Understand Your Broadband Contract
Do you always read through the small print when you sign a contract for broadband? If you’re one of the 99% which don’t this might help.
There’s an awful lot to read and its all important so here is our plain English description of the terms and conditions you may find in your broadband contract.
The basic terms of your broadband contract are:
1. Your contract will explain what you're getting from your bundle, how much it costs you, and the minimum length of time it will apply for. It will also tell you what your provider can change about your package. This is particularly important to check as they tend to be written so your provider is able to change anything and everything for any reason whenever they please.
Whatever your contract states, Ofcom rules state that
"If your monthly broadband bill rises beyond normal inflation costs, you can cancel your package within 30 days of being informed about it with no termination fees."
This means you still have rights that override the contract.
2. The provider promises to give you a broadband service, and you promise to pay your bills and use your connection responsibly.
3. By signing up, you agree to pay your bill and other related costs (like a setup cost), and use your broadband reasonably. Simply, you won't use it illegally or for crime.
Installation, setup, and equipment
When you sign up to broadband, you'll be told in advance how much you need to pay for installation and setup. That'll include the price of your router and whether an engineer needs to come to your home. The small print of your contract will confirm all this, with a few more details added in such as:
1. Your router's warranty.
2. What pieces of equipment are included or available, and what you'll need to provide yourself.
3. Whether the router is yours to keep, or if you're expected to return it at the end of your contract.
Costs and bills
How much money you pay each month is an important part of your broadband contract. Your contract will detail everything else to do with costs like, how you can pay, which day of the month you're charged, how prices might change, and how to view your bill. It also outlines what happens if you don't pay. It may be that your provider charges extra fees, suspends it temporarily or shuts off your service.
Whatever your contract states, Ofcom rules state that if your monthly broadband bill rises beyond normal inflation costs, you can cancel your package within 30 days of being informed about it with no termination fees. This means you still have rights that override the contract.
If you need to contact customer service, check your contract. Your supplier will give you the details of how they would like you to contact them.
The download and upload speeds will be based on the package you choose, where you live, and what kind of property you have. Most big internet providers are signed-up to Ofcom's broadband speed code, which means that they have to give you a clear indication of the speed you should expect before you sign-up. Once you become a customer, if the service doesn't perform then you have the right to leave:
"IIf your service doesn’t deliver the speeds you were promised by your provider, first get in touch with them. If the problem is on their network and they can’t fix it within 30 days, they must let you leave your contract without being penalised."
Web traffic management, usage caps and acceptable use policies
Some broadband packages have web traffic management, usage caps and acceptable use policies.
You'll find details of any web traffic management that your provider performs, and how it might affect your connection. The way it manages traffic is often subject to change, so it'll probably give a link to a page on its website with the most up-to-date info.
Fair usage terms aren't that common these days. A lot of providers offer truly unlimited contracts - but most have an acceptable use policy. Your contract will go over what this means, but you mustn't do anything illegal via your broadband like purposely spreading viruses.
There may be some wording saying that it'll investigate if you "exceed what is reasonably expected of someone using the service for domestic purposes." If you're a genuine household (not a business) and not using the internet for anything illegal, there's no need to worry.
If your package has a usage cap, the contract will say what it is and what happens if you go over it. The provider may send warning emails, charge you by the megabyte for everything you use above the cap, automatically upgrade you to a more expensive package, or even suspend your connection.
Switching and cancelling
When you sign up, you'll be told how long your contract is e.g. 18 months. The contract will go on to explain what happens when you reach the end of the 18 months. You may find, your provider will continue giving you the same service and charge you for it. However, chances are you'll want to cancel at some point, so the small print will give you the information to do so.
Once you're outside of your stated contract, switching or cancelling is pretty straightforward see our guide How does switching Broadband Supplier work?
If you’re looking at cancelling your contract early it will indicate how to do so in this section but watch out as early termination fees can apply although there are limits on how much your provider can charge you (see Disconnection Fees Explained.)
You'll also find information about what to do if you're moving home, and times in which you can end your contract early without any damage. Some contracts include a 'cooling off' period in the first couple of weeks of your connection getting switched on.
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