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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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I use both types of email account. In fact I have 3 I use all the time, depending on what who the recipient is. These days it easy to import mailing listing from one to the other.

The spelling errors are due to trying to type too fast…..sorry.

David says:
19 November 2010

I’ve used http://www.just-the-name.co.uk for many years to host my own personal domain name, which works out at just £5 per year. Apart from having a very snappy personal address, I have an unlimited range of email addresses that follow the pattern [any_name]@[my_domain_name].co.uk that are all forwarded to my current ISP email account. Move ISP, switch mail forwarding – simples!

I create a new email address for every company I have contact with, e.g. which@[my_domain_name].co.uk so it is easy to find out who is being careless with my personal details (Vodafone, Ebac, DriveTheDeal, amongst others) and block any addresses that go viral.

jenkie says:
19 November 2010

I would go with the people on this thread who suggest that email addresses should be portable, like phone numbers and mobile numbers. This would improve the competitive environment , particularly for the non-techy types like me. I would consider a personal domain if I knew more about them and felt confident about setting up “forwarding” if that is the right term.

Perhaps “Which” should start a campaign on this one. I used to be with BT and changed supplier when I went onto Broadband several years ago and I know I missed a lot of mail by not knowing who had got my email address that I needed to hear from. I am more organised now and have many of my websites recorded. Importing addresses is not the problem. It is difficult enough setting up new mail accounts when changing ISP or if I change software or after something that causes glitches in the way my accounts work, let alone trying to add a imap account.

Web services can close just as easily as ISPs.
Remember Geocities? Google notes? Microsoft offered a mailing list service that suddenly closed. I can’t recall its name now.
Your own domain for £10 or less every two years is the way to go. Even cheaper if you use a US based provider – no VAT penalty on the transaction.

Regrettably if you rely on a third party to supply a service you need a contract to rely on service but if the third ceases to trade then you rely on goodwill … We have had our domain registered for the past ten years. While we run our own servers, it is easy to subcontract management to a third party. There is no real limit on the number of addresses you can associate with each domain, though who ever is managing the facility may impose limits. Cost vary so shop around to find a price facility combination that suits.

Who can forecast that yahoo google msn hotmail will still provide the same facilities in 10 years. Most (all) major web based facilities have been compromised in the past; who can tell when it will happen next.

Register your own domain, manage it yourself or delegate management but stay in control. Dont rely on third parties to look after your data.

JamesR says:
20 November 2010

Own domain name = independence.
Clear winner from my experience and all the comments above.
Oh, and do it before marriage, kids etc or you may never get around to it !

David says:
20 November 2010

You talk about losing your email and contacts if your PC is stolen but I would be louth to use an online service as my main account. Someone hacked into my Yahoo account and deleted all my mail and addresses, after sending spam to everyone in my address book.

Liz Evans says:
20 November 2010

Moving from ukonline to gmail has been a bit time-consuming but not impossible. My real problem is getting Which? to make the changes to my account. Come on Which? – get it together please.

MW11851 says:
20 November 2010

I use pobox.com in the USA. They provide a full e-mail re-routing service and have what seem to be fairly advanced spam-protection of their own. It costs either $35.00 or $50.00 per year depending upon what services I require.

I’ve never had a problem with them in 15 years. If I change my ISP, it doesn’t matter. Everything hte get is forwarded to my copy of Mailwasher (you van never be too careful) and then to Outlook 2010.

I got my own domain name a while back. It saves some of the pain, provided email clients use the “Reply to” address, but many people notice when the “from” address changes and complain you have changed your email address. It also means I can choose an address which is easy to remember.

I was with Tiscali..then Talk Talk came along..Tiscali was bad but Talk Talk took the biscuit…So I went Virgin…my Broadband Speed is ten times faster than Talk talk was…thats true …speed check returns excelent rating. I use hotmail…great when I am abroad.

There is an issue not mentioned so far re changing ISP. Even in those cases where you can continue reading your email you may not be able to send via that account unless you change the SMPT being used (depending on the new ISPs approach). This is possible by switching it to your new ISPs SMPT server but leaving the old POP settings but this requires manual changes. Not difficult but not obvious if you use any form of auto set up. A related problem is if you using a laptop connected to a wifi away from your home you can read your email but not send/reply. I actually pay extra for a separate SMPT server facility (with AuthSMTP) and this combined with my own domain name means not only can I change ISP but email will continue to work without difficulty home and away.

Drew Paine says:
21 November 2010

The last time I moved house I contacted BT Broadband home move help line to transfer my account to the new address. Good old BT! They canceled the account instead. After the move they told me they would have to set up a new account and I would not be able to use my old email address. I went off to another ISP in a sulk. They supplied me with a new email address which I have not used to this day as my old BT address is still usable and I can access it from anywhere. Whether this remains the case indefinitely is another story but so far so good. I also have a webmail account to which I have copied my address book just in case.

I was with Pipex Broadband until 2006 but amazingly I am still able to use my email address with them (….@dsl.pipex.com) to this day, even though they have twice been absorbed and the web portal now goes through TalkTalk/Opal. However just in case it ever disappears (please don’t tell TalkTalk) I recently signed up for a Sky email address, which is free to all customers who have a TV package. My broadband is supplied by BE, not Sky, but the Sky email address is now available to me regardless of which ISP I have and works perfectly with Outlook.

Neville says:
21 November 2010

I find it surprising that a Which researcher starts this thread. While it seems unlikely that Which will shut down its ISP service, the functionality it provides is so poor. To name just four:
deletes old messages without warning;
provides no rules based system for sorting incoming messages;
has no way of setting the system to automatically keep copies;
has a relatively small space allowance.
In fact, the only decent thing about the service is the people who respond in a friendly way when you email for help.

Over 1,000 votes in this email account poll and counting. So far it’s ISP email services that are winning… a little worrying perhaps?


what about when Webmail services stop?

Anyone remember when Lycos stopped offering Email a few years ago. I was paying for their service and they discontinued it with only a few months notice.



cricmanlite says:
22 November 2010

Interesting topic. I switched ISP over a year ago (from Freeserve/Orange). I also have a gmail account. I like a POP3 (Outlook) account as I always ahve my e-mails to hand on my PC, even if my internet fails, and I still don’t trust cloud technology not to allow someone to hack and get my personal details. I know it hasn’t happened yet, but one day it will. My biggest problem when I changed was remembering to whom I ah given that email address. A simple solution going forward; anyone who has my ISP address goes into my Outlook contacts. If I change, I can easily notify them all. For the subscription sites I use the gmail address knowing that I won’t have provided any personal details that I might want to protect and my regular updates will continue no matter what I do with my ISP. Probably even this is not foolproof but I feel comfortable with it at present.

Derrick says:
27 November 2010

Having read 52 comments on this topic, I am mentally drained – bewitched, bothered and bewildered! I would support those calling for a fuller “Which?” guide with specific pointers to “Best buys” or, at least, “Highly recommended”.

Drceit says:
28 November 2010

May I just add this: I have a new email address as well as my ukonline one. Which is proving to be the hardest one to change to my new address. The reason? My email and password are synchronised. I’ve emailed a couple of times but so far, no luck with any changes. Does this mean i will not be able to access which once ukonline disappears?