Broadband, pay TV and mobile phone providers must notify customers when their contract is ending under new rules from Ofcom coming into force today.
The communications regulator announced the rule change in May last year, giving providers eight months to prepare. It followed on from proposals first floated by Ofcom in July 2018. The organisation suggested that the stipulation would help nudge customers into shopping around to get the best deal, rather than absent-mindedly sticking with a provider on a highly priced, default deal.
Providers have been content to allow loyal customers to pay a great deal more than new subscribers
"We want customers to be able to take advantage of the wide choice of services available and shop around with confidence, so that they can get the best deals for their needs. To help customers to do this, we are imposing new requirements on providers to send important information to their customers when their contracts are coming to an end and on a regular basis after that," the organisation stated in May last year [PDF] when it announced the change.
Under the new rules, broadband, mobile, home phone and pay TV companies must notify both residential and business customers when their minimum contract period is coming to an end.
Residential customers must receive a notification between 10 and 40 days before the end of their contract, including the date the minimum contract period ends, the services provided and the price paid. The notice must also include any variations to the service and the new price they can expect to pay when the contract ends. It must also tell customers about the best new tariffs available from their provider, which they can switch to.
Regularly switching will let you take advantage of the latest offers, and perhaps get you a faster connection
Furthermore, providers are required to inform customers about special deals available to new subscribers, so they can see whether they might benefit from switching provider. Out-of-contract customers must be given "best tariff information" by their provider at least once a year.
"Business customers will also receive a notification to inform them of the end of their minimum contract period and how they may terminate the contract," according to Ofcom, which has been pushing for years to improve communications contracts for businesses, as well as consumers.
Matt Powell, editor at Broadband Genie, said that even customers who didn't want to switch should play hard ball with their provider when cut-price contracts draw to a close.
"Until now, providers have been content to allow loyal customers to pay a great deal more than new subscribers. Many broadband deals are sold with discounts for the initial contract term, and although these are often good value for the first 12 or 18 months the cost after the discount ends can be substantially higher," said Powell.
He continued: "Regularly switching will let you take advantage of the latest offers, and perhaps get you a faster connection. And if you don't want to switch you should always negotiate with the provider at the end of your contract term to see if a better deal is available."
In 2018, BT had agreed to reduce its landline prices from £18.99 to £11.99 a month for about 900,000 customers
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