End of contract alerts for broadband and mobile now live

17 February 2020   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Broadband, mobile and pay TV customers must be told when their contracts are coming to an end under rules now in force.

Customers will now be informed how much they will pay after the end of their contract, along with being given access to their provider's best deals.

Ofcom say 20 million customers are out of contract with their providers, leading many to pay more than they need to for services.

These latest reforms are part of Ofcom's drive for fairness in the telecommunications sector.

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What's changed?

Providers of broadband, mobile and pay TV services must now alert customers warning them their fixed term contracts are coming to an end.

These notifications can be sent by letter, email or text but they must include:

  • The date the contract ends
  • What the customer has been paying for the service
  • What they'll be paying once the contract has finished
  • A reminder of the notice period for leaving
  • Details of the provider's best deals, including those available to new customers

Notifications must be received between 10 and 40 days before the end of a contract to give customers the opportunity to act.

For customers already out of contract, providers must remind them yearly about their best new deals as a way of encouraging them to move onto better deals or compare broadband, mobile and pay TV deals with other providers.

Paying too much

Ofcom first announced these reforms back in May 2019, although they gave providers nine months to make sure their systems were ready for them.

The regulator says 20 million customers are currently out of contract across broadband, mobile and pay TV contracts, with 8.8 million of these having passed the end of their broadband contract.

Their research shows 25,000 broadband customers reach the end of their contract every day, and this often leads to an automatic price rise as the introductory fixed term offer comes to an end.

In addition, while 16% of broadband customers don't know if they're out of contract, this rises to 21% for over-55s - the group least likely to switch.

Complementing these reforms, Ofcom have also extracted pledges from six major broadband providers to alter the way they deal with customers coming to the end of their contract.

Most mobile providers have made similar pledges to come into force no later than March 2020. However, Three refused to sign up, arguing the scheme could reduce switching behaviour.

Focus on fairness

All these measures form part of Ofcom's push to increase fairness for broadband, mobile and pay TV customers.

In June 2019, all major providers signed up to a set of Fairness for Customers commitments which enshrined in one document what customers can expect their providers to offer.

These included a clear and fair approach to pricing, along with a focus on identifying vulnerable customers and ensuring they receive appropriate support.

A five-point fairness framework was then published in January 2020. This document showed how Ofcom assess whether customers are being treated fairly by providers.

Ofcom also introduced reforms in July 2019 that allow customers to switch mobile network via text rather than having to call their providers direct. Providers were also banned from charging for notice periods running beyond the date of the network switch.

So, at the same time as encouraging customers to switch for better deals, Ofcom are also ensuring those who don't are protected from expensive price rises and charges. It will be interesting to whether these reforms have an impact on switching behaviour.


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