Broadband consumer rights

For any product you buy - or service you sign up to - it’s really important that you’re aware of your consumer rights.

When it comes to your rights when you sign up to a broadband service - be it standalone, or within a broadband, TV and/or phone package - we’ve got all of the information you need…

Cancelling your broadband

If you’ve got a broadband plan and you’re not happy - for whatever reason - you might be considering cancelling the package and switching to a new broadband provider. If you’re thinking about this, here’s what you need to know:

  • There’s a 14-day cooling-off period on all broadband packages, so if you’re within this time period, you can cancel with no charge.
  • If you’re outside the cooling-off period, but still within your contract’s ‘minimum term’ (usually 12-18 months), a cancellation charge will apply. Depending on your provider, this may be a set fee, or you could even have to pay the monthly charge for the remainder of your contract, so it can be really costly. If you’re in this situation, it’s worth raising any issues with your provider first, to make sure you’ve exhausted that avenue. Remember, too, that if you can prove that you are not receiving the service you signed up to it’s possible you’ll be able to exit the contract without charge. You can also leave without charge if your provider changes the terms of your contract - for example the monthly price.
  • If you’re outside the cooling-off period, and your contract’s minimum term is up, you can switch without penalty BUT you are still responsible for giving your provider the relevant notice as stated in your contract when you want to cancel. This will ensure you are not charged after you’ve moved to a new provider.

Complaining to your broadband provider

All providers have a complaints process, so if you have an issue talk to them directly, as it’s very likely your concern may be easily addressed.

Not sure where to start? Making a complaint to your provider is actually really easy:

  • You can contact most providers by phone, email or post, and many have online help centres now too, so choose whichever method works best for you and get the ball rolling.
  • Outline your complaint clearly, and be sure to include contact details so that they can update you on the status of your complaint.
  • Ask for an estimated timeframe for the complaint to be resolved.
  • Request a copy of your provider’s code of conduct, which will set out how they deal with complaints.

If your complaint is taking a long time to be resolved, or is not resolved satisfactorily, don’t forget that you can escalate your complaint to ComReg, but you do need to have exhausted the complaints process with your provider first.

Not getting the speed you paid for?

Broadband speeds are a tricky one. It’s probably fair to say that most of us want the fastest broadband speed possible. But did you know that when you sign up to a plan, the advertised speed is an ‘up to’ speed, and not a guarantee of the speed you’ll actually get?

The speed you receive will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of broadband you have, whether you’re using a wired or WiFi connection, and the distance from your home to the nearest cabinet or ‘exchange’ (unless you have a Fibre-to-the-Home connection).

Having said that, if your broadband is really underperforming in terms of speed, you should firstly carry out a speed test and see what speed you’re actually getting - carry out a few tests at different times of day to get an idea of what your speeds are like on average.

You could easily improve your speeds using some of our tips for people with slow broadband, but if you’re still not satisfied, you should contact your provider to discuss it. They may be able to help, or provide some new equipment that could make a big difference.

If the issue is still not resolved, think about shopping around for a new plan - possibly with a different type of connection - and switch if you find a package better suited to your needs. Not only could you get improved speeds, you’ll probably get a nice introductory discount, too.

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Your rights when you’re switching to a new broadband provider

When you switch to a new provider, the most important thing to bear in mind is that there is a 14-day cooling-off period, during which you can cancel without penalty if any aspect of the service doesn’t suit you.

Remember to contact your current provider to ensure you’re free to switch, and give them the required notice so that you’re not charged after you’ve switched.

You’ll be able to arrange a cut-off date with them for service and then you can confirm an installation date with your new provider to make sure you experience as little downtime as possible - it’s unlikely that your phone service will be affected, but a loss of broadband service can sometimes occur temporarily during the switching process.

Once the switch happens, make sure you cancel any Direct Debits with your current provider.

What to do if you’ve been overcharged for your broadband

It’s really important to read your bills because - while it’s rare - mistakes do happen, and could easily be missed if you pay by Direct Debit, as the money will automatically be deducted from your account. Get into the habit of checking your bills regularly. It only takes a minute or two and you’re much more likely to spot any mistakes.

If you do notice an issue with any of your bills, all you need to do is contact your provider. They will rectify any issues and you’ll usually be refunded next time you’re billed.

What happens if you’ve gone over your broadband limit

When you sign up for a broadband deal, it will either be advertised as ‘unlimited’, or will have a data limit attached to it. Some ADSL and fibre broadband plans now offer unlimited data - however satellite broadband and mobile broadband packages tend to have relatively low data limits, so you could be looking at something between 10 and 60GB on these plans.

If you go over the fair usage limit or your plan’s data limit, you will usually be charged per GB for doing so, so it can work out to be quite costly. If your provider doesn’t impose charges, it’s possible they could restrict your service once you go over the limit, which can be very frustrating.

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