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18 Oct 2019

75% of broadband customers could be at risk of overpaying

Our latest research shows too many broadband customers find prices confusing

Research conducted by Which? has shown that 75% of broadband customers could be at risk of overpaying for their broadband. We found that only one in five customers always make changes when their broadband contract ends, meaning the majority are at risk of paying higher 'standard' tariffs.

Our survey of 2,000 people found that while 19% of those surveyed said they always make changes when their contract ends, a third sometimes make changes. However, 41% said they rarely or never make changes.

The research highlights confusion among broadband customers over whether it's better to enter a new contract or not. This confusion can be costly - according to telecoms regulator Ofcom, those who switch provider or re-contract with their existing provider could save an extra £100 each year on their broadband deal on average.

Our findings follow Ofcom's recent review of broadband pricing, which found that around 8.8 million broadband customers are out of contract and could make significant savings if they signed up to a new deal.

Looking for a new broadband deal? Use our guide to the best and worst broadband providers of 2019 to find a provider that ticks the boxes.

Contract confusion

Broadband deals typically last 12, 18 or 24 months. Once this period is up, customers usually get moved onto a rolling deal automatically. But for those with the UK's largest providers, the end of a contract typically also means an increase in price from an 'introductory' deal to a 'standard' tariff.

Ofcom has found that those on an introductory deal typically pay £8-9 less per month than customers who stay out of contract. In separate analysis of broadband deals on the market in September, we found that the worst example saw customers facing a whopping 88% price hike.

Being out of contract might sound better - not having a fixed-term contract with a provider makes you free to switch at will. It will most suit those whose circumstances may change in the next few months. But entering a new contract (with your current provider or a new one) is probably the better option - in the majority of cases, it will mean you will pay less.

New contract, same deal

When we asked respondents why they aren't making changes to their broadband contract when it ends, half of those who rarely or never make changes told us this is because they are happy with their provider and/or deal so don't feel a need to do anything. A quarter said it's because they didn't want to change providers.

However, it's possible to reduce the price on your deal without having to change anything else. Negotiating with your provider can sound intimidating, but it only needs to involve a simple chat to review your options. There's no need to switch or change the service you receive if you decide not to.

If you don't feel comfortable picking up the phone, you can usually contact your provider using live chat instead. In most cases, providers will offer you a discount if you sign up for a new fixed-term period - meaning you're back in contract again.

Read our guide on how to haggle for the best broadband dealto discover the five easy steps it takes to negotiate a better price.

Broadband providers can do more

Ofcom will force providers to send end of contract notifications to customers from February 2020. Notifications will mean that people won't end up paying more simply because they forgot their contract was coming to an end.

The UK's major providers also recently made a series of commitments to help ensure customers aren't being overcharged for their broadband service.

But we think there's more providers could do to help consumers make better decisions about which broadband package to get. Nearly a quarter of those we surveyed said they don't feel confident in their ability to assess what they need from their broadband service and identify a suitable package. And nearly half suggested they didn't feel they could trust their provider for advice, telling us they believed their provider would try to oversell them if they contacted them about a new deal.

Considering a switch? To make the process simple, we've broken it into four steps - get started using our guide on how to switch broadband provider.

Our research

We surveyed 2,069 UK adults, of whom 1714 said they were responsible for making decisions about broadband, between 4 and 6 September 2019. Data has been weighted to be representative of the UK population (aged 18+).