Citizens Advice Bureau calls time on broadband cancellation charges

Citizens Advice Bureau looks to challenge contract cancellation charges

The Citizens Advice Bureau has found that many broadband customers who resist paying arbitrary cancellation charges are having their fees passed onto debt collectors.

New evidence collected from 3,300 internet and broadband problems reported to the Bureau, revealed that some people are finding themselves locked into unsuitable broadband contracts or being hit by cancellation charges of up to £625.

The Citizens Advice Bureau said that if the customer refuses to pay these charges, the cancellation fee is then passed over to a debt-collection agency, in what Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, labels as “punishment” for either terminating a contract or switching suppliers. “People are finding themselves held captive by bad broadband services,” said Guy.

In response to the findings, the Citizens Advice Bureau is calling on broadband providers to never charge customers who wish to cancel their contracts due to persistent service problems.

The Bureau found that many cancellations were prompted by “snail’s pace” connection speeds and persistent broadband faults. Over half of the cancellations were attributed to the poor customer service offered by broadband providers.

Some of the problems handled by the Bureau included a woman being hit by a cancellation fee even though her service was so bad she was forced to visit an internet café.

Another problem included a 70-year-old man facing a fee of £200 for the early cancellation of his service, which had stopped working after months of problems.

A spokesman from the Citizens Advice Bureau told V3 there are three steps that customers can take to help protect themselves against steep cancellation charges.

The first included documenting broadband problems as they happen in order to build up a portfolio of evidence to take to the provider as a reason for cancellation.

The second measure involves carefully checking a provider’s contractual terms and conditions to see whether any broadband performance problems constitute a breach in contract by the supplier.

Finally, if the first two options are unsuccessful, then a consumer facing cancellation charges should seek advice from the Bureau, which will endeavour to address the problems and, if necessary, set up a fee-payment plan between the customer and the broadband supplier.

The Citizens Advice Bureau spokesman said that providers should do more to address concerns. “Companies should be responding to their customers,” he said.

V3 approached BT, one of the UK’s biggest broadband providers, to discuss how it deals with complaints and cancellation charges, but the company has yet to respond.

Broadband tends to be a prickly issue in the UK with many complaints aimed at major suppliers over numerous issues, from service cost to broadband performance.

It was recently revealed that BT was the most complained-about broadband provider at the end of 2013.

Plenty of in-fighting also exits between providers, as was revealed when TalkTalk accused BT of trying to create a broadband monopoly with the amount it charges other providers for access to its fibre services.

However, action is being taken to improve the services for broadband customers, with Ofcom pushing for 8Mbps to be the new minimum download speed in the UK.

Ofcom is also forcing BT’s Openreach division to fix 70 percent of broadband faults within two days or face sanctions from the watchdog.

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5 August 2014 | 5:16 pm – Source: v3.co.uk

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