Switching Broadband - Is it time to switch my broadband provider?

Using this guide, you can find out whether you need to switch broadband providers and what to do if you're committed to switching.

If you’re having problems with your current provider, want to get a faster service or you just fancy a change, you may want to consider switching broadband. Or, you might be thinking about switching broadband and you just want to see what’s available.

You may think that changing contracts or providers can be time-consuming and tedious, but the market is so competitive that providers are making it very simple to switch.

If you want to switch providers for any reason, our guide will tell you exactly what you need to do to switch broadband.

Comparing Broadband - Contact your provider and search for the latest broadband deals

Before you make a definite decision to switch your broadband, contact your provider to see if you can upgrade your package or find out more about what they offer.

UK providers are always keen to entice new customers by regularly updating their broadband deals and offers, so keep an eye out for a package you like the look of and query it over the phone. Your provider won’t necessarily contact you about the latest broadband plans, so it’s always worth doing your research when you feel it’s time for change.

Because of the competitive nature of the broadband industry, it’s always best to learn what your current provider can give you before making the final decision to switch. Although the new OFCOM rules mean you don’t have to talk to your current provider, it’s best to check with them before switching to see what they can offer.

Don’t give in when your provider tries to make you stay

No business likes to lose customers and money, and broadband companies are no different. Often, you’ll be persuaded with various options and incentives to stop you from going elsewhere.

A very good salesperson can convince you to stay with them, and it is worth seeing what they have to say, because if they can offer a ridiculously good retention deal then that could be the best option. However, don’t feel pressured to stay if you’ve made up your mind, or you know that switching represents better value or a better service.

Once the broadband representative has finished with their sales pitch, and you’re still happy to switch, you can begin the process of changing your household’s service. Here is where you look around for the best possible deal.

Compare other packages and providers

There are a large number of broadband providers in the UK, with each of them offering different deals and packages in the hope of appealing to as broad a customer base as possible. This can sometimes make looking for a new deal seem arduous, as there are so many options to choose from.

Before setting your sights on your ideal broadband deal, check that the preferred service is available in your area. Use our postcode checker to determine which providers can connect you to their services, before becoming disappointed. This is especially useful with fibre-optic broadband networks, because this is not as widely available as ADSL.

Check the comparison table for your ideal provider, what they offer and how much it will cost you each month. Remember, line rental is now included in the package price, as per ASA regulations.

Each package option shows how fast broadband can potentially be (this will depend on your area), phone incentives and how much you can expect to pay. Sometimes, companies persuade customers to join with one-off gifts such as shopping vouchers. We recommend focusing on the long-term benefits from a provider, and seeing if there are introductory offers that make them better value for money.

When comparing packages, make sure you consider all of the following:

  • Whether the package is fibre-optic or ADSL
  • Broadband download speeds, with the average provided as per ASA regulations
  • The minimum contract term for that deal
  • How much it will cost you each month
  • Any additional offers that are included in the package

How do I switch broadband?

Switching broadband became much more straightforward from the 20th June 2015, thanks to OFCOM rulings that have forced providers to make the whole process easier. You should now be able to switch broadband with one phone call, provided you are changing to the same type of broadband. However, despite the changes, the process of changing broadband is still a little bit tricky.

Before the rule change, consumers who wanted to switch faced a frankly bewildering number of different processes which depended on who they were moving from, going to and the type of service being moved. Consumers used to have to contact their existing provider to obtain a MAC (Migration Authorisation Code) code to give to their new provider. This often deterred some customers from switching. Put simply, people did not want the hassle!

Gaining provider led – Switching within the same type of connection

Thanks to the rule change, consumers do not need to cancel their contract with their old provider. Now,  the switching process is handled by the new provider on the consumers’ behalf. Once the whole switching procedure is underway, consumers will receive written confirmation from their old and new providers. If you are switching and you change your mind at any point, you can cancel the whole thing. This is what OFCOM call a ‘gaining provider led’ process, which essentially means your new provider does everything for you.

Cease and re-provide – process for switching to and from cable broadband

However the process remains quite complicated if you are switching from one type of broadband to another. This is called ‘cease and re-provide’ process and it follows different rules to the ‘gaining provider led’ process we outlined above.

If you are switching the type of broadband you get, for example switching from BT to fibre optic broadband like Virgin Media or Hyperoptic, you need to follow the older process. This means that you will have to contact your current provider to cancel the service and call your new provider to arrange your new service. On the plus side, this means you can overlap your old and new broadband service to ensure that you don’t lose internet for a significant amount of time. You will receive notification from your old provider that you are leaving and a new contract from your new provider.

Switching a bundle or package

If you are switching both your landline and broadband connection at the same time then you will still follow either the ‘gaining provider led’ process or the ‘cease and re-provide’ process, depending on what connection you are moving to.

However, if you have TV included in your bundle, there will be differences. As this switch would also involve the cancellation of your TV service, you would have to call your current provider and arrange for the cancellation. If you are moving from Sky to Virgin Media or vice versa, you can usually cancel your TV service at the same time as cancelling your broadband and landline bundle. If you have a separate TV service from your broadband and you’re moving to a bundle you will have to cancel your current TV service separately.

Exit charges - Take the time to read the terms and conditions of switching

Reading the fine print can seem boring, but we recommend going over the main guidelines when you consider switching broadband.

Checking the terms and conditions of your current contract and your new provider’s rules will give you an idea of what to expect when the switching process begins.

You may incur cancellation charges from your current provider if you want to terminate your subscription within the minimum period outlined in your contract.

However, all providers treat cancellations differently, which makes it even more important to check the terms and conditions before getting surprised by unexpected costs.

Cancellation charges for ‘gainer led’ process

If you are switching to the same type of broadband on the ‘gainer led’ process then you should be automatically notified by the provider you are leaving if you have incurred any early termination charges.

Cancellation charges for ‘cease and re-provide’ process

If you are following a ‘cease and re-provide’ process (for example, moving to or from the Virgin Media network) you will have to check with your current provider. It is more than likely they will charge an early termination fee for leaving your contract, which may be calculated on how many months you have left.

Before committing

Before signing a contract with your new broadband provider, make sure you know what you’re paying for and when the contract is due to begin. All of this will be highlighted in the contract’s terms and conditions, which you will receive a copy of.

Usually, providers offer a minimum contract period of 12 months, but this may vary depending on the type of package you wish to get.

After committing

After switching providers it’s important to remember that you still have a little bit of time to change your mind.

This stretch of time after signing up for a new service is called a cooling off period.  If you do change your mind or you have a change in circumstances, you can cancel the contract.

The start date and the length of your cooling off period will vary according to the provider you have signed up with, so when you are taking your new contract, make sure you ask exactly how long the cooling off period is. Being aware of this time could mean the difference between being stuck with a service you are not happy with for 18 months and being free to continue to look for the best possible provider for your needs.

One thing to remember is if your new provider had to pay an initial amount to get you connected, then you could be liable for this cost. This may include things such as installing a phone or cable line or providing expensive equipment. This is not like an early termination fee, it’s more of an attempt to recoup money that a provider may have spent on getting you set up.

Things to remember when switching broadband providers

Don’t let the idea of switching cause undue stress; in the long-term, you could reap the benefits of a carefully researched and considered deal.

The key points to remember when switching broadband providers are:

  • Contact your current provider to see if you can get a better deal
  • Research and compare the best current deals available, if your provider cannot offer something better
  • Check to see if you can get fibre optic broadband
  • If you are switching to the same type of broadband (eg. copper to copper) then your new provider can sort everything out for you. No need for MAC codes!
  • Read the small print of any new contract to see if it’s right for you before committing
  • If you are switching from copper broadband to fibre optic you will need to cancel your copper broadband yourself, your new provider will not do that for you
  • Be aware of exit charges. If you are switching from copper to copper your old provider will automatically notify you of any charges that you have to pay
  • If you have a bundle that includes TV, you may have to pay separate cancellation charges
  • Be very aware of what your ‘cooling off’ period is after you receive your new service
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