Consumer: Broadband customers must not be ‘shackled’

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Broadband customers are being “punished” with average cancellation fees of £190 to escape unsuitable or sub-standard contracts, a consumer group has claimed.

Citizens Advice said consumers who challenge the fees - of up to £625 - were seeing the charges passed to debt collectors.

The charity said some people were finding themselves locked into unsuitable broadband contracts or hit by arbitrary cancellation fees when they switched to get a better service.

One woman was hit by a cancellation fee, even though it was not in the terms and conditions of her contract, when she tried to switch provider after her broadband speed became so bad that she was paying repeatedly to use an internet café.

Those moving house were sometimes hit by early cancellation fees, despite the fact that they could not transfer the service to their new address.

Citizens Advice found the average cost for getting out of a broadband contract was £190, with fees of up to £625 reported.

Other broadband-related complaints over the last year included “snail’s pace” connection speeds and persistent faults.

More than half of problems reported to the consumer organisation were for sub-standard service, it said.

Citizens Advice said consumers phoned in more than 3,300 internet and broadband problems to its bureaux in England and Wales.

And more than 4,500 issues were reported to the action group’s website across England, Scotland and Wales in the year to June.

Campaigners are now calling on internet service providers to scrap their cancellation fees for customers who have had persistent problems with their broadband service to ensure that consumers are not forced to remain in unsatisfactory contracts.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “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.”

She added: “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.”

PIC: Bruce Rollinson

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