/ Technology

Are you stuck in a rut with your broadband provider?

I’ve been an advocate of broadband switching for a long time. Why stay with a provider you aren’t happy with? Yet our survey found that many unhappy consumers still aren’t switching their broadband. So why is that?

Our investigation into broadband switching found the majority of customers had a positive switching experience in the past, yet there was still room for improvement.

The overriding message was that many are discouraged from switching because they’re concerned something will go wrong, or they think it will be too much effort.

A tale of switching

I was horrified when I found out how much my parents were paying for their home phone line and broadband connection. Unsurprisingly, they found a much better deal without much trouble and decided to switch.

One of their main concerns was the physical switchover of the router and connection. Unfortunately, their concerns were well founded. The old line was cut-off 24-hours before they were told it would be without any explanation or warning.

As an additional complication, the password for the new broadband account had been arranged over the phone but was somewhat lost in translation. But all in all, they were happy to be up and running fairly painlessly, until a few weeks later…

The sting in the tale

BT told my parents to expect two final bills for the separate broadband and home phone line rental accounts they’d closed. However, when a letter from BT arrived, it turned out to be a normal bill for the next charge period as though nothing had ever happened.

Were BT finding it hard to let go of this relationship? My mum was told the proper procedure for cancelling the broadband had not been followed. When my parents signed up with Plusnet, they were told this would be taken care of and, since the broadband had been offline for 24 hours, they were fairly convinced it had been.

The customer service representative’s response to this was that there must have been an outage in service, but I remain unconvinced.

Did they live happily ever after?

Two more calls were required before the situation was finally sorted. But why should switching involve a morning of chasing companies, with the onus on the customer to check the situation is sorted? Overall, my parents are pleased they made the move. But they aren’t alone in their experience, as nearly one in 10 of the switchers we asked found they had problems setting up a new connection or found their old provider was still taking payments.

We’ve shared our research with Ofcom, which is currently reviewing how broadband switching can be improved. Have you had a negative experience switching your broadband in the past?


I should be interested to know how many “unhappy consumers” there are as a percentage for each broadband supplier. Maybe it is significant which might explain why the companies put obstacles in the way of switching. Your article makes it very clear why people are loath to embark on a switch. This certainly needs to be addressed in the interests of protecting fair competition. At what speed is Ofcom currently running [to the nearest quinquennium will do]?


Hi John, I would like to emphasise again that the vast majority in our research (eight in 10) said switching was easy for them. But, I totally agree, the switching issues that affect a minority must be addressed with urgency – both in the interests of competition which is essential in ensuring the best deals for customers, and the fact that it can be a total pain in the neck!

Which? responded to the latest Ofcom consultation into switching which closed in May of this year.. This first phase is looking at phone and broadband services over the Openreach copper network (subsequent phases are planned to look at cable and TV services) and proposes a number of new process options, including a prefered one. The latest update from Ofcom is that they are ‘reviewing the consultation responses and doing some further work in a couple of areas’. They hope to have more clarity on timings in the Autumn. I’ll be making sure we (and you) are kept up to date!


. . . Won’t hold my breath then.

Thanks Catherine.


I know some people who remain tied to their ISP because they chose to use an e-mail address provided by their ISP many years ago and are now reluctant to change it. If they leave their ISP, they will lose their e-mail address. To prevent this, I believe we need a ban on the bundling of e-mail addresses with new broadband connections and the right to keep an ISP-provided e-mail address for a reasonable low fee after leaving an ISP (e.g. £1 per month).


Yes nfh, where the ISP and the broadband provider are one and the same that is probably the most important consideration, and you can see why the providers are frightened of yielding such a facility.

Personally I am not unhappy with my broadband supplier and I could take my e-mail adddress to any other but I would hate to have to change my e-mail address for any reason – the ramifications are unquantifiable!


About a third of those in our regular broadband survey who’ve never switched feel the same so we know it’s something that holds people back. Over on our tech blog we’re taking a look at how to swtich from your ISPs email… http://blogs.which.co.uk/technology/computing/helpdesk-challenge-switching-from-an-isp-email-address/

Doug Taylor says:
26 September 2012

Actually there is a far cheaper way than paying a £1 a month to make sure you have a constant email address, just buy a Domain Name! Typical cost is around £3.50 a year, I’m paying £2 a year on a long term deal. As every deal I’ve looked at has email forwarding you just arrange that your email address gets forwarded to emails@newISP.com or whatever they assign you.

I have had the same email address for over 10 years and have changed my ISP a number of times.

You can also for a little extra get email hosting, in this case you pick up and send your emails from the hosting company and can avoid the rather poor efforts provided by the ISPs, one of which was losing over 70% of my mail due to poor spam filters.


Further to my curiosity about the percentage of broadband consumers that are unhappy, I am wondering [a] how many are fed up with poor performance or functionality, [b] how many are not content with the their current price in comparison with other suppliers which might have become more competitive, [c] how many are dissatisfied with the customer service, and [d] how many just want or need a different package/bundle.

I do think it would be very helpful to put some scale on this issue: it is so easy to say that “many unhappy consumers still aren’t switching their broadband”, but are we talking hundreds, thousands or millions? For all I know the proportion might actually be insignificant – nobody seems to be giving us this information. Didn’t the Which? survey produce an indication of the extent of unhappiness and its causes?