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Has your money-saving ‘life-admin’ been thwarted by lockdown?

We’ve found that many are struggling to get in touch with household utility and service providers during lockdown. Has your ‘life-admin’ become more difficult?

With the majority of us now staying at home, you might think the lockdown is a prime opportunity to cut household bills and switch to better providers for any regular expenses such as broadband, energy, pay TV – or even your mortgage.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

But when we surveyed 4,000 UK adults in late April, unsurprisingly around one in five of them told us they had experienced problems contacting their provider in the last month (21%).

And, as many as one in five people said they were less likely to contact their provider because it had asked them not to get in touch unless it was about urgent matters.

Contact issues

More than half (53%) of broadband customers, and a third (32%) of pay-TV customers said they ran into problems contacting their provider.

Typically these included long call waiting times and – particularly for broadband providers – and no online chat support available.

This has been particularly frustrating because two in five (38%) said they were more likely to negotiate the price of their pay-TV or broadband deals during the lockdown.

Have you had a refund for a cancelled service?

Conversely, the lockdown made a fifth of respondents less likely to switch broadband (22%) or pay-TV provider (20%), despite the cost savings on offer. Concerns ranged from switching being too hard, to the risk of putting additional strain on call centres.

Worryingly, 14% of respondents whose broadband contracts had reached an end told us they had been unable to switch.

Have you been unable to switch?

Some people told Which? that despite the current crisis they were still looking to remortgage, with one in five (22%) of those who contacted their bank in the last month doing so to discuss remortgaging. 

But only half (52%) of those who did contact their bank are confident they will be able to successfully remortgage in the next three months. Concerning for anyone who’s fixed-rate deal may be coming to an end. 

Clearly these are unprecedented times we are all living through, but businesses cannot take their customers for granted.

If you’ve been refused a switch or unable to negotiate a better deal we’d like to hear your story in the comments.

Comments

I pay all my bills by direct debit, including paying off the monthly balances on my two credit cards. I’m on two year contracts with my energy supplier and broadband provider, so will not need to think about them for months. Apart from groceries I have been spending little and I have not bought any fuel for the car.

I put away my wallet in March, keeping £10 and a credit card in my phone case. I have not used any cash apart from giving away my coins to a friend to buy eggs from a farm.

My bank balance is now quite healthy, but what worries me is what’s happened to investments.

I changed my 1 year energy contract after lockdown had started- same provider (Scottish Power), better process – half way through its term via USwitch. Which?Switch refused to let me do it through them as I was already with SP. There was no problem. My broadband deal was renegotiated in mid March with no problem; again, same provider (JL) better price.

Wavechange, investments have dropped about 15% or so from their peak (moderate risk portfolio) but that only matters if you need to sell. The only danger is if anyone you have shares in goes broke. They will take time to recover but once the pandemic seems to be stabilised and under some degree of control I imagine the gradual rise will continue. Best hold on to them. The real issue for most people is the cancellation and future loss of dividends, as these are what provide (part of) many people’s income – particularly the older generation. My guess is they will take quite a time to recover.

I won’t be taking any action for the time being, Malcolm. I treat shares as money I can afford to lose, though I’m definitely not keen.

I’m on danger of going off topic :-(. I see shares as a good investment in an ISA – tax free capital gains if sold, tax free income – providing you can tie up money long term when they’ll have appreciated. More liquid than some assets if you have to raise capital but I can borrow against mine if necessary.

My energy supplier, Ovo, informs me that I can reduce my payments if I’m struggling because of the coronavirus crisis. All suppliers are required to help customers manage their payments if the fall into debt but at a time like this it is reassuring to be told.

I sent an email to GREEN.energy on 26 April asking why my monthly direct debit (paid earlier in April) didn’t appear on my end of month bill. I finally got a reply by email on the 1st June (36 days later) indicating it was on the bill for the end of May, but not why. She also asked if I had any other queries. I didn’t like to ask what the reason was for the delay was in case I had to wait another 36 days fro a reply to that!

After already trying for 1/2 hour the day before and giving up, I had to wait over half an hour to speak to NS&I find out why my £4000 had gone missing out of my bank account on 28 May but not turning up in their account until 5th June!

Lezlee says:
12 June 2020

PROTECT CASH AND PAY OUR WAY
It is imperative that Which & the FCA make sure that the Chancellor puts into Law what he promised in the Budget to Protect Cash and this needs to be done urgently. Lots of vulnerable people and people 50+ to name just two groups who have found it difficult in some shops to use cash, B and Q, IKEA, McDonalds, service stations and Gregg’s the bakers but a few and also in accessing cash. Millions of these people rely on cash to live and they should have the freedom to pay their way and not feel like they are being left behind. Card users also need Cash as a backup for when the technology goes wrong. Please help and chase the Chancellor urgently, this is causing some people to be depressed with worry and this in turn will lead to mental health problems. Also a lot of people who are shielding need to pay cash to people who have been doing shopping for them etc. Mothers and fathers struggling with young children on low incomes need cash.