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Cancellation fees “punishment” for switching broadband suppliers says Citizens Advice

People who stand up to costly broadband cancellation charges are seeing their fees passed to debt collectors, finds Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland.

New evidence from the Citizens Advice service reveals some people are finding themselves locked into unsuitable broadband contracts or hit by arbitrary cancellation fees when they switch to get a better service. The charity found the average cost was £190 for getting out of a broadband contract, with fees up to £625 reported, in cases from the first six months of the year where cancellation fees were recorded.   

Snail’s pace connection speeds, persistent faults and bad customer service were among other gripes consumers complained about over the last year. Over half of problems reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service were for substandard service.

Those moving house were sometimes hit by the early cancellation fees, despite the fact that they wouldn’t be able use the service after they moved.

The cases analysed were taken from over 3,300 internet and broadband problems reported to Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales and over 4,500 issues highlighted to the consumer service across England, Scotland and Wales from July 2013 to June 2014.

Of the 3,300 internet and broadband problems handled by Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales, the top three reported issues are:

  • 1 in 5 problems (23%) are about cancellation and withdrawal.
  • 18 per cent of problems are to do with complaints & redress.
  • 15 per cent of problems concern costs, billing or payment.

Citizens Advice is calling for internet service providers to never issue cancellation fees if customers have been having persistent problems with their service, so that people aren’t being forced to stay in unsatisfactory contracts. Providers also need to improve their customer service, and must be a lot more careful handing cancellation fees over to debt collectors. 

Gillian Guy - Chief Executive of Citizens Advice sais:

"People are finding themselves held captive by bad broadband services. Some consumers who have stood up to problem suppliers have found themselves being punished for switching when they’ve been hit with a cancellation fee that is then passed over to a debt collection agency.

"Internet service providers must not shackle customers seeking a better service with unreasonable fees that can turn into shock debt. All internet users need to be able to easily have a way out of inadequate contracts and broadband speeds that only give them daily frustration.”

More people are now accessing online help from Citizens Advice around internet, phones, television and computers, up 83% from July 2013 to June 2014.

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