It’s easy to cancel your broadband contract early if you’re suffering with slow speeds
Ofcom has made it a whole lot easier to cancel your broadband contract early. New regulations put into effect on 1 March 2019 mean that any customer who is suffering at the hands of slow internet (or a service that underperforms) has the right to end their contract early without incurring a termination fee. Providers Sky, BT, Virgin, TalkTalk, EE and Plusnet are all bound by these regulations, known as Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds.
This guide will explain the regulations in a little more depth, and run through how to make use of them as a customer of any of the providers listed above. Here’s how to cancel your broadband contract early.
How to cancel your broadband contract early: What do the new regulations say?
Before we go further, let’s talk about the new Ofcom regulations. First and foremost, Ofcom says that advertising must accurately reflect average broadband speeds during the busiest times of the day. This means no more “speeds of up to –Mbits/sec:” service speeds must be tested during the peak 8-10pm slot for residential use and 12-2pm slot for business.
Secondly, Ofcom states that providers must list a minimum broadband speed, and inform consumers of their right to leave their contract should their experienced speeds fall below this level.
Most crucial of all, Ofcom states that customers have the right to cancel their broadband contract without charge if their broadband speeds drop below the minimum level.
If you think this applies to you, you’ll need to contact your provider: if they can confirm that there is an issue with their service, and they cannot resolve the issue within a new 30-day calendar limit, then you’re entitled to cancel your broadband contract early without paying an exit fee.
Interestingly, Ofcom also says that providers must send area-specific minimum broadband speeds to their customers after purchase in an email/letter that also reminds the customer of their right to exit without charge if they suffer poor connection speeds.
These regulations directly affect customers who purchased a service after 1 March 2019. If you’re not one of those customers, it’s worth checking to see what your rights are on the company web pages listed below.
How to cancel your broadband contract early: What is a bad broadband speed?
There’s not much point trying to take advantage of the Ofcom regulations if your internet connection is good. The regulations are designed for customers who are experiencing genuinely shocking broadband speeds; to find out if you’re one of them, give our broadband speed checker tool a whirl.
It will return three numbers: download speed (in Mbits/sec, usually written as Mbps), upload speed, and ping rate (in ms). The article explains this in more detail, but in a nutshell, you’ll need to be comparing the results of your test to the minimum speeds sent to you by your provider when you join.
Virgin Media, for example, claims that the VIVID 350 fibre optic broadband package delivers a minimum 181Mbits/sec – if you’re on the VIVID 350 service, and report figures below that after multiple tests on different devices, then you need to give Virgin Media a call.
How to cancel your broadband contract early: My broadband is slow – now what?
Congratulations! Your connection speeds could be terrible enough to qualify for a free exit from your broadband service. What happens next depends a little on the provider, but the basic principle has been sketched out by Ofcom.
You’ll need to contact your provider, and ask them to check your broadband speeds. If they find a real issue with their service, they’ll need to attempt to resolve the issue; if they cannot resolve it within 30 days, you are entitled to cancel your broadband contract early and without charge.
Of course, every provider has a slightly different way of doing things, so we’ve scoured the internet and gathered information on each of the six providers listed above to help you understand what to do if your internet connection is below acceptable standards.
As one of the providers who has agreed to Ofcom’s Voluntary Code of Practice on Broadband Speeds, Sky is bound to the regulations mentioned above. If your connection speed stays below the minimum level, and Sky cannot fix the issue within 30 days, you can cancel your contract without penalty.
BT operates in exactly the same way. If you can confirm that you’re consistently seeing broadband speeds lower than the minimum offered by BT, you can contact them and ask that they check their service. If they find a fault, they have 30 days to improve your service, or else you can scram for free.
Virgin Media requires you to prove that your download speeds fall below the expected minimum for three consecutive days. This is just to make sure that you’re not experiencing a temporary blip, and is a method that you should try and follow anyway. Otherwise, the same principles apply.
Virgin advertises its minimum broadband speeds in a handy table you can find on their website. Interestingly, they are the only provider to do so.
TalkTalk operates the same as the others on this list, promising it will attempt to fix a poor internet connection within 30 days. Interestingly, though, TalkTalk distinguishes between “sync speed” (how fast your router can connect to the internet) and “throughput speed” (your download/upload speeds).
Customers who made a purchase prior to 1 March – when the new regulations took effect – will need to prove that their sync speed is lower than advertised; those covered by the new regulations will need to prove the same but with throughput speed.
This distinction seems to apply to each of the six providers listed here, though not all of them are totally clear on it.
Plusnet explains that you will receive information regarding minimum broadband speeds for your local area in a “Welcome” email when you join. If your broadband consistently falls below those speeds, you’ll need to contact the provider.
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How to cancel your broadband contract early: Alternative options
There is actually another way to cancel your broadband contract early without paying the exit fees. If your provider raises the price of your contract without informing you, or raises the price beyond the normal rate of inflation, you are entitled to leave without penalty.
To cancel, you’ll need to contact your provider and state the price hike as your reason for leaving. This will ensure that you aren’t charged – if you find that your provider still tries to charge you, contact Ofcom and register a complaint.
How to cancel your broadband contract early: Next steps
All being well, you will now be in a position to start looking at alternative providers. We recommend doing this before you cancel your current broadband contract, for obvious reasons.
To help you make the right decision, we’ve compiled a list of the best broadband providers in the UK: our criteria for greatness include the all-important broadband speeds, but also line rental and setup fee, usage allowance, and length of contract. We’ve also produced a guide to help you choose the provider that suits your needs, budget, and location.
If you haven’t done so, make sure to try our broadband speed checker – the accompanying guide will help you make sense of the jargon and work out whether your broadband is up to scratch or not.