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Our poll says you’re sticking to your ISP’s email

Snail formed from Ethernet cable and @ sign

Following a poll of well over 1,500 voters on Which? Conversation, you’ve (somewhat worryingly) told us that your broadband provider’s email service is the way to go. But are you taking too big a risk?

I didn’t think that email accounts were such a controversial subject – but you’ve shown us on Which? Convo that indeed they are.

Our broadband expert Ceri Stanaway brought forward the argument that sticking with your internet provider’s (ISP) email service locks you into their broadband. And it’s a strong point – would you want to switch providers if it meant leaving your email behind?

You’re sticking to your ISP account

Although many of us have more than one email account, we asked what you use as your main email service. We had 1,761 responses and 55% of the vote went to ISP emails.

Ceri advised everyone to use a web-based account, since it’s totally independent of your broadband – and thankfully this came in second with 30% of the vote. As for the rest, 14% have set up their own domain name, and just 1% use their work, school or college account.

It doesn’t surprise me that so few voted for the last option, since although I too use my work’s email account, it certainly isn’t my main one. But why are so many sticking to their ISP’s email?

Fat sam put it well: ‘I would dearly love to leave Virgin Media – but as they also have my email address they have me by the jacob’s crackers.’

Should ISPs be forced to redirect email?

The topic first came to our attention via a reader who had lost his email address after the closure of the ISP UK Online. And let’s just say, losing your main email account is beyond annoying – not only is it the email all your friends and families know, it’s the email you use for online banking, purchasing from online retailers and no doubt much more.

Xrayspex pointed out that some ISPs, like O2 and AOL, let you keep your email account when you leave their broadband service. But there’s still a risk when your email is linked to your ISP. It’s something that commenter Mick thinks should be legislated against, as has been done with mobile phone numbers:

‘People were discouraged from changing mobile supplier because 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 email forwarder for, say, a 12-month period, if you move ISP?’

Buying your own domain name

However, many of you felt that even a webmail service could be closed down. I personally feel that my emails are secure with both Microsoft (Hotmail) and Google (Gmail), but your comments did tempt me to think about buying my own domain name.

‘I think it’s best to use a personal domain name,’ explains Tim. ‘That way, you will not be adversely affected if the webmail provider decides to do something you don’t like, or ceases to exist – which I agree is hardly likely for Google or Microsoft, but you never know! Your own domain is very cheap, and makes you complete master of your universe.’

So maybe I’ll set up a posh sounding email (like patrick@steen.com). But whether you’ve chosen your own domain name or a webmail account, solely using your ISP’s email is risky business. Sure, it may be unlikely that they’ll suddenly close down, but don’t you want the freedom to switch providers? Or maybe you think that ISPs should be forced to provide an email forwarding service?

Penelope B says:
5 January 2011

Setting up email adresses is sometimes a nightmare. Google let’s you use your own domain through their system & is easy to set up. You can access emails forwarded to a gmail account from the mail programme on your pc, mac, iPad, Blackberry etc as well as through the web browsers on the same devices. Once verified you own the email they let you send emails as if it was from the domain you own. Flexibility & ease of set up (with simple instructions) are the key things.


There is really quite a lot of choice available for getting emails already:

If you dont intend changing ISP and a change of email address isnt a major issue then use your ISP .

For a bit more independence open a webmail account (or 2) eg Gmail, Yahoo. You can even get the emails forwarded to your ISP one.

Next stage is to buy a domain name ( £6 for 2 years) which will provide loads of emails addresses which you can usually forward to you webmail or ISP email address. If you change ISP you just have to change the forwarding setting.

Or for even more control subscribe to an Email service ( ~£14 pa) and access your emails through a webmail interface or an Email client like Outlook or Thunderbird. You can change ISP without any affect on your email .

For most people having at least 1 webmail address is a very good idea for use when shopping or on forums – easy to dispose of if you have security or SPAM issues.

Tom Hawkins says:
30 January 2011

Could Which? review domain and email hosting providers, and produce a guide on what you need to do to set up your own ISP-independent email address? I’m pretty expert on most internet matters but find it tough to figure out exactly what I need to shop for when it comes to hosting services. Meanwhile there are lots of sites claiming to ‘review’ hosting providers but I’m not sure of their independence…

Graham says:
14 April 2011

Please can I repeat Tom’s request for a Which? review of e-mail providers? I am currently miffed (the polite version) with my ISP provider whose problems has stopped my e-mail working again. I would like to move to an independent provider but haven’t got a clue where to start. I see the comments on Hotmail and Gmail, but as proved in countless other Which? reviews, the market leaders are not necessarily the best.


Hello Tom and Graham, you’ll be pleased to know we have reviewed webmail providers for the latest issue of Which? Computing. It should be arriving through letterboxes next week!


Hello again Tom and Graham, you can now found our reviews of email providers on Which.co.uk – our tests resulted in one Best Buy 🙂 http://www.which.co.uk/technology/computing/reviews/webmail-services/

Graham says:
19 April 2011

Patrick – many thanks. You’re timing is perfect.

M Gibb says:
25 May 2018

Link is not working


Link works for me M.Gibb even with some of my blockers active , what browser are you using ? There are quite a few trackers but dont block any Which ones (or related ) .