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Ofcom seeks consumers' experiences of dubious broadband cancellation practices

Thursday, October 15th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Ofcom is asking consumers for their experience of cancelling phone, broadband and pay TV contracts as part of its investigation into contract cancellations.

The telecoms regulator launched the probe earlier this year into the difficulties faced by customers trying to get out of contracts.

In June, Ofcom announced what it called a ‘monitoring and enforcement programme’ to look at the cancellation and termination arrangements of providers offering landline, mobile, broadband and subscription TV services.

Now the watchdog wants consumers to get in touch with their experiences – whether they have been successful in terminating their contract or not.

Launching its contract cancellation questionnaire, Ofcom said it receives a “significant number” of complaints from consumers about the termination arrangements of providers.

“Some people might worry about telling a communications provider they want to leave, perhaps because think they will face pressure from the provider to stay,” said Ofcom.

“But the process should be quick, easy and stress-free for the customer. It shouldn’t involve any unnecessary steps or long procedures that would put someone off.”

The regulator has already introduced new rules that allow broadband customers to end their contract early if they suffer from persistent low speeds or unresolved problems.

It has also made changes to the switching process for broadband and landline services that put the responsibility of switching in the hands of the company to which the customer is moving – known as ‘gaining-provider led’.

Ofcom says the process has been simplified, but the new system is not without its critics.

'Headaches'

Katrina Cliffe, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, ended up paying for two different broadband services after switching from EE to Sky.

Mrs Cliffe, who runs a marketing consultancy, told Cable.co.uk she was out of pocket by more than £40 after being billed twice by EE despite the switch successfully taking place.

The bills were generated because providers allow consumers a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period in case they change their mind.

“I wasn’t too impressed with that,” said Mrs Cliffe. “It’s like me switching gas suppliers and having to pay twice for gas.”

EE has since offered to refund Mrs Cliffe for both bills, but she remains concerned that others will face similar problems.

“What needs to be looked into is how many customers are going to be charged twice for 14 days. I can see it causing a lot of headaches for people.”

James Blessing, chairman of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) told Cable.co.uk in August that the new system was “really messy” and would lead to more problems.

Ofcom said it will not publish responses to the questionnaire but will use them to inform its monitoring and enforcement work.

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