Since February 2020, providers of home broadband, mobile phone, landline phone, and pay TV services have been required to notify customers when they’re out of contract and tell them about the best deals currently available.
But what exactly are these out-of-contract alerts? What do they look like, and how can they make a difference to your broadband service? This guide will tell you everything you need to know.
What are the end-of-contract alerts?
Out-of-contract alerts are officially called Annual Best Tariff Notifications (ABTNs). This system was set up by Ofcom, for notifying customers of broadband, mobile, phone, and pay TV services that they're no longer in their minimum contract period.
The alerts are intended to:
- Let people know when they are out of contract and free to switch providers.
- Make sure customers are aware of the cost of a service once the initial contract term has ended.
- Notify customers of the current best price for their package.
Why is this happening?
This rule was spurred on by complaints from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Citizens Advice. They both highlighted how loyal customers could often end up paying significantly more than new subscribers, who are often offered discounted pricing to tempt them into signing up.
This “loyalty penalty” meant many people were paying a lot more for services if they stayed with the same provider for a long time.
According to Citizens Advice, loyal consumers were losing out on more than £1.2bn per year because they were failing to switch or negotiate their services.
Research by Ofcom highlighted why this change was necessary. At the time, it found:
- More than 20 million customers were outside their initial contract period.
- Those who had phone and broadband were paying, on average, 20% more when out of contract.
- Bundling TV, phone and broadband was costing an average of 26% more when out of contract.
- 14% of customers didn’t know whether they were still in contract.
- 12% thought they were in contract but didn't know when it ended.
Ofcom estimated that existing customers could save an average of £8-9 per month by asking their ISP for a better deal. While switching broadband, could save an average of £10 per month.
What will an end-of-contract notification look like?
While the exact wording of an alert might look slightly different depending on your provider. However, the message should contain all the following information:
- Contract end date.
- The cost of the service before the contract end date.
- Any changes to the service after the contract ends.
- The cost of the service after the contract end date.
- The minimum notice you must give to cancel the service.
- The best deals currently offered by the provider, including those available to new customers.
Out-of-contract notifications can be sent via text message, email, or letter.
When will we receive out-of-contract notifications?
Alerts will typically be sent 10-40 days before the expiration of a contract.
Providers aren't required to notify customers with rolling monthly (aka “no contract”) agreements each month, but they must still send a notification once a year.
I’ve been told my broadband is out of contract - how can I get a better deal?
If you’ve received a notification from your broadband provider that your contract has ended, then have several options.
If you’re otherwise happy with the service, contact your ISP to negotiate a new deal.
Just keep in mind that you will have to sign up for a new contract, so you’ll be locked in again for another minimum contract period.
Because of this, take the time to see what else is out there.
Switching broadband is easy, so if another provider can offer a better price, package, or speed (or ideally all three!), you’ve got nothing to lose by moving to another service.
Deals offered to existing customers do not have to include free gifts such as shopping vouchers. Switching means you can take advantage of these special offers, which are only available to new customers.
To get started with a switch, begin by entering your postcode or address into Broadband Genie's Deals Checker to research package availability in your area.
Broadband Genie deals checker
Switching to a new provider takes around 14 working days. There will be a short period of downtime as the providers swap over.
If you need more switching help, read through these guides:
- Switching from Virgin Media to BT Broadband
- Switching from Virgin Media to Sky Broadband
- Switching from Virgin Media to TalkTalk
- Switching to a broadband provider on the Openreach network
Whatever you do, don’t just ignore the notice! Even if your previous package wasn’t discounted and the price hasn’t automatically increased, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to save money.
It's always worth comparing the latest offers to see what else is out there.
How to find your contract end dates
If you’ve not yet received a contract expiry notice, you can still find out the end date at any time by speaking to your provider or by checking the details of your account. Some ISPs provide this information online, or you could call or ask customer service through online chat.
Here are some handy step-by-step guides to finding the contract end date for several popular providers:
- How to find the contract end date for BT broadband
- How to find the contact end date for EE broadband
- How to find the contract end date for Sky broadband
- How to find the contract end date for TalkTalk broadband
- How to find the contract end date for Virgin Media broadband
Frequently Asked Questions about end-of-contract alerts
Which providers have the highest out-of-contract prices?
Which providers have the cheapest out-of-contract prices?
You can use our cheap broadband comparison guide to look out for more budget-friendly broadband options.
That doesn’t mean they can’t raise prices in future, but as you’re not signing on with a cheap discount price, it won’t suddenly leap in cost when a deal ends.
My broadband provider has a price guarantee, so will it still raise prices at the end of my contract?
Price promises or price guarantees are a feature of some home broadband deals. They’re well worth looking out for. They mean that the ISP is committing to not raising the cost of your service in the middle of a contract. But this is only a guarantee for the term of that contract, so prices might still increase when the contract ends.
Will I automatically be switched to a cheaper deal at the end of a broadband contract?
End of contract alerts are only intended to make you aware that your contract is ending and notify you about the cost going forward. The ISP does not have to switch you to a cheaper deal. If you don’t do anything in response to the alert, your current broadband service will continue at the out-of-contract price given in the notice.
If you want to change to a cheaper tariff or cancel the service, contact your provider as soon as possible.
What can I do if my broadband provider has overcharged me?
I’ve opted out of communications from my provider. Do out of contract alerts break GDPR rules?
These example out-of-contract notifications are classed as service messages and do not violate GDPR regulations.
However, if the notices were to contain “significant promotional material”, they could stray into the territory of direct marketing, which could result in penalties.
If you have a concern about any material you have received from your ISP or any other company, contact the ICO.
Do ABTNs apply to business broadband?
Business broadband subscribers will also receive the end of contract notifications. Like those sent to home users, they will be told about the current best price for their service.
At the end of a broadband contract, your provider is obliged to send you a service message. Whilst you don't have to take any action for this, it makes good financial sense to see this as a nudge to check what you're paying for your broadband, and if you can get a better deal elsewhere.
For these messages to be authentic, they need to include a full rundown of your contract details, including the cost of service before the contract end date and the changes to the service after the contract ends. You'll also be told the best deals currently offered by the provider.
These alerts will usually be sent between 10-40 days before the end of a contract.
If you're worried you've received a message that doesn't fit the description on this page, our best advice is to give your broadband provider a call. For more help spotting authentic messages from ISPs, visit our guide to 'keeping yourself safe from fraud'.
Why do we need your address?
We need your address to show you the broadband deals available at your home. This information is gathered in partnership with thinkbroadband.