As we edge closer to what experts predict could be significant increases to our monthly broadband costs, it has been reported (opens in new tab) that the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has launched an official investigation into consumer clarity around these hikes - in particular mid-contract rises.
By spring we largely expect many of the country's internet service providers (ISPs) to put up prices by between 14-16%, stemming from a mixture of their typical annual increases and the current CPI. In fact, we have already seen confirmation of this from the likes of TalkTalk, BT and EE, and sadly there's very little those at the start or in the middle of their respective broadband contracts can do about it.
However, this is what Ofcom is specifically examining with its latest review, as it suspects the majority of consumers will be unaware of these contractual circumstances.
As such, if Ofcom finds this is the case, and that this is because ISPs haven't provided enough clarity and transparency about their contracts when they take on new customers, it would allow those affected to exit these contracts without paying any penalties. This is something Ofcom stipulates can be allowed to happen under its current rulings.
Ofcom's research suggests consumer uncertainty
The move comes following the initial warning Ofcom sent UK ISPs last year (opens in new tab) when these prices rises were first being forecasted. It had questioned them about whether or not this would be a justifiable move during the current cost-of-living crisis, but as this didn't seem to make any real impact, it has stepped up the pressure with this formal review.
This has also been grounded in its own preliminary consumer research, which suggests that 'a third of mobile and broadband customers do not know whether their provider can increase their price'. What's more, of those that did 'around half do not know how this would be calculated' and more significantly 'nearly half' of all customers don't understand CPI or RPI.
Speaking about the move, Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom’s Director of Telecoms Consumer Protection, said:
"Customers need certainty and clarity about what they will pay over the course of their contract. But inflation-linked price rises can be unclear and unpredictable. So we’re concerned that providers are making it difficult for customers to know what to expect.
"We’re taking a thorough look at these types of contract terms, to understand fully the extent to which customers truly know what they’re signing up to, and whether tougher protections are needed".
How to cut broadband bills right now
Off the back of this, Ofcom's new review will ultimately be looking at how ISPs are providing information about mid-contract price rises to their customers, but this will of course take time. As such there are a few things we can do to look at reducing our broadband bills right now, these include:
- Assess your broadband needs to decide if whether or not you really need to the speeds you currently get.
- If you're out of contract (or close) shop around and see what deals are available.
- Speak directly to your provider about their price rises and see if you can negotiate a better deal.
If you are looking for a cheaper package, then we can also help with this. If you head to our best broadband deals page, you'll see all the latest offerings from the UK's leading ISPs. Alternatively, you can put your postcode into the widget below and we'll bring up all the top deals in your area.