/ Money

The fees you could live without

Fees and charges

You’ve been sharing your stories of the everyday fees that really wind you up, from contract termination charges to the cost of updating your address…

Just when you think you’ve got your finances nicely under control, up pops a charge for something that you really don’t think should cost you anything. Naturally, some charges are to be expected and many of them are completely reasonable, but you’ve told us recently on Which? Conversation that there are plenty of fees out there that you don’t think make sense.

A charge crept up on Methvano right at the end of a house sale:

‘Just sold house (in Scotland) and solicitor of buyer deducted £19.20 fee for cost of his client’s money transfer on the sale day, to my account, on the final piece of documentation, which made the sale legally binding. Was I going to withdraw at this point because of this, would you? Daylight robbery!’

Pauline Seaman was not impressed with Saga:

‘We’ve just moved house and Saga charged us £45 fee to change our address on our car insurance. We will not renew with them!’

Excess waiver insurance on car hire can cost a lot more than it needs to, but Simon spotted one possible benefit:

‘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).’

Lost connections

Moving house, starting a new contract, ending an old one, upgrading to a ‘better offer’: all these situations can lead to headaches and cheeky fees. Joseph Cronshaw was talked into a deal that wasn’t quite what he bargained for:

‘I was coming to the end of my contract, and I checked with BT about the earliest date I could cancel, using the contact form. I got a call from them mid evening, going into how they might be able to help me overcome some of the reasons why I was considering leaving BT. After quite some time going back and forth with different offers, the person convinced me I was on the wrong plan, and came up with a new one that was much cheaper; it also included a mobile phone card for £10 per month. I accepted. Within two months, the bill had climbed back to where I was before, and I asked them to cancel the mobile phone. And then the big shock: I was locked into an 18-month contract and could not cancel the mobile phone even though they could see I had not used it, because I have a Pay as You Go phone that I have been using for years.’

Moving is stressful enough without having to worry about extra fees from your phone or internet provider, as Katie Bainbridge has experienced:

‘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 in one go and a service to pay for that I cannot use. Talktalk are holding me to the contract. Not a nice experience…’

Swapping between providers can throw up a few pricey surprises too, as Peter from Carshalton explains:

‘Some years ago I changed from BT to Virgin for my TV, broadband and phone. I have always had a BT Internet.com email address. Unbeknown to me they started charging £1.60 a month for the privilege some time ago, but have now upped it to £5 a month. BT never bothered to contact me about the £1.60 a month charge. To change my email address after all this time would be real pain in the backside—so now I am lumbered with paying £60 a year for having a BT address.’

What’s the most recent surprising fee that you’ve encountered?


Sneeky fees ?? – Methvano-sale of house in Scotland charged £20 I said a short while ago if anybody checks up with Scottish land+house purchase law you are legally entitled to a FULL costing of solicitors charges before the work is done , if he didnt (the client ) ask for that then dont blame the lawyer. Peter from Carshalton -again this was brought up and I pointed out that BT is a private company what do you expect them to do if you leave them ? keep providing the service free/gratis . Other companies wont let you do that . It was pointed out in a “blaze ” of publicity that BT was going to do this , everybody had the opportunity to decide for themselves as to the position they would take . If Peter took 2 minutes to visit BT,s website he could find this out also its archived even on webpages , or could have logged into MY BT to get the info. I wont repeat the T+C I have already posted them here but if anybody is still not convinced I will. Talk -Talk holding you to contract ?? what do you expect ? , you agreed to the conditions of service check out every other telephone company, some are quite lenient but they all stipulate , you agree with it ,you pay for it . I would have thought that examples that could be given that were more solid in their ability to be heavily criticized would have been used .


Several years ago I renewed my car insurance by phone and informed the representative that I would be retiring soon, and gave the exact date. He asked me to let them know when this had happened. I did this and was told that there would be a charge for amending my details. I was not pleased and after further discussion the fee was waived.

I can appreciate that many factors affect risk and changing your address could be a valid reason for a supplementary charge because of the location of where the car is kept and driven. Changing a mobile number or email address would attract a fee, and they don’t affect risk.

When I have used this anecdote before it has been pointed out that it costs the company money to make the changes, but I see the recording of minor amendments as part of the service I have paid for. Where changes require a reappraisal of risk then that should at least be explained.


I sympathise with your view, wavechange but with competition among insurers to keep costs down, I don’t think you can assume such admin costs are “part of the service”. Other customers who don’t make changes would then be subsidising those who do.


Perhaps we could compare this with running a current account which is generally free if you stay in credit, even by a small amount. Banks provide many services without charge, including ATMs, branches and internet banking. Some make heavy use of these services and others do so infrequently.

Is it too much to expect insurance companies to let us make minor changes without charge? Obviously any changes that affect risk may incur extra charges. I am pleased to report that I will be with a motor insurer that does not charge for minor amendments, though that was not the reason I changed, just a bonus.


Some while ago there was a Convo about ATMs and a plea for them to be free. Now we seem to be suggesting it is unfair for banking services to be free. Confusing, isn’t it. 🙂

robert C says:
17 July 2016

agreed, and it is probably a contractual obligation to keep them informed. Surely minor changes such as email address or phone should be FOC – esp if you can update them on-line yourself. Revised risk is of course a different matter. Retiring? Not commuting to work? less miles? I’d expect a refund.


I wonder how many of so-called “sneaky fees” are actually in the contract conditions that are accepted when you buy a service? It would be appropriate to know this when using them as examples. I presume that a contract would be unenforceable if an undisclosed condition was imposed.


Hi Malcolm, I’ve tweaked this to be about the fees that have surprised people. They’re not quite the sneaky fees we’ve been talking about in our campaign. Sorry about that.


Thanks Patrick


Bit of a damp squib. People who do not delve complaining that they have been gulled. There is a limited amount of sympathy for people who make unjustified assumptions, refuse to read the news, and otherwise do not engage fully.

Obviously exceptions should be made for those who have not the capability to keep up with what is going on. I have said before that velocity of change is actually a weapon of confusion for the corporations. I would suggest seriously that the greatest service that could occur for the public is the limiting of how much change any business is allowed to make in a year to its terms and conditions. Furthermore that particular industries by law have to present them in a specific week in each year. This would be especially suitable for the utilities which now I consider includes Broad Band and Mobile.

AT a stroke we remove confusion from the market place. Obviously newspapers and commentators will become less rewarded for the remaining 10 months of the year but can console themselves with printing stories about service levels and outages etc.


dieseltaylor, I’d like to see a model “Standard terms and conditions”, that are independently approved, used within a given industry, with only necessary additions needing to be added by a specific provider or supplier. We would not then have to continually trawl through (although necessary) information and it would make comparing providers much easier – just on where they differ. “Model conditions of contract” already exist for a number of commercial sectors.


It’s not always a case of being unaware of terms and conditions, Dieseltaylor. In the example I have given, I was well aware of the charge and tried to avoid it by telling my motor insurance company during the renewal process – the annual opportunity to make changes without cost.

Not so long ago, many companies would charge us to phone them even if the purpose of the call was to make a valid complaint about poor service. Now any call to customer services from an existing customer must not generate revenue. The commercial world deserves this because of their greed. It’s a bit different from additional charges but the principle is the same and the consumer won this long drawn out battle. I think it is fair enough to charge customers who need individual help with setting up their computer, connecting a printer, and so on, but they will have to cover their costs in a different way.

I would love standard terms and conditions with additional features. It’s analogous to buying a car where manufacturer offers a list of specifications and options that can be specified, but it’s unlikely that different companies will offer equivalent specifications. I have seen standard specifications working really well where a variety of computer specifications were put out to tender and the successful companies would supply one or hundreds of computers built to the specifications needed.

robert C says:
17 July 2016

I’d go one further, for things such as banks and utilities I would like to see standard T&C that are reasonable, much shorter than now and approved (as in checked and recommended) by Which and other organisations. Companies can then offer their own T&C or the approved ones – simply issuing a price list for those standard features such as a name c