The cancellation fees charged for switching broadband supplier are too costly, says Citizens Advice, with the average cost of getting out of a contract hitting £190 – and in some cases even more.
This means a lot of people are finding themselves locked into unsuitable contracts, even if they're suffering from poor service. Complaints reported to the watchdog over the last year included painfully slow connection speeds, persistent faults and bad customer service, with the cases analysed being taken from over 3,300 reported internet and broadband problems.
In fact, 23% of issues reported were concerned with cancellation and withdrawal, closely followed by complaints and redress (18%), and problems concerning costs, billing or payment (15%). Fees of up to £625 were reported in some cases, and in others even those who moved house – and therefore couldn't continue to use the service – were still hit with hefty fees.
It's hardly fair that people are being hit with such high charges if they haven't been getting a good enough service, as it effectively ties them into a raw deal for the duration of their contract.
As such, Citizens Advice is calling for internet service providers to stop issuing cancellation fees if customers have been having persistent service problems, so that people aren't forced to stay in unsatisfactory contracts. Providers also need to improve their customer service, it said, and must be more careful when handing cancellation fees over to debt collectors, after finding that many people who refuse to pay such unfair fees end up being chased for the money.
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."
Broadband issues seem to be a growing concern for many homeowners, with more people now accessing online help from Citizens Advice about internet, phone, television and computers – up 83% from July 2013 to June 2014.
Hopefully, you won't be hit with excessive fees if you're unhappy with your broadband service and want to switch, so if it's time to take the plunge – or if your contract is coming to an end – make sure you compare the alternatives.
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