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Ask the expert: When should I consider switching my broadband provider?

Tuesday, July 25th 2017 by Dan Howdle
You’ll hear this everywhere: Switching broadband provider when your contract’s up will save you money. But while that’s true in most cases, there may also be reasons switching might not be the best option for you, depending on who you are with, the services you have, how much you enjoy those services and whether the same money could be saved simply by haggling.

People are funny. In an area of psychology called ‘behavioural economics’ (don’t let that put you off, it’s just the science of why we make irrational decisions), studies have found that we put a far greater value on things we can have today than potentially more valuable things we can have in the future.

For example, Cable.co.uk recently discovered that the average person who switches their service provider saves an average of £322 per year versus someone who doesn’t. Seems simple, right? What muppet wouldn’t switch if there’s that much to gain? But amazingly, we also discovered that 42% of you have never switched, and a further 35% of you had switched only once in the last five years.

And here’s the kicker. When we asked those who had never switched if they would switch if simply handed the £322 they could save on average across the year, 74% of you said yes. You’re all mad.

When should you seriously consider switching broadband provider?

The best reason to switch broadband provider is to keep your household bills low. Most broadband deals have what we romantically refer to as a ‘honeymoon period’ or more businesslike as the ‘offer period’ of either three, six or 12 months. That’s a time during which you’ll be paying less than – often a mere fraction of – the full price.

After this period, you’ll be paying a lot more and this is the time you should consider switching again to a new provider.

Another good reason to consider this is that many broadband providers offer new-customer bonuses – incentives for signing up. These vary in quality, but if you strike at the right time, with the right provider the rewards can be considerable – one memorable offer from BT, offered exclusively through Cable.co.uk and touted on TV by MoneySavingExpert.com’s Martin Lewis offered £275 in cashback just for signing up.

When should I consider staying with my provider and haggling?

Did you know you can call your existing provider and ask for a better price for your services? That’s not to say they’re always going to say yes, mind. In fact, more often than not, especially if you signed up only a year ago or have just finished your minimum contract term, the answer is likely to be no. You’re still a new customer at this point and this earmarks you as a serial switcher. You are therefore by default worth less to a provider as you’re likely to switch a lot.

If, on the other hand, you’ve been with your provider for a long time and taken up a lot of services with them, you are far more valuable and worth keeping from the provider’s perspective. Especially if you have TV services, because as well as being a loyal customer who’s paying for a lot of services, you’ll also no doubt have become quite attached to those services and the equipment you’re using to receive them. You may have hundreds of hours of recorded programmes on your Sky Q box, for example.

This puts you in a strong bargaining position when it comes to haggling. Chances are your services provider will want to keep you so don’t be afraid to threaten to leave. It’ll also help you if you have a better deal with another provider to wave under their noses – it may put them in a position to have to match it.

When shouldn’t I switch broadband and/or TV provider?

There are some services that aren’t like-for-like replaceable with other providers. For example, Sky offers by far the most TV channels. It may be that some of the channels you receive on Sky (Sky Atlantic, for example) are not available elsewhere, and are important to you.

Similarly you may live in a household so reliant on very, very fast internet that you need Virgin Media’s outlandishly fast speeds just to cope. In which case there is no-one you could switch to that would come close to competing with Virgin’s lightning speeds.

Essentially, you should reconsider whether to switch if you’ve become attached to or reliant on services that no other provider can replicate. In conclusion, though you’ll find people telling you to ‘switch, switch, switch’ wherever you go – not least of all the providers who want you to switch to them – it’s not always the right choice for everybody, and hopefully I’ve shone a light on that.

Dan Howdle, Cable.co.uk

Dan Howdle is Cable.co.uk’s resident telecoms expert. Dan appears regularly in the UK press to talk about issues faced by UK consumers on matters of broadband, TV and mobile, and has appeared on BBC Breakfast, ITV News, Sky News, and on a number of BBC and non-BBC UK radio stations. If you have a question for Dan, you can email him at expert@cable.co.uk.

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