Why you need to know your broadband consumer rights

Before signing up to a new broadband contract, how do you make sure your provider lives up to its side of the deal?

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Your rights as a broadband customer

As with any purchase, it’s important to know your broadband consumer rights before signing on the dotted line. You might be surprised to learn some of the normal rights applicable to a high street purchase are mirrored in broadband contacts. For example, it’s possible to withdraw from a broadband deal within the first two weeks, if the products or service aren’t to the standard you expected or were promised.

Holding your provider accountable

As a customer, you have the right to ask your provider to correct any faults where responsibility lies with them rather than you. If the promise of an easy resolution will influence your search for a broadband provider, consider the following providers:

  • BT

  • EE

  • PlusNet

  • Sky

  • TalkTalk

  • Utility Warehouse

  • Virgin Media.

These suppliers have signed up to Ofcom’s voluntary codes of practice. This means you can expect to receive:

  • A minimum speed guarantee at the point of sale, before the switch is finalised

  • Automatic compensation if your service doesn’t start on the agreed date 

  • The right to exit without incurring any fees if you have ongoing and unresolved speed issues.

Your broadband cooling off period

As with most big purchases, you have 14 calendar days to change your mind about new broadband deals and cancel the contract. No fees will be levied inside this period, and your supply will continue with if your existing provider, providing it uses the same network.

Terms and conditions

Your provider is bound by the terms and conditions laid out in your contract, but so are you. Tampering with your router settings may nullify your provider’s obligation to fix subsequent issues with your broadband, because this is strictly prohibited in most internet service provider (ISP) contracts.

Your broadband speed

If your broadband speeds aren’t sufficient and you’ve tried your best to resolve issues from your side, get in touch with your supplier. They will only be liable if the speeds are considerably below those in your contract; if you agreed to a contract with an 11Mbps ADSL connection, sluggish WiFi isn’t your supplier’s fault. 

ISPs are responsible for delivering the minimum speed you were quoted during the sign-up process, and this can be established using a broadband speed checker service. Full fibre broadband should be sufficient for any use, offering connection speeds of up to 1Gbps.

Your right to decent service

If you experience less than satisfactory speed, service or performance from any contract including broadband services, you have the right to complain. Make a note of all correspondence with your provider, including dates and times, plus the names of any people you spoke to. Add an accurate summary of what was discussed, since the ISP will have their own record of these conversations.

Correspond in writing, via letter or email. Never use live web chat, since you’ll have no record of what was said. If you don’t receive a response within 14 days of making a complaint in writing, check which ombudsman service your ISP is signed up with – it’ll either be CISAS or Ombudsman Services. Write to them with details of your complaint, presenting all your correspondence as evidence.

Your right to change broadband

Every customer is entitled to change broadband provider at any time, but fixed-rate broadband contracts may involve cancellation fees until your contract runs out. At this point, you’ll be free to leave without penalty. Switching broadband provider and cancelling a broadband contract are the same thing from the provider’s perspective, so you can’t argue about any cancellation fees while still under contract. Research the type of contract you’re on and the penalties your provider outlined in your terms and conditions.

It’s possible to leave a rolling no contract broadband package without paying a fee, providing you give the statutory 30 days’ notice. 

Can I leave my broadband provider early?

you have the right to cancel a broadband policy at any time, but a penalty may be incurred. On a fixed-price contract, the cancellation fee will be multiplied by the number of months remaining on the contract. You may well end up paying the same amount to leave as you would during the remainder of the contract, so consider if these fees make the cancellation pointless. 

How do I cancel a broadband contract?

If you want to cancel your broadband contract, get in touch with your provider and calmly explain why you’re looking to leave. If the reasons include poor service, or if the provider has failed to honour its side of the contract, a formal complaint or an approach to the ISP’s ombudsman may remove the need to pay exit fees.

When can I cancel broadband without fees?

Fees will no longer apply when your fixed term ends, irrespective of its length. The following circumstances will also allow you to leave your broadband supplier without incurring any penalties, regardless of the contract term remaining:

  • Disproportionate price rises – if the price suddenly rises beyond adjustments for inflation, you have the right to cancel within 30 days of the increase date

  • Your provider has breached the terms of its contract – for example, if you are consistently not getting the speeds you were promised.

In terms of advertised speeds, these are based on the experience of 50% of customers, and therefore may not be guaranteed in your property. This is why they’re often described as average speeds. 

Ofcom’s rules require ISPs to give new customers an accurate minimum speed for that specific area. If they subsequently fail to deliver this minimum speed, you have a solid case to pursue with either the ISP or their ombudsman. However, if you feel like you were misled in another way, such as being promised new hardware but receiving older technology, this could potentially be taken up with the Advertising Standards Authority.

Last updated: 14 December 2020