Virgin Media has been attracting media attention for charging customers ‘early disconnection fees’ for terminating their contract, even if they move to an area where it doesn’t offer coverage.
Virgin Media’s broadband service is only available to around half of the homes in the country, but those who move to a non-network area before their minimum contract term has expired can face costs of up to £240.
Exit fees are often levied by telecoms providers when customers exit their contract before the completion of its term. But many other providers use the Openreach network, which covers more than 90% of the UK.
It is also possible for consumers to be charged if they want to cancel due to a slow or unreliable connection, and this applies to all of the broadband providers. Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, has laid out a proposal to allow customers to cancel their contract without penalty if their broadband speed falls below a minimum level.
Ofcom investigating Virgin Media’s exit fees
The exit fees Virgin Media charges are laid out in the terms and conditions of its contracts – it states ‘an early disconnection fee is also charged when you move to another address during a minimum period, and don’t continue with Virgin Media services for any reason. This includes if we’re unable to provide our services at your new address.’
The fee charged is calculated based on which deal you’re on and the length of the contract term still remaining. For broadband, the fees start at £10 per remaining month and go up to a maximum of £26 per remaining month. The total fee is capped at £240.
Fees also apply for TV services, whether these are standalone or part of a bundle.
In June 2017, Ofcom announced that it would be conducting an investigation into the exit fees applied by Virgin Media and whether its terms and conditions are fair under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
If Ofcom determines that Virgin Media’s exit fees count as unfair contract terms, customers could be entitled to claim back any charges they’ve paid. As of December 2017, Ofcom was still gathering evidence for its investigation – it aims to reach a provisional decision by April 2018.
You can find out more about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and how it protects consumers from unfair contract terms in our guide to the Consumers Right Act.
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Choosing the best broadband deal
It’s worth weighing up the contract length before committing to any broadband deal. While longer contracts can be cheaper overall, pricey exit fees make them risky if there’s a chance you’ll need to end the contract.
To help you compare costs, our broadband deal reviews show you how much you’ll effectively pay in the first year of your contract when you factor in promotional deals, standard fees and upfront charges.
But cost isn’t the only factor to consider – you’ll also want to weigh up broadband speed, reliability and customer service. Our biannual survey explores which providers consumers have the most issues with, and how satisfied they are. Find out which provider came out on top using our guide to the best broadband providers.