Reading Between the Lines

When you look at any broadband packages you should always read the small print.  The problem is that only 2 in every 5 people actually read it and this is where service providers hide a lot of hidden fees and conditions.  It is important that you know what this part of your contract may be hiding.

BE Broadband and Sky

With BE broadband you have to consider what the contract will tell you about the transition to Sky broadband.  In early 2013 Sky bought out BE broadband and this will affect the existing BE customers in late 2013, when all the services move under the Sky umbrella.  If you take out a contract with BE broadband now you should look at the small print to see what the future has in store.

Installation or Setup Costs

When you start a contract with a service provider they may have installation or setup fees.  These fees are generally excluded from the large print of a package and included in the small.  You should look to see if you have to pay a setup fee for the activation of your account, and an installation fee for the technician to come out.

Some providers allow you to setup your broadband hardware yourself because the routers are pre-configured.  If your provider allows this you may not have to pay an installation fee.  However, there may be other problems with not using a technician.  You may not be covered if anything goes wrong with the installation and could face a fee to get a technician out after the fact.

Your Broadband Speeds

The speed of your broadband may be the main reason behind choosing a provider or a package. You need to look for anything that could affect this speed.  Of course, you are not likely to get the advertised speed for the package, but your provider may have the right to change the maximum speed of your connection.  This could be done at will and you may not be contacted about it. 

There are some providers that state that if any changes are made you will be contacted.  However, you must ensure that you have some recourse should this happen.  You may be entitled to cancel you contract without any cancellation fees if this happens.

Broadband Prices and Cancellation Fees

The price of your broadband can be affected by what is listed in the small print.  If you are looking at a broadband package that offers a certain amount of free or discounted time you need to study the contract carefully.  This is where you will find the amount you have to pay after the discounted or free months.  This price will be different to the advertised price because the advertised price is the average price over the contract length. 

Your broadband provider may also hide the fact that they can change the price of the package at any time.  You need to verify if this could happen and what you can do.  You should be able to cancel your account without incurring cancellation fees.  At this point it would be best to see what the possible cancellation fees are.  Ofcom states that providers should not charge more in cancellation fees than the rest of the contract is worth.  While this is reasonable it can still mean a large fee if you cancel the account.

Excess Usage Penalties

If you have a broadband package that comes with a data cap you have to check what the penalty is for exceeding the cap.  There are a number of options that providers have for this excess use:

  • You may be automatically upgraded to the next package if you continuously exceed your limit. 
  • You may be charged a set fee for exceeding the limit.
  • You may be charged a varying fee for the amount of data you used over your limit.
  • You account may be suspended for continuous excessive use.

Provider Policies

The fair usage and traffic management policies will be outlined in the small print.  There are some providers who no longer have these policies, but there are other providers that have policies which impact even their unlimited packages.  You need to verify what the policies are and which packages they affect.

The Support

Support terms and conditions are listed in the full contract.  Most subscribers believe that they can receive support at all times, but this is not the case with all providers.  There are some providers that do not offer 24 hour support or only offer certain types of support at certain times of day.  There are other providers that do not offer support unless certain technical points are followed.

The restriction of support is generally limited to the use of hardware that does not come from the provider.  This is mainly to stop people using generic routers and modems instead of the ones provided by the service provider.  If you have a generic router or modem you may not be able to get technical support from your provider.  If this is the case it will be listed in the contract as well.

How You Can Complain

No-one wants to think about complaining before they even have the broadband service.  However, it is important that you find out what the process is if you ever have to complain.  Your provider should tell you want the complaint process is and how you can contact your provider. 

Switching Your Broadband

Your broadband contract should contain information about switching from your provider.  You need to read this information if you switch because it is likely to make the process much easier.  The small print will tell you how you can obtain a MAC code and how you should go about cancelling your contract.