Mid-contract broadband switching costs explained

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Unhappy with the broadband service you're receiving? Found a better broadband deal elsewhere? Not getting the speeds you were promised? It may be time to look elsewhere. 

Unfortunately though, if you want to switch broadband providers mid-contract, you may need to pay early termination charges. That's unless you can prove that your provider hasn't fulfilled their part of the contract. 

In this guide, we'll tell you all you need to know about mid-contract broadband switching costs, including when they apply and how you may be able to avoid paying them. 

What are mid-contract switching costs?

When you sign up for a new broadband deal, you sign a contract with your new provider. This contract lasts for a certain period of time, usually 12, 18 or 24 months. 

Within, the contract specifies a number of different things, such as: 

  • The amount you'll need to pay each month 
  • Any upfront costs 
  • How and when you'll be expected to pay for your broadband 
  • The minimum speeds you can expect to receive
  • How quickly your broadband provider should fix any problems 
  • The circumstances under which the provider can increase your bill 
  • How long the contract lasts 
  • What will happen if you want to leave the contract early 

In essence, your broadband contract lists a set of promises that you and your broadband provider make to each other. If either of you break these promises, you'll be in breach of the contract. So, if you decide you're not going to meet the minimum term and you want to leave your contract early, you'll need to pay a fee. 

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When do mid-contract switching costs apply?

If you're simply looking to switch provider because you've found a better deal or you need faster speeds, then you'll have to pay an early exit fee. 

Mid-contract switching costs can only be avoided in very limited circumstances. This is usually when the provider has broken the contract in some capacity. This could happen if: 

  • They've failed to provide you with the minimum speeds detailed in your contract for an extended period of time 
  • You have been left without a working internet connection for an extended period of time
  • They've hiked the cost of your deal by more than the amount specified in your contract

On these occasions, you can usually cancel your contract without paying any fees. This means that you can switch to a different provider for no additional cost. 

However, you should not simply cancel your direct debit and pick a deal with a different provider. If you do this, you may be in breach of contract and could be charged. 

Instead, you should contact your provider. You should clearly explain that you wish to leave your contract and that you believe that you're entitled to do so without paying a penalty. You should then list your reasons why this is the case, referring back to your contract wherever possible. 

They will then confirm whether this is the case. If they agree, you should ask them to confirm this decision with you in writing. You should also ask them to confirm from which date you'll officially be able to leave your contract without paying a penalty (some providers like EE and Sky Broadband ask you to give 30 days of notice). 

Once you have this information from your current provider, you can organise the switching process and ask for your new connection to start on the agreed cancellation date. This will ensure a seamless switching process.  

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Cancelling in the cooling-off period

If you've just taken out a contract and you've realised that it isn't right for you, then you can cancel it without being charged. 

However, this only applies if you're within the 'cooling-off period'. This usually lasts for 14 days, but it can be longer. For example, with Sky Broadband, you can cancel your contract without penalty up to 31 days from the delivery or activation of your router.

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How much are mid-contract switching costs?

The amount you'll need to pay to cancel your broadband contract and switch to a new supplier varies on a provider-by-provider basis. Here's a breakdown of how much it could cost you: 

Cancelling Sky Broadband

The cost of ending your Sky Broadband contract early is determined by several factors, including how long you have left on your contract, how many prepaid days have already been billed, and whether you have any extras such as Sky TV. 

Added to this, when you cancel a Sky contract, you must also return any equipment you've been provided, such as your router. If not, you will be charged.

If you wish to cancel your contract with Sky Broadband, you'll also need to provide 14 days' notice. 

Cancelling BT Broadband

If you wish to leave BT early then you'll be charged an 'early termination fee'. This is based on how many months you have left on your contract at the time of cancellation (minus VAT). 

The company will subtract 1% from this figure if you send your final payment early. They'll also take off any costs that they will not incur as a result of you leaving early. They'll then add VAT to the final amount.

If you cancel part way through a month, BT will work out the charge on a pro rata basis. 

Before you leave your BT contract, you must give 30 days’ notice.

Cancelling Virgin Media

Virgin Media's termination charges are affected by multiple factors, such as the services you subscribe to, the corresponding costs of these services and how long you have left on your contracts.

If you simply have an internet plan with Virgin Media, then calculating the exit costs should be simple. However, if you've bundled together plans, then it could be more complicated. 

Added to this, it's more than likely that the accumulated cost of the exit fees associated with each service could be significant, particularly if you have a long time left on your contract. 

Cancelling Vodafone

To calculate early exit fees, Vodafone simply totals all of your outstanding monthly payments.

Then, the provider removes the VAT from the total remaining and subtracts any savings it incurs as a result of your early termination, including payments to suppliers.

If you choose to make your final payment to Vodafone ahead of schedule, the supplier will provide you with an additional 1% deduction.

Once the provider has this figure, it will add VAT before sharing the amount with you. 

Cancelling EE Broadband

If you want to leave your EE contract early, then you'll need to pay the company's 'early termination fee'. This is based on how many months you have left on your contract at the time of cancellation (minus VAT). 

If you send your final payment early, EE will subtract 4% from this figure. They will also take off any costs they will save as a result of you leaving early. The company will then add VAT to the final amount.

If you cancel part way through a month, EE will work out the charge on a pro rata basis. If you're happy with the amount you'll need to pay, you’ll just need to give 30 days’ notice before you leave.

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Is it worth paying mid-contract switching fees?

It does sometimes make sense to pay the early exit fees and switch. However, whether this tactic will work for you largely depends on how much you'll save by switching. 

Before you make any decisions, you should first find out exactly how much it will cost for you to leave your current contract. This amount should be clearly labelled in the contract itself. But, if you have any doubts, speak to your provider and ask for the exact figure. 

Once you know exactly how much it will cost you to leave your current contract, you can see how much you can save by moving elsewhere. 

At this point, it's simple. If you're saving more money by switching than you're paying in early exit fees, you should cancel your contract and move elsewhere. 

However, if your early exit fees are much higher than the amount you'll save by switching, the move probably isn't worthwhile. That's unless you're really struggling with your connection and you've found that it no longer suits your needs (for example if the speeds you signed up for don't allow you to work from home).

In this instance though, before you switch, it's worth speaking to your provider. In order to keep you, they may reduce/waive the early exit fee if you sign up for another of their plans. If so, this may be the most cost-efficient way of accessing quicker speeds. 

If they won't (remember they don't have to), you'll just have to decide whether the increased convenience or improved service from a different provider is worth the extra you'll need to pay. 

If you decide that it isn't and you'll stick with your current connection instead, then take a look at our guide to speeding up your broadband.

Find out how much you could save by switching

Interested to see how much money you could save by switching providers? If you don't have too long left on your contract, then you may be able to save considerably more than you'd spend on early exit fees. You may be eligible for a great bonus too, like bill credit or a gift card. 

The easiest way to see how much money you could save by switching is to pop your postcode into our widget below. We'll then show you all of the best deals in your area today. 

Tom Brook

Tom is a freelance copywriter and content marketer with over seven years' experience. Originally from an agency background, he is proud to have worked on campaigns for a number of energy providers, comparison sites and consumer brands.