Avoiding the hidden costs of broadband
Friday 12 October 2012
You’ve found the perfect broadband deal for you at the perfect price, but is this deal too good to be true? It’s possible, purchasing a broadband connection can be fraught with hidden costs and charges just waiting to jump out at you and make that great deal seem not quite so great.
This is the Independent’s handy guide to navigating the hidden-cost minefield.
Line rental is one way in which broadband providers will try to squeeze a few extra pennies out of you each month. And by “a few extra pennies” I mean “1500 extra pennies”; line rental can be as much as £15 on top of your monthly broadband fee.
The reason broadband companies charge this much for a landline is because they know you need one. ADSL broadband is simply unavailable without a BT landline. Some providers – Sky, TalkTalk and AOL to name just three – will allow you to pay for line rental upfront, saving money in the long run. If you have the initial capital this can be a very handy option.
The other option is to eschew the landline altogether. If you live in an area were Virgin Media fibre optic broadband is available, this option requires no landline. Mobile broadband also requires no landline connection.
Monthly usage caps
This might seem like an obvious one, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Of course, if you pay for a download limit of 15GB a month and download 23GB of data in that monthly period, you will expect to be hit with a penalty.
However, if you pay for unlimited broadband, you would assume that unlimited downloads are your reward. This is not always the case; most broadband providers will still operate a fair usage policy which enables them to charge you if you download too much data throughout the month.
Two tips to avoid such charges: analyse your monthly usage requirements so that you know exactly what sort of data plan you need; and always, always, always read the small print on your contract!
Connection and other fees
Broadband providers will often charge you a connection fee to get you up and running. This is a difficult one to avoid; however, some broadband providers do offer free connection as part of a wider bundle. As bundling your services in this way will save you money in the long run anyway, this is an excellent route to go down.
Another fee that can hit you hard is the cancellation fee. Broadband providers offer their cheapest deals to customers who sign lengthy contracts, but if that customer decides they want out of a contract after only a few months, the provider will charge them a very hefty fee to cover the remaining time on the contract.
To avoid this, plan ahead. Don’t sign up for a 24 month contract for the student house you’re only going to spend 9 months in. The monthly fees are cheaper but the cancellation cost will get you and transferring your broadband contract to another property can be costly too!
Free stuff that isn’t really free
Broadband providers like to offer little extras to make it look like you are getting a good deal. Many of these things are genuinely useful – such as a costly router free of charge – while others are less so; i.e. anti-virus software that you could get for free elsewhere.
The trick is to shop around. Very often, such freebies aren’t actually free and will result in the provider pushing up your monthly rates in exchange for stuff you don’t really need. Check out what other broadband providers are offering to make sure you truly are getting the best deal.
Customer service call centres
Customer service call centres can be a godsend, but they can also be incredibly infuriating, particularly when you are paying through the nose just to be put on hold for 10 minutes.
When you get through to an operator, ask them to call you back. While this will be against their normal policy, a broadband provider is not going to risk losing a customer over the cost of a phone call. This allows you to explain the problem at length without racking up a hefty bill.
Many customer service centres have alternative, cheaper contact numbers that are not as well publicised as the premium rate lines. Not only are these lines cheaper – or even free on some contracts – there is a higher likelihood that your call will go straight through to an operator rather than being queued is much higher.
More Hints and Tips
- Use direct debit to pay your monthly bill. Most broadband providers will give you a discount for this.
- Always read the small print on any contract you sign.
- Always shop around before signing up for a bundle. You may find a better offer elsewhere that delivers exactly what you need.