People 'being shackled' by internet firms [Western Daily Press (UK)]
(Western Daily Press (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Broadband customers are being punished with average cancellation fees of Pounds 190 to escape unsuitable or substandard contracts, a consumer group has claimed. Citizens Advice said consumers who challenged the fees - of up to Pounds 625 - were seeing the charges passed to debt collectors.
The charity said some people were finding themselves locked into unsuitable broadband contracts or facing arbitrary cancellation fees when they switched to get a better service.
One woman was hit by a cancellation fee, even though it was not in the terms and conditions of her contract, when she tried to switch provider after her broadband speed became so bad that she was paying repeatedly to use an internet cafe.
Another man in his 70s changed provider after his service stopped working altogether following months of problems, but was sent a letter telling him he owed more than Pounds 200 for early cancellation. The demand was then handed over to a debt collection agency.
Those moving house were sometimes hit by early cancellation fees, despite the fact they could not transfer the service to their new address. Citizens Advice found the average cost for leaving a broadband contract was Pounds 190, with fees of up to Pounds 625 reported.
Other broadband-related complaints to Citizens Advice over the last year included "snail's pace" connection speeds, persistent faults and bad customer service.
More than half of problems reported to the consumer or- ganisation were for sub-standard service, it said.
Citizens Advice said consumers phoned in more than 3,300 internet and broadband problems to its bureaux in England and Wales, and more than 4,500 issues were reported to its website across England, Scotland and Wales in the year to June.
The top three issues in England and Wales concerned the cancellation of and exit from contracts (23 per cent of problems), complaints and redress (18 per cent) and costs, billing or payment (15 per cent).
Citizens Advice is calling on internet service providers to scrap cancellation fees for customers who have had persistent problems with their service to ensure that people are not forced to remain in unsatisfactory contracts. It also said providers needed to improve their customer service and be "a lot more careful" when handing cancellation fees to debt collectors. Citizens Advice chief executive, Gillian Guy, said: "People are finding themselves held captive by bad broadband services.
"Internet service providers must not shackle customers seeking a better service with unreasonable fees that can turn into shock debt. All internet users need to be able to easily have a way out of inadequate contracts and broadband speeds that only give them daily frustration."
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