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ISP email addresses stop us from switching

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Using an email address from your internet provider could lead to a world of pain when you want to get a better broadband deal – as one of our readers discovered with the closure of UK Online.

How many people know your email address? Ten? A hundred? A thousand?

For me, it’s probably somewhere between the last two numbers – significantly more than know either of my phone numbers.

I’ve had my personal email address for more than ten years. So I can fully empathise with a Which? Convo reader who got in touch with us. He discovered that his Internet Service Provider (ISP) – UK Online – is being closed in January, and that he’ll lose his email address as a result.

He told us that he didn’t mind moving to another provider, but he did object to the fact that they wouldn’t be providing an email forwarding service when they close their email servers down.

ISP emails are a barrier to switching

It’s relatively rare for ISPs to shut down suddenly, but when they do they’re under no legal obligation to let you keep your email address or offer a forwarding service. Still, we agree that it would have been polite of UK Online/Sky (its parent company) to do so.

What’s far more common is for broadband customers to get fed up with their provider and want to move away – ideally to a Which? Recommended Broadband Provider. But as Which? broadband expert, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard from people who stay with an ISP they’re unhappy with purely because they don’t want to lose their email address.

Don’t get me wrong, the prospect of losing my email address would make my heart sink. Putting aside the hassle of letting my personal contacts know, I also rely on my email for online billing and reminders for key tasks, like paying my TV Licence.

In praise of webmail

Fortunately, my chances of ever having to give up my email address are small because I use webmail service Hotmail rather than my broadband provider. This means I can access my email easily wherever I like, and change provider to my heart’s content without worry.

Even if you’re an MS Outlook devotee, there are several webmail services – including Gmail – that let you manage your account via Outlook. Though for the security conscious we reckon that storing your messages on a webmail server reduces the risk of a thief accessing your emails if your computer is stolen.

The only party I can see that benefits from you using your ISP’s email address is the ISP itself. So, if you’re using an email address provided with your broadband service, why not get a webmail address now and start using it? It’s far better to manage the move gradually under your own terms than have it forced on you by your ISP’s closure.

What do you use as your main email account?

I use my internet provider's service (55%, 972 Votes)

I've set up a web-based account (30%, 531 Votes)

I've bought my own domain name (14%, 239 Votes)

I use a work, school or college account (1%, 19 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,761

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Historically it made sense to many to go with their ISP e-mail but as you so rightly say it has now come back to haunt them. The main problem with such things as ‘hotmail’ is that it is often subject tosilent blocking moves so that messages cannot get to and from users outside of hotmail. Additionally there was a time when such accounts were looked down on by traders so ordering items could become an issue. I am not sure if this is still a problem.
Certainly it is far better to be able to disconnect e-mail addresses and the carrier or ISP. I understand there are ways to achieve this with a personalised account. Perhaps this would be a good subject for discussion?

I think this article is pretty true. I’m with Blueyonder (now provided by Virgin Media) and whilst I think the cable broadband service isn’t too bad (the advertised speed is pretty much what you get) VM’s customer service is absolutely diabolical. No, it really is. OK, maybe it’s not that good. They seem to have inherited everything that was bad about NTL when they acquired NTL:Telewest. I really wouldn’t recommend them just for the way they treat their customers. But as you say, my email address is not only known by friends and family but is also the correspondence address for many online services and so changing it would be a real pain in the haagen daaz.

I’m not a fan of webmail – I’m a [POP3] email client (that’d be Outlook then) man as I simply like the ease with which you can organise your email in so many ways better (eg. using rules, instant search, colours, categories, alerts which make life so much easier) than you can using say, hotmail or Gmail (I also have accounts on these for the odd occasion).

I used to like the way I could use a tiny program like K9 with outlook to literally obliterate all spam from my ISP’s mail server. Now Virgin Media have turned the mail server into a fully-accessible webmail service based on the Gmail platform. It sucks. It’s like stepping back in time to when the interweb first began. All they need is some green text on a black background and they’d be there. You can’t even sort mail by sender, that’s how bad it is. And spam – well, about 300 messages per week (I used to get about 20) – although most are filtered (but that’s not the point). I miss K9.

So, I would dearly love to leave Virgin Media – but as they also have my email address they have me by the jacob’s crackers. One thing’s for sure – I’d never move my main account to Hotmail. I think purchasing my own domain name is the only way to go.

JibberJibber says:
16 November 2010

Gmail’s search works so well and quick that it means you don’t need to organise your emails. Spam is filtered for me and ralely gets it wrong.

If you do want to organise emails you can tag them. And you can set up rules. I find Gmail superior to any email client I’ve used but then I can’t stand Outlook.

It may depend on your version of Outlook. Outlook 2007 is so much better than previous incarnations. I guess it all boils down to what you want out of your email. I just like the neatness of Outlook – it feels so lovely and clean, like newly-purchased stationery.

We also use Outlook at work so I’ve become very familiar with most of its features. It also allows you to group conversations, like Gmail’s default setting but sometimes you don’t want to. At least outlook gives you the option of so many views and also allowing you customise them to your own requirements.

But Outlook webmail isn’t great. Bizarrely, although unsurprising in soMe respect$, it works better in IE than in Firefox.

I couldn’t agree more about Virgin and the malign influence of NTL!!

And it’s got SO bad, I have bitten the bullet, and started a Gmail acoount, which I intend to run in tandem with the Virgin e mail, [both via Outlook], and migrate my numerous correspondents over.
There have been a few hiccups – it is quite astonishing the difference between different companies when it comes to changing your e-mail address.
My on-line banking was easy beyond expectatioons – 15 seconds!

“Which” magazine quite the opposite – which is a bit embarassing…..!
But the sense of impending relase is marvellous – I’ve been hating Virgin for ages, but felt trapped. Now I can look at alternative ISP’s, and know I can take the plunge in the near future when most of my contacts should be on the web bsaed mail account.

Go for it!

I can only disagree – I have an NTL e-mail address – had it for over 12 years ever since fibre optic cable was laid in London. It was transferred by Virgin flawlessly – Virgin is fast and reliable. My e-mail address is widely known (several 1000s)

My only real problem was accessing user-groups when Virgin decided to change the system entirely. The help-line didn’t have a clue because I don’t use Microsoft programs. It took me a couple of weeks to find out why it didn’t work – but only because user-groups were not important to me..

Hate to point out changing registration for a Bank is very simple just like changing a password.

I do have three domain names and 15 e-mail addresses and the ability to redirect – but so far Virgin is superb and has the ability to store data on their server for free too. So I keep using the same one I have had since the cable was laid.

Fat Sam, Glos says:
16 November 2010

Can I just add that you can appreciate my position even more by reading that post in the style of the depressed blobfish in the picture accompanying my name.

It’s a fish then is it? Well, that’s how we read all of your comments Fat Sam 🙂

On topic, I wonder how the newly announced Facebook messaging ’email’ service will fare with other webmail services.

cheeky beggar. even sad blobfish have feelings don’t you know

I’m quite bemused by the fact that someone went out of their way to disagree with a comment containing a minor spot of humour. still, i can console myself with the knowledge that there are far, sadder people in the world than me :I

pickle says:
16 November 2010

Is it not possible to keep one’s e-mail address yet change the ISP? It would save a lot of complications.

A. H. says:
16 November 2010

It maybe possible to change ISP and keep email addresses, but it can depend upon restrictions that your old ISP may put on your account. I had an old PAYG with Freeserve (taken over by Wannado, then Orange), but am currently with Plusnet.

Best thing is to look here
which explains the different type of email servers. You will need to find this out from your old ISP/mail provider.

I use Outlook Express (OE) to collect all my mail from Freeserve (Orange) and send via Plusnet. You can do this in the set up of OE>Tools>Accounts>Mail>Properties.
For General tab >Mail Account enter what ever you want to call your account, and for User Information enter your name and email address and reply address (normally the same) and tick ‘Include this account…’.
For Servers tab you need to enter the type of server (many are POP3), then in the ‘Incoming mail’ I use the correct POP3 address (eg ‘pop.freeserve.net’) and in the ‘Outgoing mail’ I use my current ISP SMTP server address (in my case ‘relay.plus.net’). Then finally you need to enter your old email address, (the bit after the @ sign) and password.

In order to keep my old Freeserve (Orange) email address ‘alive’, I have to log in every now and then (3 months or so), using PAYG.

‘Ask Leo’ also has lots of useful help to download Hotmail…

Hope this helps…others can correct what I written or point to more helpful webpages.

David says:
20 November 2010

I am still getting emails from an account that I closed over ten years ago. I would not rely on it however.

Geoff H says:
16 November 2010

I agree with this item. It’s a bit like the bad old days before mobile phone numbers were transferable.
I use a gmail account but run it through Outlook, because that’s what I used at work for about 15 years and I’m used to it. However, Gmail does have lots of useful features and it gets better all the time. It also means that all my emails are effectively backed up so I can’t lose them if my machine dies or gets stolen.

I’d recommend Gmail to anyone, and you also get a huge 7520 MB of storage – all fro free. This means that I can email important files (documents etc) to myself and back them up that way.

I have switched ISPs a few times and have used Yahoo mail so I don’t have the hassle of changing email addresses. The one problem is that when the email address gets into the wrong hands you may end up with lots of spam and my Yahoo address has been compramised. To get round this, I have acquired a domain and pay for my demain and email service for a modest annual sum (£12 pa). This means that I have a choice of 150 addresses on that domain. I allocate different addresses for different uses. This means I only use certain addresses for people I can trust and I use other addresses for those who may use my address inappropriately. If one of the addresses is compramised, I have less hassle in chaging that address and notifying those concerened of the change. The addresses where there is trust should never be compramised. By the way I have found that if your email server supports imap (which gmail does) you can synchronise outlook or any other email program with the email files saved by the email service and get the best of both worlds – emails files stored on line and in your computer which are synchoronised.

Using gmail as an email client isn’t going to help you if your iSP provided e-mail address goes belly up.
The only way to be safe (and avoidf having to be you@whatever.com) is to register your own domain, which you can do very quickly and cheaply and get an inexpensive hosting package. Then you can carry your own e-mail address almost wherever you go (BT used to claim that to have your own domain you had to be a business and charged rip-off prices accordingly, don’t know if they still do)

Louis says:
18 November 2010

What are you talking about?

‘Using gmail as an email client isn’t going to help you if your iSP provided e-mail address goes belly up.’

That is completely untrue. Gmail is in no way linked to your ISP. The only company you have to worry about closing is Google and that’s not going to happen any time soon.

There is no need to buy your own domain and hosting package just to have reliable, ISP independent e-mail.

Please stop using the internet to spread misinformation.

It is obviously a problem if you wish to change ISP when you also use your ISP as your main email address. Using people like Webmail with google or yahoo is an obvious way out of this problem. A better approach is to buy your own domain name and set up your own email address eg john@smith.me.uk. You can then arrange for any email sent to this address to be forwarded on to your ISP’s address. If later on you change your ISP then all you have to do is to change the address to which the forwarder sends your mail.
Some companies charge a lot for a domain name and insist on your buying all sorts of fancy services such as webspace that you may not want. I have not carried out a recent survey but I have always found that ukreg.co.uk provides a very good service – they will register a domain name and provide a forwarder for £2.95 per year.

I agree with statement 100%. I have owned my own domain for over 11 years now and have moved continents in this time. And all this time keeping my own email address.

You only have to look at recent news to see how Google have abused the data protection laws and secretly copied peoples emails and passwords etc. when using the Street View car. And how Facebook etc. constantly change without your knowledge the rules of privacy. MS are no better. And you have no control over the storage of those emails either.

With a good password on your home pc, and your own domain for very little money – far less than a Which subscription (1 months subscription) you have the ultimate safe protection for your own emails and storage of them. This is a no brainer as they say…

I used to be with AOL and was not looking forward to changing but bit the bullet and went for BT when I moved home. Imagine my surprise when I left AOL that I can still use tht email address for life! So, I’ve set up Outlook to still point at the AOL servers and still pull down my emails to Outlook whilst using my new ISP – BT. So, it’s always worth asking if the email address still remains and still works after you switch, as it did for me! Hope this softens the blow to others now you’ve heard this true tale.

Ronaldo says:
16 November 2010

It is possible to migrate from Madasafish to Plusnet and continue to use your old email address. This is because these two companies are associated with each other. This may also be true of other ISP’s which are affiliated in some way.

Many ISPs allow you to keep your email mailbox after you have left them. O2 and AOL mailboxes are completely independent of their Internet Service. Orange and Tiscali associate your mailbox with a PAYG dial-up account, but Orange requires you to either use dial-up within every 219 days or reactivate your account on their website without using dial-up so you can continue to use another ISP’s Broadband and retain your Orange mailbox.

I agree with those people who suggest buying your own domain name. I did this for the whole family (e.g. me@family.co.uk etc.) and it makes life really easy. I normally access my email through Outlook. I use “rules” to sort my incoming mail into different in-boxes or into the junk-mail box and Outlook allows me to have a very comprehensive filling system to keep all of my emails where I want them. If I’m away, like on holiday, and I want to check my emails then I can use a webmail service from any internet cafe to access them. It’s a small investment that gives you freedom to change your ISP and allows your family to take their email address with them if they go away to university etc. You just set up a divert from their “home” address to their temporary uni address.

As a number of contributors have noted, having your own domain name is the way to go. I have had one for at least 8 years now. It costs me £10 every 2 years from http://www.easily.co.uk This lets me keep the same email address for the outside world and simply re-direct mail to any email address that I choose.

We’ve just added a poll to this Conversation so you can tell what type of email account you use. I’ve added a vote for webmail.

Some of us have more than one type; I have 3.

Hi xrayspex
Yes, we did consider this when writing the poll, so we decided to go with asking what you use for your MAIN account, otherwise it would have become too complicated!

Why can’t this be legislated, as was previously done for mobile phone numbers? People were discouraged from changing mobile supplier becasue they couldn’t take their number with them, this made it ‘anti-competitive’, so why can’t an ISP be forced to set up an e-mail forwarder for, say, a 12 month period, if you move ISP?
Is there an equivalent to Ofcom (Ofmail) that we can lobby?

les dixon says:
17 November 2010

I use a mixture of webmail with outlook and an isp provided account. My paypal was hacked and i used gmail to sign in foolishy using the same paasword once the criminal changed my password on my gmail account it took two weeks to get it back to me by which time they ran up 2 grand. I found out i was hacked when they changed my web mail password. So be warned. ISP provided mail takes a phonecall and you can get it reset thats where the benefits lie. Also dont use one password for everythin once bitten twice shy.

Malcolm says:
18 November 2010

Hope you don’t mind me going off at a tangent. Having just come across this thread I notice that at the start Fat Sam said “VM’s customer service is absolutely diabolical. ….. They seem to have inherited everything that was bad about NTL when they acquired NTL:Telewest.” The reason for that is that the takeover operated the other way round – NTL acquired Virgin Mobile and a licence to use the name Virgin. The Virgin Goup is a minority shareholder in Virgin Media which is a company based in the USA but operating in the UK. This is how the Virgin Group operates. Lots of things branded Virgin only have the Virgin Group as one of the shareholders. Though many people deride anything branded Virgin there are many business people who pay good money to use the name.

Martin says:
19 November 2010

i had this problem with a Virgin Net email address when I wanted to switch because the service was poor. So I opened a mac.com Mobile Me account (I use an Apple iMac) email address and switched to Zen. Even though I have a Zen email address, I don’t use it, and I can drop it and maintain the mac.com address if I switch ISPs.

I also like madasafish.com as another web based email address. Wouldn’t touch yahoo or hotmail.

I’ve so many e-mail addresses in the past, I’ve lost track :/

Although I have an MSN one since 2002/2003 & Its always added as an back up/storage one & made clear that’s what is for.

Sadly I’ll never leave BT Plc (Rubbish Yahoo.Com Mail Online Web Mail Provider), As I love The BT Plc E-mail address, As everyone knows it & I’ve been using it for a few years now & always using it.

OfCom,OFT, Should make sure we can switch/transfer an e-mail addresses,As we can now do if with mobile numbers,land line numbers,internet service providers.

If I had to I’d stay with BT Plc, But still move to VirginMedia for faster fiber optic cabled broadband.

Sky/BSKYB should not allow this, They should re-dorect everyone’s e-mail with Uk Online E-mail accounts forever, As Sky/BSKYB can afford it & Also have the resources 🙂

Come on Uk Government need to look in to this along with OFT,OfCom, & Other Uk Watch Dogs 🙂

Dave not stuck now says:
19 November 2010

I’ve just bought my own domain – cost me £6.98 for two years. I have two email addresses that my contacts know and all that happens is that messages are forwarded to my ISP’s email account. Now I can change ISP to my heart’s content without having to inform all & sundry about the change.