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Broadband Fees to Avoid

You’ve signed up to a broadband deal based on its attractive monthly fee but suddenly find yourself facing additional charges, for a router or the delivery of it, for ‘activation,’ for excessive usage if you’ve exceeded your download allowance. Even your monthly bill is creeping up as your introductory offer ends or as your contract expires and you’re shunted onto a default tariff. If you make a payment late, you’re hit with a fee. If you fail to return your equipment after your contract is up, there’s another fee. And if you want to terminate your broadband before your contract term is up, you’ll face even more charges, including monthly bills that are sometimes 80% or more of your previous bill—and for a service you’re no longer using.

You feel duped but when you look closer at the terms and conditions of your contract, you see all these charges were there in the fine print. The most notorious ‘hidden’ broadband fee—line rental—now has to be included in the advertised total monthly cost for the connection, but other subtle fees are still taking customers by surprise.

These charges aren’t exactly secret but, with the exception of some setup fees and introductory offers, they’re often not prominently advertised. Fortunately, most of these charges are levied only in specific circumstances, often as penalties, and if you’re diligent, you can easily avoid them.

Pay your broadband bill on time, renew it or switch to another provider when your tariff expires, return all equipment, and don’t try to exit your contract early, and you can duck most of these ‘hidden’ fees and avoid receiving a shock bill.

Let’s take a closer look at these ‘hidden’—or less well advertised—broadband charges and how you can dodge them.

Introductory Offers and End of Offer Pricing

Some broadband providers offer lower prices to new customers, to lure in switchers. These prices are often the ones prominently marketed, the ones that make you plump for the multi-month contract. But make sure you read the small print of any advertisement to see how long the ‘too good to be true’ price lasts. You may be stuck paying higher rates— ‘end of offer’ prices—in the 7th or 13th month and beyond.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind switching broadband providers like clockwork every year and can avoid costly set-up charges, introductory offers can be a great way of keeping your bills low. You can also then take advantage of incentives and freebies like gift cards offered to new subscribers and switchers.

Additionally, when your contract expires, if you don’t renew it or take out a new tariff with your current provider or a competitor, your internet connection won’t evaporate. Instead your broadband provider will switch you over to their default tariff, which, without the discounts of a contract, will be significantly more expensive. Your broadband provider is supposed to contact you before your contract term experies—mostly to exhort you to renew it or sign up to a new tarif with them—but you should be aware of the expiry date yourself and ensure you have a new tariff lined up, or you may face paying for a few months of broadband at a very steep rate.

Landline Installation or Reconnection

In most cases, you need a landline phone line to receive broadband, whether you’re planning on plugging a phone into it and fielding calls from your grandmother and sales robots or not. (See our guide to landlines and line rental to see why you need a landline.) Most UK addresses will already have a landline but some new build properties or recently converted flats will not: they may have a white BT socket but it may not be connected to anything. If you’re renovating a very old property you may also need to have a phone line installed to receive broadband.

BT charges £140 for a new landline installation, but this is the worst case scenario for customers. You can usually have a landline installed for free, or at a large discount, by a broadband provider if you take out 12, 18, or 24-month contract with them. See our guide to landlines to see which providers offer free or heavily discounted landline installation.

Setup charges

Many broadband providers charge setup fees at the outset of a contract or the start of a one-month, rolling connection. These upfront charges should be prominently displayed in their marketing materials and most broadband comparison sites will make note of them as well.

Setup charges range from activation or connection fees to the cost of equipment like routers (and in the case of mobile broadband contracts, dongles and portable Wifi hotspots—more about that later), to delivery of this equipment (sometimes labelled “P&P” for “packing and postage”). Sometimes you’ll be given the router ‘for free’ but will have to pay to have it posted to you—BT, NOW TV, and TalkTalk charge around £10 for this service for some packages.

Sometimes these setup fees are rolled into your monthly bills but when be aware that you might face costs of up to £70 upfront for some home broadband deals. Setup charges will often be highest for broadband packages purchased on one-month, rolling contracts.

The following table lists the activation fees, equipment charges, and possible delivery costs for the main UK broadband providers.

Provider Activation Fees Equipment Charges Delivery
BT £19.99 for ADSL broadband packages, including delivery of equipment none; routers (BT Hubs) provided for free £9.99 P&P for some broadband packages without activation fees
Direct Save Telecom free for contract broadband, £24.95 for broadband purchased without a contract none; routers provided for free none
EE £10 for standard broadband; £50 for fibre max packages, sometimes offered for free during promotions none; routers (EE Smart Hub) provided for free none
John Lewis none none; routers provided or free none
NOW TV none for contract broadband; £59.99 for no contract, rolling option none; router provided for free £9.99 P&P
Plusnet £10 for standard broadband; £25 for fibre broadband; £50 for rolling, one-month contract; sometimes waived during promotions none; router provided for free none
Post Office £7 for standard broadband, £25 for fibre broadband none; router provided for free none
SSE £30 activation fee for non-SSE energy customers none; router provided for free none
Sky £19.95 for standard broadband; £59.95 for fibre broadband none; router provided for free none
TalkTalk £30 for fibre broadband; none for standard broadband but delivery charges for router apply none; router provided for free £9.95 P&P for unlimited broadband; none for fibre packages (but setup fees apply)
Vodafone £9.99 “upfront cost” none; router provided for free none
Zen free for standard broadband; £55 for fibre broadband none; router (FRITZ!Box) provided for free none

Line rental when not included

Following an Advertising Standards Authority directive from October 2016, internet service providers must now include line rental charges in the total advertised monthly cost of the connection. Line rental charges, which are typically around £17 to £19 per month, are therefore no longer “hidden” fees. They can be an irritating extra, however, especially if you’re not using your landline phone, and you may wonder if you can save money by ditching your line rental. In general, solutions for getting broadband without line rental—which range from Virgin cable internet to mobile broadband—won’t save you money and/or won’t be practical.

Two providers—Plusnet and Zen—currently offer broadband packages without line rental, with headline monthly costs of £14.49 and £22.99, respectively. These packages are misleading, however, as you’ll still have to buy line rental from another provider. BT and Post Office both offer line rental without broadband for discounted fees but they’ll still run at £11.99 or £11.50 per month. Remember to factor in these costs when considering a broadband package ‘without line rental.’

For more information see our guide to line rental and getting broadband without line rental.

Excessive usage charges

If you do opt for a data allowance, be aware of extra charges you may incur for exceeding them. These are more pressing for mobile broadband contracts, which all come with data allowances and may or may not be capped. Your provider should alert you as you approach your allowance, and you can also use your provider’s online portal or mobile app to track your data usage throughout the month.

If you’re worried about potentially exceeding your data allowance on your mobile broadband tariff, select a provider that caps usage such as EE or O2. They’ll disconnect you once you’ve used your monthly allocation of data and you’ll have to purchase bolt ons to get back online again before the start of the next month.

Vodafone offers voluntary capping on its mobile broadband packages—a feature you should certainly take advantage of because any data use outside of your bundle will cost you £6.50 per 250 MB, the harshest excessive use charge from any provider. Three caps some mobile broadband connections—generally on their portable MiFis but not on their HomeFi—and charges 1p per extra MB used on the tariffs that aren’t capped. Virgin Mobile doesn’t cap its mobile broadband and charges £1 per GB outside of your allowance but is diligent in notifying customers about their use, sending texts when you’ve used 75%, 90%, and 100% of your allowance.

Cancellation Fees

If you cancel your broadband before the minimum contract term is up, you can be hit with penalties including bills for all the remaining months on the contract and a cancellation fee. Sometimes monthly bills for a terminated service can be as much as 80% of your previous bills.

If you’re unsure you’re going to stay in your current address for the full period of a broadband contract, explore one-month, rolling contracts. They may come with higher setup fees and/or a higher monthly bill but will be cheaper than paying for months of a contract you’re no longer using.

Even if you’re cancelling outside of the contract period, you could still be hit with a cancellation charge.

Switching to another provider doesn’t usually incur a fee but outright cancelling, or switching to or from a cable provider like Virgin, will, however. See the table below for the cancellation fees specified by the main ISPs.

Cancellation Notice

To cancel your broadband service, you have to give your provider notice in advance, a time period specified by the terms and conditions of your contract. The notice period will generally be 14 days, 28 days, 30 days or a month. The notice period for switching to another provider can be shorter than that required for the outright cancelling of a service.

These days you generally don’t have to contact your old provider when you switch, unless you’re switching to or from a Virgin cable service. In most other cases, your new provider will contact your old provider and arrange the switchover of service. But even if you’re not the one notifying your old provider, you’ll be liable for charges within the notice period. See our guide to switching broadband providers for more information.

If you’re moving, make sure you give notice to your broadband provider within the designated time period so you’re not stuck paying an extra monthly bill for internet in a property you’re no longer living in.

Cancellation Terms and Charges Table

Provider Cancellation Notice Period Cancellation Fee Early Termination Charges
BT 14 days to switch, 30 days to cancel sometimes £31 (can also apply when switching to a cable provider); sometimes £65 for ‘equipment’ between £19.75 and £27 per month for remaining months on the contract, depending on package
EE 14 days n/a between 40% and 60% of your monthly bill for all months remaining
John Lewis 14 days if moving to another provider, 10 if cancelling for another reason £25, including when switching to a provider on a different network £4.15 per month for standard broadband, £10.85 per month for fibre, £12.18 per month for fibre extra, for all months remaining
NOW TV 30 days n/a £13.50 per month for standard broadband, £13.87 per month for slower fibre, £20.48 per month for faster fibre, for all months remaining
Plusnet 14 days for residential broadband, 28 days for business accounts n/a £11.85 per month for standard broadband, £9.46 per month for fibre, £9.63 per month for fibre extra, for all months remaining
Post Office 15 days n/a £13.60 per month for standard broadband, £19.50 per month for fibre broadband, and £24.50 for fibre plus, for all months remaining
Sky 14 days; 31 days for SkyTV, if that’s bundled with your broadband n/a range from £4.29 per month for data-limited standard broadband to £13.58 per month for unlimited fibre connections. You’ll also have to pay £9.32 per month to cancel your line rental.
TalkTalk 30 days n/a between £10.50 and £16 per month depending on broadband packages, for all months remaining
Vodafone 30 days notice £15 one off cease fee between £9 and £17 per month for all remaining months, depending on your package; cheaper for Vodafone mobile customers cancelling Vodafone home broadband

Equipment returns

Also be aware that some providers require when you’re terminating their service, whether in or out of contract, whether you’re switching or outright cancelling, that you return equipment including routers to them (often at your cost) or face paying for the equipment. If you have a TV package bundled with your broadband, this could potentially be very pricey. EE, for instance, charges £175 if you don’t return your EE TV box to them within 30 days.

BT reportedly charges £65 for equipment if you terminate the contract early. Customers report being levied the fee even when they’re only exiting the contract a day or two early, when the takeover from a new provider occurs a little early. To avoid the charge, see if your new provider can begin service the day after your BT contract expires. You may be without internet for an evening, but it’s better than a £65 fee.

Fees for late payment

If you don’t pay a bill on time, either due to financial difficulty or forgetfulness, you could incur a charge for late payments. Providers encourage you to contact them if you’re having trouble making a payment and, if possible, to set up direct debits so you don’t simply forget.

If you haven’t paid, your service may be restricted or disconnected until you have cleared the balance you owe. This generally doesn’t happen immediately after a missed payment—so you generally don’t have to worry about suddenly losing internet due to a banking error—and your provider will generally attempt to contact you to get the amount owed before suspending your service.

If you fail to clear the balance within a certain time period, your provider will cancel your contract, possibly for an additional charge. Furthermore, both the lifting of restrictions on a line and the reconnection of a disconnected line can incur further cost.

In addition to adding to your broadband cost and to debt, late payment and contract cancellation can also impact your credit score, restricting your ability to sign up to broadband contracts in the future—and to obtain car loans and mortgages. See our guide to getting broadband with a poor credit score for more information.

Below is a table of the late payment fees charged by the main providers, as well as the timelines for imposing service restrictions and contract cancellations (where this information is available), and the cost of lifting those restrictions. Also read the terms and conditions of your contract and if in doubt, contract the supplier because this information can change.

Late Payment Charge Restrictions after Cancellation after Lift Restrictions Reconnect line disconnected
BT £7.50 unknown unknown £18 £36
Direct Save Telecom £14.95 for failed direct debit, £14.95 for disconnection charge, unknown unknown unknown unknown
EE £5 unknown unknown unknown £24; but potentially no reconnection on same contract; waiting period before you can enrol in an EE contract again
John Lewis £7.50, £10 if a direct debit fails 14 days 28 days £5.76 unknown
NOW TV unknown “a few days” unknown unknown unknown
Plusnet £7.50 14 days 49 days unknown no reconnection of same contract
Post Office £7.66 for missed or late payment; £15.32 for debt recovery administration charges unknown unknown unknown unknown