Broadband network builder and internet service provider (ISP) TalkTalk has launched its own Fairer Broadband Charter and called on its rivals to stand alongside it to put an end to unpopular practices, such as mid-contract price hikes.
Research commissioned by the firm as part of an ongoing campaign around fairer access to broadband found that 87% of consumers agreed it was unfair that providers were still allowed to raise the price of their broadband contracts midway through – most major providers such as BT and Virgin Media have done this in the past 18 months.
Furthermore, it found that 62% of customers did not know when their contracts ended and were therefore liable to end up paying higher out-of-contract prices. This problem – which also affects holders of mobile phone contracts – has been the focus of campaigning by Citizens Advice, and was also the subject of a recent consultation by telecoms regulator Ofcom.
“Telecoms companies have been ripping off consumers for far too long. The industry has to change to rebuild trust with consumers. We led the way two years ago and became the first provider to guarantee no mid-contract price rises,” said TalkTalk CEO Tristia Harrison.
“It’s proved hugely popular and today we’re going even further. Our Fairer Broadband Charter sets out three simple ways we’ll put customers first. I’m challenging our rivals to follow our lead so that the whole industry can rebuild trust with customers.”
Two years after launching a number of consumer price plans that guarantee no mid-contract price hikes, TalkTalk said the three-point charter demonstrated its “commitment to fairness and value”.
Tristia Harrison, TalkTalk
It called on the industry to guarantee that the sign-up price of a broadband package will be the price consumers pay throughout its lifetime; that all new fibre-based broadband customers will be able to walk away if speed and reliability fall short of what was promised; and that they will proactively contact customers before the expiry of their contract to warn them about potential price rises and offer the option of re-contracting at a better rate.
Broadband Genie’s Matt Powell said that while TalkTalk clearly had commercial reasons for promoting its charter, it was nevertheless encouraging to see ISPs starting to proactively push for industry-wide change.
“It remains to be seen whether it will have any real impact, though all providers may eventually be forced to follow rules similar to the charter whether they like it or not. There are new guidelines being introduced in 2019 which will see ISPs notifying customers at the end of a contract, and the Competition and Markets Authority is currently investigating why customer loyalty is often rewarded with higher prices,” said Powell.
“The TalkTalk survey findings don’t come as a surprise. When signing up for a broadband contract at a fixed price, customers are, of course, going to be aggrieved if they’re hit with extra costs in the middle of the contract. We found from our own research that 62% view broadband advertising as dishonest, and that a third of customers feel they have been misled by broadband advertising.
“Realistically, we’re a long way off seeing an end to mid-contract price rises. In the meantime, it’s worth noting once again that anyone affected by a price rise which is not linked to inflation has 30 days to leave the contract, allowing customers to express their dissatisfaction by switching to a different provider without penalty,” he added.