We all get far too many notifications these days, but we'd actually be quite pleased to receive the ones Ofcom is planning. They want your internet provider to have to write to you and tell you that your contract's finished, with details of their other offers.
End-of-contract notifications, as Ofcom's calling them, were originally proposed in July this year. Today, the regulator released more details about how they're planning to implement them, and exactly what providers will have to do to comply.
The proposals will apply to all electronic communication services, so not only broadband but landline, mobile and pay TV services too.
The idea is that people often don't have a clue when they're in or out of contract, and if you don't know your contract's ended, you won't look into better deals. Contracts convert to monthly deals after the minimum term (i.e. the time you signed up for), meaning you could carry on paying a higher fee essentially forever if you don't re-sign to a new deal or a different provider. Getting a letter in the post (or let's be real, an email with the least enticing subject line the guys in marketing could think of) will make it a lot harder to ignore the fact that you're overpaying.
The planned notifications would have to include:
- The date your minimum term (aka the time period you committed to) ends
- Info about what you're currently paying for and getting
- Any notice period you need to give before you can leave
- Confirmation that you won't have to pay early termination charges from the date the minimum term ends
- Details of other contract deals you could now take with that provider
- How to close your account.
"We want people to be able to take advantage of the wide choice of communication
services available and shop around with confidence, so that at the end of their fixed
commitment period they can get the best deals for their needs. This could mean taking up
a new deal with their current provider, or switching to a new supplier."
Provider comparison service uSwitch is on board with the proposals -- head of regulation Richard Neudegg comments:
"However, the key news from today’s announcement is that the regulator is planning to take forwards refined proposals to force providers to give vital information to customers at the end of their contract, as well as those who are out of contract - and in some case have been for years.
Historically in telecoms, not enough has been done to put the power back into consumers’ hands. If customers are given the right tools, there is a real chance to improve households’ experience of services that are now critical in their day-to-day lives."
Which? is also in favour, with MD of Home Products and Services Alex Neill commenting:
"Our research has shown that many UK households are paying huge loyalty premiums for staying on the same tariff when they could be paying less for a faster internet service. So we're supporting Ofcom's campaign to help the nation boost its broadband.
If you are unhappy with your internet service, or you think you could be paying too much, you should look to switch provider or try haggling for a better deal. A few minutes of your time could potentially save you hundreds of pounds a year."
However, the big providers are probably less thrilled about the idea, since it means they have to make more effort and will get less money. BT and Sky are quoted with objections in the report, and Ofcom has asked for concerns or comments to be submitted before the next review in February.
What do you reckon – good idea? Is not knowing when your contract ended stopping you from getting a better deal? Let us know in the comments.