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Can I cancel my broadband, mobile or TV contract if I lose my job and can’t afford it?

STRUGGLING broadband, mobile and TV customers may be wondering if they can cancel contracts penalty free if they’ve lost their job.

It comes as UK unemployment this week hit 4.1% with 695,000 workers being made redundant since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Hundreds of thousands of people may be struggling to pay telecoms bills after being made redundant[/caption]

Yet despite many people suffering from a loss of income, telecoms providers have still been announcing price hikes, with BT this week confirming increases of up to £72 a year for more than a million users.

Elsewhere, Sky increased TV prices for millions of customers, also by up to £72 a year from April 1 this year, and from August for users who didn’t see rises in April.

In light of this, we run through your rights to cancelling your contract penalty free if you can’t pay bills, and what help providers will offer.

What help will my provider offer?

There’s no industry-wide rule telling providers how to help customers who are struggling to pay bills – telecoms regulator Ofcom only says customers must be treated fairly.

It has also warned that due to the coronavirus crisis it expects firms to make sure customers still get the level of service they’re used to if they’ve asked for support.

All the major providers told us help is offered on a case-by-case basis.

But generally, this can include moving you onto a cheaper package or switching you to a monthly direct debit or to a pay-as-you-go mobile plan to make costs more manageable.

Monthly payment dates can also be changed if you get a new job and have a new date when your salary drops into your account.

You may also be given a payment extension, or a repayment plan may be set-up, although this can mean reduced services in the meantime.

A repayment plan may also be reported to credit reference agencies so check this first if you’re worried about the impact on your credit score.

Can I cancel my contract penalty-free?

If you’re outside of your contract minimum term, which is usually the first 12 to 24 months, you can usually cancel your contract penalty free and switch elsewhere.

Use a free comparison tool, such as BroadbandChoices or BillMonitor to search for the best deal for you.

Bear in mind BT offers a £10 a month broadband and home phone contract for those on Universal Credit and other benefits, which is the cheapest around.

Meanwhile, Virgin Media has an Essential package for Universal Credit recipients for £15 a month with no fixed contract and no price rises promised.

How can I contact my provider if I'm struggling?

HERE'S how to contact your provider if you're struggling to make repayments:

  • BT: Call 0800 0800 150
  • EE: Call 07953 966 250 or select 150 on your EE handset
  • O2: Call  0800 902 0217
  • Sky: Call 0333 7592 165
  • TalkTalk: Check what options are available to you via your online TalkTalk account and use its online chat service to get in touch
  • Virgin Media: 0800 052 0360
  • Vodafone: Chat online or call 0333 3040 191 or 191 from a Vodafone mobile

For those still within their contract minimum term you’re unlikely to be able to cancel without incurring an early exit fee – these vary by provider and depending on the length left on your deal.

None of the providers we spoke to would confirm if they would allow those who’ve lost jobs to cancel free of charge, but it’s worth asking just in case.

Also bear in mind that if you’re affected by BT’s latest TV and Sport price rises you have until October 31 to cancel penalty free – even if you’re still within your contract’s minimum term.

What happens if I don’t pay my bill?

You should always try to avoid missing bill payments, and if you think you might miss one – get in touch with your provider as soon as possible.

Ofcom says providers should avoid applying late payment fees and disconnecting customers during the pandemic.

Typically, if you fail to pay your mobile, broadband or TV bill you’re charged a late payment fee, which can be as high as £12.50 – see the box below for a full breakdown by provider.

What late payment fees does my provider charge?

HERE'S how much major providers charge each time you're late paying your bill:

Broadband and TV providers:

  • BT: £7.50
  • Sky: £10
  • TalkTalk: £12.50
  • Virgin Media: £7.50

Mobile providers:

  • EE: Unclear – The Sun has asked and we’ll update this article if we get a response
  • O2: £3.50
  • Three: Unclear – The Sun has asked and we’ll update this article if we get a response
  • Vodafone: £5

 

For those with a direct debit set-up, you may also be charged a fee by your bank for a so-called bounced payment. This is where your telecoms provider has tried to take the cash from your account but found your it empty.

This information is also likely to be passed onto credit reference agencies, which can hurt your credit score and damage your chances of getting credit, such as a loan or mortgage, in future.

Most providers will also pass your details onto debt collection agencies if you consistently fail to pay bills and don’t get in touch to say you’re struggling.

In addition, your broadband, TV or mobile may be restricted, blocked or even disconnected.

I’m unhappy with how my provider has treated me – what can I do?

If you’re unhappy with your provider, firstly complain directly to it. If that doesn’t work or you don’t get a response within eight weeks check if you can take your complaint to either CISAS or the Ombudsman Services for Communications.

Which scheme you use depends on which one your telecoms provider is signed up to.



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