Brits with slow broadband ‘punished’ for switching early

Citizens Advice has looked at thousands of instances of broadband problems in the UK, and found that many people are hit with unfair or arbitrary fees for switching.

Some Brits are getting locked into inappropriate broadband contracts and hit by unexpected cancellation fees when they try and cancel. That's according to a new report by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland.

What's more, many people who refuse to pay for these unexpected - and often arbitrary - costs have their fees passed to debt collectors.

Citizens Advice found that the average cost of getting out of a broadband contract early was £190. In some cases, fees were as much as £625.

Slow broadband speeds, persistent technical problems and appalling customer service were all highlighted as reasons for people trying to switch broadband. Some customers were also hit by fees when they moved house, despite the fact that they couldn't use the same service after they moved.

Overall, Citizens Advice looked at more than 3,300 broadband problems that occurred between July 2013 and June 2014. It found that 23% of problems were around cancellation and withdrawal, 18% were to do with complaints and 15% of issues were around costs, billing or payments.

One woman faced a termination fee that wasn't listed in her contract after she switched to get away from broadband so slow she had to use an internet cafe to get online.

Another case highlighted involved a pensioner changing providers after months of his service not working, then being charged £200 for early cancellation - a charge that was passed to a debt collection company.

Citizens Advice concluded that many cancellation fees are unreasonable, and called for providers not to issue them if the customer is having problems with their service.

Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice said: "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."

If you feel you've been unfairly treated by your broadband provider, Citizens Advice can certainly help, but there are other avenues you can try as well.

CISAS (Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme) was created more than 10 years ago to settle disputes between providers and customers. Unfortunately, not all providers are members of the scheme, but if yours is, CISAS can probably help you.

Alternatively, Ombudsman Services: Communications provides impartial advice and helps settle disputes with broadband providers. It's free, but again, your provider must be a member for the organisation to get involved.

However, most major broadband providers in the UK are a member of one or the other, so if you have problems, it's likely one of them can help you out.

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