Why you need to know your broadband consumer rights

When everything is signed off and ready to go with your new broadband contract, how do you make sure your provider lives up to its side of the deal?

Couple looking at contract containing their broadband consumer rights

Your rights as a broadband customer

As with any purchase, it’s important to know your rights beforehand. You might be surprised to learn that some of the normal rights you expect of a high street purchase are similarly reflected in your broadband.

For example, just as you might return some clothes that don’t fit, you can back out of a broadband deal within the first two weeks if it’s not to the standard you expected. Here’s a rundown of your key rights.

Holding your provider accountable

You have the right as a customer to ask your provider to correct any faults so long as the responsibility lies with them and not you. If the promise of easy resolutions is an important factor in your search for a broadband provider, consider the following providers:

  • BT

  • EE

  • PlusNet

  • Sky

  • TalkTalk

  • Utility Warehouse

  • Virgin Media

These suppliers are voluntarily signed up to Ofcom’s Codes of Practice which means you can expect:

  • A minimum speed guarantee

  • For that minimum speed to be shared with you at the point of sale, before the switch is final

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

  • The right to exit, fee-free if you have continuing, unfixed issues with speed

Your broadband cooling off period

As with most big purchases, you will have 14 calendar days to change your mind about a broadband deal and cancel your new deal. If cancelled within this period, you won’t be charged, and if you are switching from a current provider, your supply will just continue with them (though this may differ if your cancelled broadband used a different network).

Your terms and conditions

Your provider will be held to the terms and conditions laid out in your contract, but so will you. If, for example, you tamper extensively with your router settings — which is strictly prohibited in your contract — it may nullify your provider’s obligation to fix any consequent issues with your broadband. 

Your broadband speed

If you find your broadband speeds aren’t sufficient and you’ve tried your best to speed up your internet then it might be time to get in touch with your supplier. Remember, if you purchased a broadband deal that wasn’t sufficient, like a fibre-optic 25Mbps option (suitable for around two or three users) when your household consists of five users, then it is not your supplier’s fault your devices aren’t supported. 

What they are responsible for is ensuring you are getting the minimum speed you were quoted at the start of your sign-up process. You can check this using a broadband speed checker. 

Your right to decent service

If you experience less than satisfactory speed, service or performance from your broadband or TV, phone and broadband bundles, you have the right to complain. You should make a note of every correspondence you have with your provider, take the date and time of any phone call and note down the name of the person you spoke to and notes of what was discussed.

Letters and emails should be filed. If, after making a formal complaint in writing, you don’t get a response within 14 days, go to the Ombudsman. You will need to present all your correspondence as evidence.

Your right to change broadband

Every customer is free to change broadband provider at any time, but the snag lies in your contract terms. On a fixed-rate broadband contract, you will be charged cancellation fees until your contract runs out, then you will be free to leave without penalty.

On a rolling contract you will be able to leave fee-free with 30 days’ notice. Bear in mind that switching your broadband provider and cancelling broadband are, from the point of view of your current provider, the same thing – so you cannot argue any cancellation fees you may face if you are still in contract.

Broadband cancellation rights

This is the biggest area of concern for consumers when it comes to broadband. If you’re looking to cancel broadband, then you need to consider several things, including the type of contract you are on and the penalties your provider will have outlined in your terms and conditions.

Ultimately, you have the right to cancel any time, but you may not have the right to do so fee-free.

How do I cancel a broadband contract?

If you want to cancel your broadband contract, get in touch with your provider and tell them you are looking to leave, or you can simply start a broadband switch. If you want to leave because of poor service, take the route of a formal complaint or going to the ombudsman, this may help you avoid having to pay exit fees if your provider is found to have failed you.

Can I leave my broadband provider early?

Yes, but often not without penalty. On a fixed-price contract, your cancellation fee will be multiplied by the number of months left on your contract. This means you are essentially paying the same amount to leave as you would to simply see it through to the end, so you should consider if these fees make the cancellation worth it. On a rolling contract, things are much easier, you just have to give 30 days’ notice. 

When can I cancel broadband without fees?

When your fixed term ends, fees will no longer apply. The following circumstances will also allow you to leave your broadband supplier early, regardless of the term left on your contract:

  • Disproportionate price rises – if the price rises suddenly beyond adjustments for inflation, you have the right to cancel penalty-free so long as you do so within 30 days of the increase date

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

I’m not getting the broadband speeds that were in the advertisement

Unfortunately, most adverts paint an optimistic picture. The speeds you see advertised will be based on the experience of 50% of customers and is by no means guaranteed for you, which is why they’re often displayed as average speeds. If you sign up believing this is the figure you expect, you may be disappointed.

There are strict rules from Ofcom that say providers must give you an accurate minimum speed for your area, which is the speed you can expect. If your provider does not do this, you have a solid case to take up with them or the ombudsman. However, if you feel like you were misled for some other reason (perhaps you were promised a modern router in the advert and received an older version in reality) then you can also take this up with the Advertising Standards Authority.