract was 2 years but the landlord died and he was served a section 21 eviction notice. I have advised him, let it run then use mobile phone tethering, otherwise you’ll be trapped forever.

    1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Get him to formally complain to EE that the the contract they want him to sign is unfair as it doesn’t reflect his needs. That’s a breach of Ofcom’s Fairness Commitments no. 1 (see link below). Because he has been evicted, he is a vulnerable customer, attempting to demand either an onerous exit penalty or renewal for an even longer period of time is unfair against commitment 2. And their overall approach is to put their corporate interests ahead of fairness, that’s a breach of commitment 6. As a resolution, he should ask for release from contract without penalty, and compensation of say fifty quid for the inconvenience and distress. And as a final paragraph, state that if EE will not resolve the complaint on the requested terms, then he requires the immediate issue of a “deadlock letter” in order to escalate the matter to Ombudsman Services. My guess is EE will fob the complaint off, in which case it’s straight to the Ombudsman who will review the complaint impartially.

      Worst case is the Ombudsman doesn’t support his complaint, but it costs him nothing and the Ombudsman will charge EE several hundred quid to investigate the complaint, wiping out the unfair gains they’ll make otherwise.

      https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/information-for-industry/policy/fairness-for-customers/fairness-commitments

  8. Avatar photo Jim B says:

    The renters who move a lot have a lot more issues to deal with than broadband.
    Who moves that many times. It’s OK I know the answer. Nightmare tenants. You know the sort.

    1. Avatar photo Dante says:

      You can get evicted for any reason, I am being evicted so that my landlord can increase the rent by 50%. That doesn’t make me a nightmare tenant, it just makes me poor.

  9. Avatar photo Jimbob says:

    To be honest, most consumers’ wants/needs aren’t rooted in reality. A business can only get so close. Networks like Openreach charge an initial connection fee which has to be paid, along with router hardware and delivery costs which the network provider has to absorb.

    We could go back to upfront costs / connection fees, router charges etc. but that’s not what the market wanted – it showed people were drawn to no upfront cost and were happy to sign longer agreements.

    I work for a major network provider and I know for a fact we only start to make a profit from month 18 onwards. How do you expect anyone to keep their prices low and offer a 12 month contract with no upfront costs? The monthly cost would end up having to be much much more expensive. Flexibility isn’t free.

Comments are closed

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