What are mid-contract price rises?
Did you receive an email in your inbox this year announcing your broadband bill was suddenly going to get more expensive?
If you sign up for a broadband contract, you’d be forgiven for thinking that your monthly bill is fixed for that duration. Unfortunately, it’s very likely the majority of broadband customers faced an increase to their monthly price in April 2023. The costs were high too. Some customers were hit with soaring bills of an additional 14%, or more.
This is something that’s sadly looking to be an annual occurrence. Some of the biggest names in the broadband sector have added clauses to their terms and conditions allowing them to bump up the price of their broadband packages annually (normally around Spring, the time of the UK budget). This includes BT, Vodafone, EE, Virgin Media and TalkTalk. Disappointingly, some of these price changes go beyond the rate of inflation, which the consumer price index (CPI) currently measures at just over 10%.
This may be really hard news to take if you’re already struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Broadband Price Hikes 2023: The Key Points
Can my provider hike prices? Are broadband mid-contract price increases legal?
If we were talking about gas or electricity, fixed tariffs are available to make sure suppliers can’t increase the price you pay, unless the government has raised VAT. There’s currently nothing like this in place for broadband or mobile customers. As long as internet service providers (ISPs) notify their customers and give them fair notice of price increases (the standard period is 30 days), no laws are broken.
The UK communications regulator, Ofcom has strict rules in place that means providers must make potential price rises clear to new customers when they sign up. It’s now looking into whether stricter guidelines have to be put into place to make it clearer what customers can expect to pay for their broadband service, and throughout the duration of their entire contract term.
But Ofcom starting an investigation probably isn’t much of a sweetener if you’ve just found out you suddenly need to cough up an extra £50+ for a contract you’re stuck in.
Over the course of this page, we’re going to try and help you work out how much it’s likely your broadband bill will go up. We’ll also let you know if there’s anything you can do to keep your bills as low as possible.
What is an ISP?
Your ISP is your Internet Service Provider. This is the company responsible for providing your internet connection. It's now always the same company that owns and operates the line. If you have a BT telephone line, but you pay your broadband bills to Sky, Sky is your ISP.
When do broadband and mobile phone prices go up?
Broadband and mobile prices are likely to rise annually, around Spring. In 2023, this happened from the 31st March. We expect similar in 2024.
Going forwards, providers must inform their customers of any price rises in good time (normally 30 days). You should check your inbox, spam or text messages to see if you’ve received a message. It’s very unlikely you’ll receive confirmation of this in the post.
Price rises from BT, TalkTalk, Sky, Virgin & more: In detail
We’ve put together this quick summary of the extra charges customers were hit with in 2023.
|Provider||% increase||Increase date||Calculation|
|Plusnet||14.4%||31st March 2023||CPI rate + 3.9%|
|BT Broadband||14.4%||31st March 2023||CPI rate + 3.9%|
|EE Broadband||14.4%||31st March 2023||CPI rate + 3.9%|
|Pop Telecom||14.4%||31st March 2023||CPI rate + 3.9%|
|Shell Broadband||13.5%||1st April 2023||CPI rate + 3%|
|TalkTalk Broadband||14.2%||1st April 2023||CPI rate + 3.7%|
|Vodafone Broadband||14.4%||1st April 2023||CPI rate + 3.9%|
|Gigaclear Broadband||14%||1st October 2023||CPI rate + 3.5%|
|Community Fibre||13.4%||1st April 2023||CPI rate + 2.9%|
|Virgin Media Broadband||13.8%||1st April 2023||-|
|Sky Broadband||Annual price rises likely, but not mid-contract||-||-|
|NOW Broadband||£3.50 flat increase||5th July 2023||-|
|KCOM broadband||£2 in-contract increase||-||-|
Prices checked 19/09/2023
How have these figures been calculated?
The reasons and calculations for these mid-contract price hikes are fairly standard across the board.
Every year, internet service providers adjust the prices of their products and services in-line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate of inflation, plus an additional, declared percentage (for most, this year this is 3.9%).
When working out price increases for the year, the standard method is to use the December CPI rate, published in January. For December 2022, this rate was 10.5%.
If providers have decided to implement a mid-contract price hike, this year’s price rises have been calculated by combining both the CPI rate of inflation, plus any additional percentage.
|Monthly Cost||Percentage Increase||Monthly Increase||Annual Increase|
Looking forward to 2024, here are the estimated price increases we've spotted so far.
|Provider||Estimated price increase|
|Plusnet||CPI rate + 3.9%|
|BT Broadband||CPI rate + 3.9%|
|EE Broadband||CPI rate + 3.9%|
|Virgin Media Broadband||CPI rate + 3.9%|
|TalkTalk Broadband||CPI rate + 3.7%|
Which broadband providers allow you to switch mid-contract?
To answer this, you’ll need to dig a little deeper into the small print of your contract. This is going to differ for everyone and will depend on the terms you signed up to, or whether there were any special deals at the time. Sometimes providers will make a promotion out of the fact they promise not to raise prices during a contract term with a phrase like ‘Fixed Price Promise’.
It’s very common for price hikes to be included in a contract. Before you sign up to a new provider, you should always have a good look through and scan for these terms to make sure you’re comfortable with this potentially happening.
If you’re a Sky broadband customer, it’s worth noting price hikes aren’t mentioned in the contract. If Sky decides to increase its prices, you’ll be free to leave within 30 days of being notified, without paying an early cancellation penalty.
Virgin Media broadband previously didn't have a price hike clause in its contract, but has since released the following update to its Terms & Conditions. From the 1st May, customers won't be able to leave their Virgin Media contracts early: "Some broadband providers may increase monthly prices in line with the retail or consumer price index each year during the length of your contract. Please refer to individual broadband provider's terms and conditions before signing up.''
Broadband deals with no mid-contract price rises
If you’re looking to switch from your current provider, or sign up to a new broadband deal, but you’re worried about being hit by price hikes in the future, we’ve got a few suggestions.
Just bear in mind, some of these smaller ISPs have limited availability across the UK. To check whether these are available to you, you can pop your address into our deals checker.
Broadband Genie deals checker
Can I negotiate the price increase?
You might not have success haggling price increases, especially as they affect so many customers, but it’s important to get in touch if you’re struggling with your bills going up. It may be possible to tweak packages, especially if you have bundled extras. Some providers also offer discounted fibre broadband social tariffs for those on low income, or receiving benefits.
For more information on this, read our guide to social tariffs and cheaper broadband for people on benefits, Universal Credit and lower incomes.
Social tariff broadband plans are available from the following ISPs:
- Community Fibre
- NOW Broadband
- 4th Utility
- Sky Broadband
- Virgin Media
- TalkTalk (for jobseekers only)
- Shell Energy
TalkTalk Fixed Price Plus
It's worth noting that TalkTalk offers an add-on to its full fibre and standard fibre plans called 'Fixed Price Plus'. For an extra £2.95 per month, it makes assurances customers won't see a broadband price increase for the duration of their contract. It also promises no out of contract price rises above the rate of inflation.
Can I cancel my broadband due to a price increase?
Cancelling a broadband contract as a stand against a price hike only really works out if you’re out of contract. If you decide to cancel a broadband contract ahead of time, you’re likely to have to pay an exit fee. These early termination charges could easily end up costing more than your mid-term contract price increase.
As a guide, many will make you pay your monthly price for as long you have left on contract. You don’t need a calculator to work out this could add up to £100s! Sizing things up, you may be best to sit tight and take action as soon as you can. Mark your contract end date in your calendar and look for a better deal as soon as you’re able.
If you’re out of contract, or you know your contract period will expire shortly, now is the perfect time to switch broadband providers.
Although price hikes affect new customers as well and costs are rising across the board, you may be able to balance out the total contract cost with other perks, such as free gifts or vouchers. Or maybe you can get more for your money with a faster, more reliable package for the same price?
The rather harsh mid-term contract rises for broadband customers comes at a difficult time, when many of us are trying to cope with a cost of living crisis. This is especially worrying as it’s something that will affect the UK telecoms industry as a whole. That means your mobile phone bills are likely to increase too, if you’re signed up to a mobile contract.
Make sure you’re knowledgable about how these prices are going to affect you and when they come into force. If you haven’t already seen a message from your provider, but you can see from our list above you’ve likely to be affected, check your inbox, spam folder or look through your text messages. You may have missed the announcement.
Whilst you’re doing this, take the time to get familiar with your current contract. Check when your contract ends and make a note of it. If you’re out of contract, now is the perfect time to switch and save. If you’re keen to lower your monthly broadband costs, check out these cheap broadband deals.
Getting financial help
If you’re worried about your finances, don’t let your concerns go unheard. Your first step is always to speak to your internet service provider. They may be able to make adjustments to your package. If you receive benefits or are on a low income, check whether your provider offers a social tariff. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this over the phone, make use of your ISP’s live chat feature, if they have one.
You can also get assistance from Citizens Advice, if you don’t feel like you’re being heard by your provider. Or for help with debt management, you can get in touch with the debt charity, StepChange. This online debt advice service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To phone you can call 0800 0128 1111 for free from any UK mobile or landline.
Broadband Genie is on your side when it comes to getting through this financial crisis. We know how difficult it is to make ends meet sometimes. If you need more tips on how to reduce the cost of living through technology, check out our calculator.
Of course, if you’re already feeling pressured by money, the last thing you want is to add to your stress. See which provider is best for your mental health, as well as your bank balance, by visiting our Broadband Customer Stress monitor.
You might also find it helpful to read our additional guide: 'What to do if you can't afford your broadband bill'.
If you don’t feel like you were made aware of a mid-contract price increase, make sure to complain to Ofcom. The more we voice our concerns, the better represented consumers can be in the future.
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