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18 May 2018

Deputy Money Editor, Ruth Emery writes,

Forking out more for broadband than Him Next Door? Here’s how to find out.

Ever wondered how much your next-door neighbour is paying for their broadband? At a time when customers can haggle over their bills and secure a discount — perhaps by threatening to switch to a competitor — are you being charged a fair amount?

New research reveals that some householders are paying up to three times as much as others for the same services, from broadband to boiler insurance.

For example, some people pay just £30 a month for a Virgin broadband deal, while others fork out twice as much for the same package. This means customers are overpaying by £360 a year. Also, some households are charged £25 a month for a BT broadband and landline package, while others are billed three times as much.

The disparity in pricing from some of Britain’s biggest brands has been unearthed by a new website, ismybillfair.com. It says it is the first pricing transparency site, allowing consumers to find out if they are paying a fair rate.

Users input their details and are told the average, highest and lowest prices for the same service, based on data collected by the website from other consumers. About 7,000 people have inserted their pricing details so far.

The website was founded by Alex Perrin, a former pricing director at Virgin Media who has also worked at British Gas and the RAC. It covers energy, telecoms and breakdown services, including boiler cover.

Some households may be paying up to three times as much as others for the same broadband service

Some households may be paying up to three times as much as others for the same broadband service

If a householder is unhappy after checking on ismybillfair.com, the website will challenge their provider to reduce their bill. If the user decides they would prefer to switch, the site shows them cheaper alternatives after searching across the market.

The website makes money by charging providers for the personal details of customers who want a better deal, and from commission generated by its switching service — in the same way as comparison sites such as GoCompare and uSwitch.

“This is a new option for millions of customers who simply do not want to move to a new provider — they just want a fairer deal from their existing company. We will challenge providers to do exactly that,” said Perrin.

While some people are happy to negotiate a better price with their provider themselves, the site could be useful for those who lack the time or confidence to haggle.

James Daley at the consumer group Fairer Finance said it sounded like “a great service”, but raised concerns over whether its revenue model would prove sustainable.

Research by ismybillfair.com shows four out of five customers would like to have a better deal with their existing provider rather than move to a competitor.

Gordon Smith, 79, from Edinburgh, used the site to check how his Virgin Media bill compared with other customers’ deals. He pays £143.35 a month for a Premiere bundle, which includes unlimited calls to other UK landlines, Sky Sports and some Sky Cinema channels, and fibre broadband up to 150Mbps.

He discovered he was overpaying: the website showed the same package with Virgin, except with the added bonus of 300Mbps broadband, could cost as little as £94.75 — giving an annual saving of £583.20.

Smith said: “It’s much easier to have a website telling you if it’s a good price and negotiate on your behalf, rather than waste time phoning the provider and being held in a queue.

“I hadn’t thought about my bills but according to the website I’m paying a huge amount, so I would like Virgin Media to reduce it a wee bit.”

He is expecting a letter from the company.

Is your bill fair?

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