As the new lockdown means an extended period of UK homes being the centre of working, learning and entertainment, new research from communications comparison and switching service Uswitch.com warns of low confidence in UK broadband services, leading to better services potentially not being taken up.
In response to the lockdown, all major UK broadband companies have removed data caps on their broadband packages and, on 5 January, the government launched its “Get help with technology” programme, which aims to increase data allowances on mobile devices to support disadvantaged children.
The study revealed that five million households that are out of contract with their broadband supplier have been put off switching because they don’t have confidence in the process. This has been calculated to have seen broadband users overpay by as much as £804m. Also, households whose broadband deals have lapsed sit out of contract for an average of 19 months, paying £149 more than they should have in that time.
The research also revealed that users were generally reluctant to shop around for better deals than their current one. One-fifth of consumers (22%) were found to have never changed their broadband provider, and one-tenth did not know when they last switched their contract, despite the fact that customers whose deals have expired pay an average of £90 over the odds each year.
Uswitch.com also found that worries about a loss of connection while changing providers were one fear holding people back from seeking a better deal. Just over one-third of consumers (37%) thought switching would leave them without broadband for at least a day, but in fact almost three-quarters of households (72%) saw little or no loss of connection when they switched providers.
Just over one-third of households (36%) switching between providers on the same network lost their connection for any period of time. However, more than half of consumers (51%) changing broadband networks, such as moving between Openreach, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear or Virgin Media, suffered a loss of internet during the switch, making them 42% more likely to lose connection.
Almost half of consumers (49%) who had switched in the last 18 months found the process easier than they had expected, compared with only 10% who found it harder.
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In a call to action, Uswitch.com demanded that UK telecoms regulator Ofcom use its forthcoming review of the switching process to ensure that all broadband switching is comprehensively coordinated by providers, irrespective of underlying networks, ensuring consumers can have full confidence in a seamless experience.
“It’s deeply disappointing that five million people are missing out on big savings and faster broadband speeds because they don’t have confidence in the switching process,” said Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at Uswitch.com. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure the switching process is quick and reliable, especially between different broadband networks.
“Making network switching as simple as possible will not only help increase customer confidence, but will also be crucial in ensuring consumers actually benefit from the government’s goal of a UK-wide gigabit broadband rollout. Ofcom must make sure that switching is easy and reliable for all customers, irrespective of which provider they choose, and is particularly important now that our reliance on broadband is greater than ever.
“Ensuring the process is consistent and easy in all circumstances will help boost the consumer confidence in taking better services.”