/ Money

Charges that should be banned

Fees and charges

Why should you have to pay to print your theatre tickets at home or to leave a mortgage that has ended? These are just some of the charges we think should be banned.

Many of you have in the past written to us on Which? Conversation with examples of such charges for ‘extras’ that we feel should be free or included in the headline price.

While these charges are perfectly legal, our view is clear. If you can’t escape paying a fee it should be included in the price. There are four we believe should be banned and five that seem excessive.

Ban these fees

Print at home fees for tickets you print yourself: Theatre and gig-goers typically have to pay a booking fee on top of the face value of the ticket and another to have the tickets sent to you.

But why on earth should you have to pay a fee (up to £2.50 in some cases) to use your own printer ink to print off tickets?

A ‘cessation charge‘: You pay this if you leave BT to switch to a company that has its own network (esentially Virgin Media) or to opt out of a BT broadband connection. You pay this even though you’re out of contract.

Exit feesThere are charges to set up a mortgage, but you can also get charged when you finish paying it off. Most lenders now call these ‘exit fees’.

Eric said on Which? Conversation he was expecting such a charge when his mortgage ends:

‘This, they say, is an admin charge to close the account. I feel I’ve paid them enough over 25 years.’

Letting agents’ admin feesCharged to tenants on top of rent.

Excessive charges

There are also charges that you can sidestep, if you know what to look for and are prepared to shop around – but they’re commonly imposed by many providers. Examples of these include:

Replacement insurance policy charges: Not all car and home insurers charge for this, but yours might.

Excess waiver insurance: Charged when you hire a car abroad, but far more expensive than standalone alternatives.

Airline seat advance reservation fees: Introduced by budget airlines, now very widespread. Avoidable if you take a gamble and book seats the moment the online check-in opens.

Tips invited by cruise ship companies which also add a service charge at the end of the cruise.

High cancellation charges: If you have to cancel a holiday booking.

Firms that slap on extra fees might hope you won’t notice, but it’s always a shock to find the actual cost is higher than it first appeared. In some cases, an add-on is justified (and perhaps not very expensive) but in others it seems an opportunistic liberty.

Let’s be clear. We think it’s great that in some areas fees are much clearer than they used to be – but that doesn’t mean it’s right they should be charged in the first place.

Have we caught the worst examples? Are there any new fees you’ve noticed, which weren’t charged until recently? Are there any you’ve successfully challenged?

Join our fight against sneaky fees


Vodafone world traveller system does NOT cover the world also their blurb says you only pay £5 per day if you use the phone not true they charge £5 per day if your phone is simply turned on while you are away beware mighty charges will be applied.

Bert Pooler says:
22 June 2016

I use WiSpire from which I get broadband off the village church tower here in Happisburgh NR12 !!

Bert – Thats what I have been banging on about for those with very low broadband speeds .particularly in isolated communities. Good to hear from an actual user ! Good man.

Katie Bainbridge says:
22 June 2016

Moving house and having to start a contract from scratch with your provider or else be charged (depending on how much time left the contract has to run) a massive fee. If you rent, therefore have to move frequently, the chances are that the only way to get rid of the damned provider is to pay the huge fee, usually the remaining months in full, or leave the country! I’ve been stung by Talktalk because I could not transfer the line. I have a line I cannot afford to cancel all at one go and a service to pay for that I cannot use. Talktalk are holding me to the contract. Not a nice experience…

d johnson says:
22 June 2016

Making initial contact by telephone is easily accessible and standard charge / national rate phone call. Anything else( cancellation , helpline etc) is charged at a higher rate……………..and you wait and wait for your call to be answered!

Ian says:
23 June 2016

Consumer protection regulations introduced two years ago have banned this practice for retailers, traders and passenger transport companies. The regulations were extended to cover financial services just over a year later.

David says:
23 June 2016

weq4u an app, works well I have been using it for over a year now.

A A says:
22 June 2016

I was stung but BT when I ordered wifi broadband from them, it didn’t work, and when I returned it they charged me cancellation fees.

AA if the broadband did not function due to a technical problem on BT,s part you are legally allowed to leave with no cost incurred to yourself . Could you elucidate on “it didnt work ” ? so I can be more informative. If you start a contract for a set period you are stuck with it unless it is the companies fault ,if not,– all companies will charge for cancellation.

Christopher Christoforou says:
22 June 2016

I took out a 1% tracker pension. I did not realise that 15% would be taken in charges with every payment made.

If that was not explained to you [if you arranged the pension face-to-face with a representative], or was not printed in the literature on which you based your decision, then you might be in a position to claim miss-selling.

Paul S says:
22 June 2016

Hit with a £31 cessation fee. On the 13th May my BT Internet and phone went off altogether, after 2 weeks of silly phone calls including one that the BT representative said that I could use the BTWifi from the satellite, saying I’d need a very good PC to do so! I replied that even NASA don’t use Wifi in space! I was told 4 different issues with the Broadband and that it could take longer than the middle of June before repairs are made. Meanwhile I’m using my Mobile phone for internet connected to my PC. I had to ask when my contract ended, I knew roughly but actual date I did not until I asked via live chat.
I’d been with BT for 11 years but the excuses that were made this time and lack of customer care made me jump ship to Virgin. So I made a new contract with Virgin which started after my BT contract ended. BT still hadn’t fixed the broadband or phone by the time Virgin was installed a month after BT went down. So my connection was never repaired so didn’t require disconnecting. BT took a 3 month charge out by DD before the contract ended, on the very day in fact, they had to give that back to me as I asked for a refund. They gave me back the £129 plus £6 credit owed then took out the £31 cessation charge.
I will be fighting them for this back as I feel little effort was done to reconnect me plus I had used £30 data on my mobile phone.
I did ask about compensation at the time and the BT rep said, less than 20% chance of getting anything back even if I had started a new contract.
Paul (Wigan)

Paul if you changed ISP,s after your contract with BT expired then you would be hit with a cancellation fee if you did not ask for a MAC address to give to Virgin, which is precisely the amount they have charged you . If Virgin installed their service then they cant have used BT lines as they have their own cables and exchange system . Therefore they must have installed it locally or it was already installed but not connected up. It sounds like BT had a serious cable fault but could you give me more info ? While I can understand your anger I doubt you will get back the £31 otherwise there would be a veritable flood of claims across the UK . While the MAC problem was publicised in the national press I see now due to many complaints on Which that maybe more publicity should be forthcoming from BT and other telephone companies that there is a charge ,if you switch to another provider without asking for a MAC address.

Barry says:
22 June 2016

BT are the worst ISP I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. I’m glad I left them 20 months ago. In the end I only got any satisfaction by emailing my complaints to Libby Barr. She didn’t reply directly but her underlings did. BT don’t like you to email their senior management but they need to be told just how poor their customer service is

d Nichol says:
22 June 2016

What Plusnet users do not realise is that Plusnet is Owned BY BT!!!

T Jones says:
22 June 2016

Watch out for Barratt Homes not disclosing full fees when you buy from them. New Home sales need investigating by Which?

It would be useful if you could give more information. Which fees are Barratt Homes not disclosing [e.g What for? and How much?]? Did you have a conveyancer acting for you?

Hugh says:
22 June 2016

and the biggest of all that is on the increase – chargeable telephone calls – when we have no choice but to wait. eg HMRC

Ian says:
23 June 2016

HMRC changed their premium rate 0845 and 0870 lines over to 0300 and 0345 numbers in several batches between April and October 2013.

Calls to 03 numbers are inclusive from landlines and mobiles, else charged at ‘geographic rate’ – the same as for calling family and friends on 01 and 02 numbers. The call price is set entirely by the caller’s landline or mobile provider and revenue sharing is not permitted.

If you are paying a high rate for your calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers, perhaps it is time to look for a better deal, one with an inclusive allowance that covers all of the calls you make to 01, 02 and 03 numbers each month? With these deals there is no charge for each individual call.

While I agree that Ian has a point ,and I myself am on one of those calling plans and they are worthwhile , I think Hugh has a point in another direction . Why should we pay for public information/help in relation to government services or related institutions ? To me that is totally undemocratic that YOU the tax payer are paying your own employees for information and help . Dont think this is universal ,it isnt , not all countries charge for this service , even the great “Land of the “Free” has better communication with its citizens . No . its just another rip-off money making , exercise in how to make as much money out of the general public as possible . Less and less information is now allowed on the public domain , has anybody wondered why ? and dont even think of bringing up the key word “terrorists ” as I can destroy that thinking very quickly if people could accept the truth.

But calls to HMRC and other public services are at basic rates; they are not making any money out of it. Indeed there is an argument that people who make a habit of calling the HMRC should pay a premium because 75% or more of tax payers never have to do so. What is scandalous with any telephone access policy is failure to answer the calls in a fast and efficient manner. I suggest that for premium rate calls the charges should be reversed to the called party after one minute of waiting time.

Ian says:
29 June 2016

Indeed, when you call a geographic number starting 01 or 02, a non-geographic number starting 03 or a mobile number starting 071-075 or 077-079, you are paying only your own telephone provider to connect and convey the call. No revenue flows to the called party.

It is numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118 where callers pay an Access Charge to the benefit of their own telephone provider plus an additional Service Charge to the benefit of the called party and their telecoms provider. Ofcom’s reforms were designed to make this difference very clear.

All well and good Ian but as I have already said those sales -call-back numbers including -070 etc usually silently divert you to Premium Call numbers and you only find out when the bill hits you. All is not what it seems.

Bt say for broad band based on your usage we estimate your bill will be so much a month. Sign hear for twelve months. Not only is the bill well above their estimate every month. They charge a premium to cancel if your in or out of contract. My advice when dealing with BT do not agree to anything that is vague and do not agree to anything unless the amount to be charged is in writing. If you have a choice don’t deal with them .

dpagb22- An estimate is just that –an estimate legally it is not a fixed amount but the estimated usage of a product. I have an estimated deduction via DD from my bank for my combined gas/electricity during the winter this shot up , not the estimate but the amount owed for the service provided I therefore had two choices I could up the amount of DD /month or I could get a card from them to take to a Pay -Point so that I could pay the extra amount of usage , I did the latter as the amount could vary with usage and therefore is not a fixed charge . You pay for usage . On your point of charging to cancel your contract when still in contract , name me a company that doesnt do that ? very few . When out of contract and you go elsewhere for broadband service as I have said above you must ask for a MAC address then you will not be charged the £31 cessation charge BT is not alone in this. When you agree to a contract be it written or over the phone you are therefore agreeing in Law to their Terms+ Conditions which are written down and are available on their websites or via any paperwork dealing with the company . On your car radio when an ad comes on at the end the speaker flashes through the terms and conditions but as long as they are stated then that is legal and stands in Law.

Terry Howell says:
24 June 2016

I wished to terminate a contract from EE after it had run out. I deleted my direct debit but was hit by monthly although I was not using my phone. Then I e-mailed to state that I wished to terminate my contract. ( my phone was not working). I was then told that I had to ring them from my phone to terminate my contract! Fortunately I was able to do so from my wife’s phone which was on the same contract. What if my phone had been lost or stolen!

Simon says:
24 June 2016

re: Excess waiver insurance.

If you don’t take out the hire car company’s excess insurance, they’ll usually want a hefty deposit on a credit card. It’s not so bad if they simply put a hold on the deposit amount, but on my two most recent hires, they took the deposit as an actual payment. This was for £1,800 in Iceland, and €950 in Spain. This means that when the refund eventually arrives, the exchange rate might have changed, and you can lose again. (As it happened though, I gained £40 from the Iceland hire.)

Another bugbear is there’s not always someone available to sign that the car was returned undamaged – I always take photos when this happens.

Alan says:
25 June 2016

Just bought a £60 ticket to see Black Sabbath through Ticketmaster (some may say that was a rip-off on its own but that was the cheapest ticket!).
At checkout hit with a £7.15 ‘service charge’ and a £3.45 fee for ‘standard post’ (the only delivery method available).
So a £60 ticket actually cost £70.60!!

How is Ozzy doing Alan -back with his wife yet and I take it not throwing TV,s over garden walls ? He is a right character I used to get a laugh when he ran that TV show never looked back from Paranoia ( the song ).

Rod says:
25 June 2016

Last weekend I was visiting friends in Washington DC – I bought tickets on Ticketmaster for a comedy show.
For US citizens, collect at box office was free; for non-US citizens it cost $2.50!
There was no check of any documentation when collecting the tickets.
Perhaps those nice chaps Messrs Farage, Gove and Johnson could introduce such charges in their brave new Britain?

I wouldnt build your hopes up Rod according to the BBC they have already reneged on two major rhetoric promises already.

Robert Cooper says:
30 June 2016

I was a customer of Virgin Media and when I moved to an address where they did not have cables installed I was charged £250 “Cancellation Fee” as they couldn’t provide the service anymore!

Thats interesting Robert if you move house with BT and they cant provide service then you can cancel without charge ,also if you have a very serious illness or have not long to live . I will check up their terms . They call it an -early disconnection fee means the same , it is charged on a monthly outstanding basis .Phone -for example -£!0 /m –broadband -ranging from -£15 to £35 depending on package , not a word about unusual circumstances . You have been charged their maximum fee Robert which they say is “capped ” . That was “kind ” of them .

John Hurst says:
30 June 2016

Having read that TSB has stopped charging mortgage redemption fees I was surprised to find a ‘closing admin fee’ of £30 needed to pay off the final part of our mortgage. I contacted TSB to be told that , as our mortgage had been with C and G which was taken over by T SB including their terms and conditions, it was impossible to cancel the charge. What a load of nonsense and poor customer service! John Hurst