The best time to switch broadband will depend on the service you are currently receiving, how long you have been contracted to your current provider for and what is available in your area. Not getting the service you want – or are paying for – is a good reason to consider switching to an alternative broadband provider.
Switching your broadband provider is very simple in principle but the timing is important. Most broadband deals involve contracting for an initial fixed term at a discounted price. When your contract ends the price usually goes up. Switching during your contract is possible, but might be costly. In this article we explain the best time to switch your broadband and the reasons you might want to.
1 minute summary
- You can switch to a new broadband provider whenever you want to, however, if you decide to switch within your minimum term contract, you will usually need to pay an early exit fee
- All broadband contracts come with a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period. During this time you can cancel your broadband without being charged
- You can usually switch broadband providers within your initial minimum contract for free if your provider is failing to meet your personalised minimum speed guarantee
- You may also have the opportunity to switch without a penalty if your provider increases the monthly price of your broadband, but only if the annual increases are not stipulated in your contract
- The best way to compare broadband packages and switch providers is via a comparison site such as Uswitch*. It allows you to compare the best broadband packages from multiple broadband providers, saying you time and money
When can I switch broadband?
You can switch to a new broadband provider whenever you want to. Minimum term contracts with internet service providers do not force you to keep your service for that period. The catch is that if you do switch, you will usually need to pay an early exit fee. How much you pay will vary from provider to provider, with some making you fork out the same amount that you would have done had you kept the service.
If you have only just signed your broadband contract, whether with a new provider or to renew with your existing provider, you always have a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period. During this time you can cancel your broadband without being charged.
You are free to change providers without paying a termination charge if you are out of contract. If you are unsure whether you are still in contract, check with your provider, though you should have been told if your contract is coming to an end.
If you are in your contracted period – which will usually be 1, 6, 12, 18 or 24 months – you will need to pay to get out of that commitment. If your provider is not holding up its end of the bargain by providing you with at least the minimum guaranteed speed specified in your contract, you can usually leave without a penalty. There are a few hurdles to jump through first, but you should not have to put up with less than the download speed you were promised.
Can you cancel your broadband contract early?
You will have to pay an exit fee to cancel your existing broadband contract if you are still in your initial period, except in a couple of scenarios.
If your broadband is too slow
You can usually cancel for free if your provider is failing to meet your personalised minimum speed guarantee. Under Ofcom rules your provider should always give you at least the minimum guaranteed speed specified in your contract. Get in touch with your provider if you think your broadband speed is slower than it should be. The company will then have 30 days to fix the problem – if it is an issue with its network – or give you the chance to cancel your contract without paying a penalty.
This Ofcom rule is only enforceable if your supplier has signed up to Ofcom’s ‘Broadband Speeds Code of Practice’. At the time of writing that includes BT, EE, NOW, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, Utility Warehouse and Zen Internet. Check with your provider to see if it has signed up.
Be aware that the guaranteed speed relates to the broadband speed delivered to your home, not necessarily what ends up reaching your devices. Broadband speed can vary around the home and depend on the type of router you use, so there is a chance that even though your laptop is getting below your minimum speed, your provider will not be compelled to do anything about it. You can read more about broadband speeds in our article ‘What broadband speed do I need?’.
If your price goes up
You may also have the opportunity to switch without a penalty if your provider increases the monthly price of your broadband. Some providers – including BT and Vodafone – include annual price hikes in customer contracts. This means that you cannot cancel for free when the planned increase comes into effect. You can still cancel, but you may need to pay an early exit fee.
Other providers do not include a price hike clause. This means you can leave for free if your bill goes up. You should have 30 days from the point you are notified of an increase to leave without needing to pay an early exit fee.
Why can’t I switch internet provider?
You may be unable to switch broadband provider if your area is not served by more than one. This is a rare situation in the UK, but if you live in a particularly rural part of the country or in an area of new-build houses, you may be limited by what is available. Read more about the different types of broadband in the UK in our article ‘Which broadband is best?’.
If you rent your home and pay for your broadband through your landlord or as part of your rent, you won’t be able to switch your broadband. Only the person registered on the broadband contract can cancel it or change providers, so reach out to your landlord if you think your home needs a new internet supplier.
How long before your broadband contract ends can you switch?
Your broadband provider should contact you between 10 and 40 days before your contract ends to notify you what your new price will be. You should also be told what deals you can switch to that are cheaper than the standard, out of contract price.
However, there are a few things you can do before the 40-day period if you are thinking about switching.
Switching broadband providers with three months left on your contract
This is too early to switch broadband providers, but it is a good point to look at how your current package suits your household. Are you able to use the internet in the ways you want to without browsing slowing down? Are you able to connect all your smart technology and devices? If you think your download speeds are too slow for your household, you can start looking at an improved broadband package. Conversely, if you are happy with your package, you can put a date in your diary to call your provider and negotiate a new deal before your current one expires.
This is also the time to think about any added extras you might have taken out with your deal. Could switching broadband packages save you money by allowing you to bundle in TV or mobile? Are there services you are paying for, but don’t use? Some entertainment packages have different minimum terms to broadband packages, even if you take them both out at the same time. So if there is something you do not use, call your provider and cancel it.
Also, think about how your provider has dealt with any issues over the course of your contract so far. Switching broadband provider to one with a better customer service record could save you a lot of time and frustration. If you would like to know who we rate highly for customer service, speed and more, read our article ‘Who is the best broadband provider?’.
Switching broadband providers with one month left on your contract
If you want to switch broadband providers, now is the time to compare companies to find the right one for you. Keep an eye out for promotions, deals and rewards that can make a seemingly expensive deal much better value. You can also use Ofcom’s postcode checker to see if broadband availability in your area has changed.
Make sure you are choosing a deal with a contract term that suits your household. Most providers offer packages with 12, 18 or 24-month minimum terms, but you can also get rolling contract broadband. These deals usually start at 30 days with no requirement to renew after that period ends. When comparing broadband packages, use a comparison site such as Uswitch* so that you can compare a number of providers side by side.
If you want to stick with your current provider, don’t just let your contract run down. At the end of the contract you will likely see your monthly payments rise sharply. Call your provider and ask to be put on the tariff currently offered to new customers. You might get a ‘no’, but if it is offering that price anyway, it would make sense to try and keep you.
Reasons to switch internet provider
If you are unsure whether to switch broadband providers, here is a list of some red flags that should push you towards shopping around.
Your price goes up
Many providers increase their prices annually, usually by inflation plus an additional figure. This means that your monthly costs can go up even during your fixed term. If a price rise is not included in your contract, you should have the option to leave your contract and switch broadband providers. If you think you are paying too much for the service you are receiving, or you can no longer afford the monthly cost, you should think about a change.
The price of your broadband is likely to increase significantly at the end of your fixed period too. So if you are happy with what you are paying before your contract ends, be prepared to have to switch providers or renegotiate your deal to keep the price the same.
Your broadband is too slow
It can be incredibly frustrating to find that your broadband speed is too slow to keep up with how your household uses the internet. For some people, it may be impossible to get faster speeds due to the local infrastructure. For others, it can be enough to simply change providers.
Not every provider offers the fastest possible speed for your home, so you might need to switch your broadband to access what you need.
You have connection problems
Your broadband needs to be fast enough to meet the online demands of your household, but it also needs to be reliable enough to work when you need it to. If you find that every other video call is interrupted by a loss of signal, or no matter what you do you cannot get Wi-Fi in the upstairs bedroom, it may be time to think about changing providers.
You can get a better deal
If you pay for all of your entertainment, mobile and internet services separately, the end of your broadband contract might be the perfect time to look at bundling. By bundling your different bills together, you can sometimes save money and access bonus extras. It is not always the cheapest way to go, so make sure to still compare the different deals available.
Getting a better deal does not mean buying more services, so make sure you are only paying for what you use. If there is something you don’t want, like a movie package or a streaming subscription, switching is the perfect time to find a new deal and stop paying for it.
Switching your broadband provider can be a great way to access valuable incentive bonuses, as well as a lower monthly price. Companies regularly offer vouchers, bill credits and free tech to new customers, so switching might earn you a cool gift or save you from having to buy someone a birthday present.
You need better customer service
A bad customer service experience can put you off a company for life. If you have had to put up with hours on the phone, waiting months for an engineer visit or just feeling like you are not being listened to, it is probably time to look at switching broadband providers. There are countless customer service reviews and plenty of data online to help you make an informed choice. If something does go wrong, you want to be confident that you will be able to get some timely help.
There is a new type of broadband in your area
Broadband coverage in the UK is continuing to develop, so make sure to check what is available in your area if your contract is coming to an end. Just because you couldn’t get full fibre 18 months ago, doesn’t mean you cannot get it now. An upgrade in technology can make a serious difference to your broadband speed, so use Ofcom’s coverage checker to see how much faster you can go by switching.
What is the best way to switch broadband?
A great way to compare broadband packages is via a comparison site such as Uswitch*. Comparison sites allows you to compare the best broadband packages from multiple broadband providers all at once, saving you a fair amount of time and hopefully money. We have partnered with Uswitch* so that we can help our readers source the best broadband deals, simply click on the link and enter your postcode to get started. Broadband packages can be tailored based on personal preference, meaning you can filter by price, speed, reliability, Wi-Fi coverage and customer service. The latest Uswitch data suggests that customers who chose a new broadband package via Uswitch saved £162 on average per year.
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