Consumer watchdogs have attacked ISPs over average charges of £190 for consumers to escape a broadband service they’re not happy with.
Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) research between July 2013 and June 2013 found that some broadband providers demanded up to £625 to end an agreement.
Many of the people cancelling their contract said they wanted to do so because they were not receiving a good enough service from their provider, not just to get a cheaper deal.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “People are finding themselves held captive by bad broadband services. Some consumers who have stood up to problem suppliers have found themselves being punished for switching when they’ve been hit with a cancellation fee that is then passed over to a debt collection agency.
“Internet service providers must not shackle customers seeking a better service with unreasonable fees that can turn into shock debt. All internet users need to be able to easily have a way out of inadequate contracts and broadband speeds that only give them daily frustration.”
It’s been a bad week for ISPs, with news surfacing that BT was wrongly charging students for 12-month contracts despite them signing up to a nine-month deal to fit in with their term time – then demanding cancellation fees and a flat fee for the equipment. BT said the mistake was due to a billing error and promised to refund affected customers .
Out of 3,300 internet and broadband problems reported to CAB, the most regular complaints were regarding slow connections, persistent faults and bad customer service, with more than half relating to the latter.
One in five problems stemmed from cancellation and withdrawal of service, 18 per cent were about complaints and redress, while 15 per cent were in reference to costs, billing and payment.
Following reports that some consumers were charged despite their contract not specifying they would have to pay a fee if they decided to end their agreement, Citizens Advice is calling for providers to cancel fees if the customer has reported on-going problems with their service.
CAB also said ISPs need to improve their customer service, refraining from handing cancellation fees to debt collectors.
Earlier this year, Ofcom ruled that broadband, phone and mobile contract customers must be allowed to terminate their contract without paying a termination fee should their provider up the price by any amount while they are still in the agreement – usually 12 months but sometimes up to two years.