It’s reassuring to know that switching broadband provider is a relatively straightforward process nowadays.
Customers moving from one Openreach-based provider to another (including BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone) don’t even have to notify their existing provider before switching.
You also have a 14-day cooling off period to change your mind about a forthcoming transfer.
Your existing broadband provider should issue a final bill covering the period between the date of your last regular bill and the date you left them.
Sadly, there can often be confusion about the new ISP’s billing process.
Here’s what you need to know about making sense of your first broadband bill.
Bill of rights?
On paper (or on screen, since most ISPs encourage paperless billing), making sense of your first broadband bill could seem daunting.
There may be one-off charges such as installation costs or activation fees.
These have to be disclosed prior to a broadband contract being signed, and should be clearly indicated on subsequent bills, but they can still complicate the picture.
Some broadband providers include a combination of arrears and advanced charges in their first statement.
If you sign up to a broadband provider on the 15th of August, the first bill might arrive on September 1st, covering the period from August 15th to August 30th.
It’s also likely to include advanced charges for September, which becomes even more complicated if the billing/payment date you’ve chosen is itself mid-month.
Remember that the date you receive your first bill may not even be close to the date when payment will be taken.
An account activated in late August could generate a bill in September which won’t actually be charged until mid-October.
By that point, monthly account fees for August, September, October and November may have been rolled into one super-payment.
Alongside the aforementioned setup costs, your initial bill could be three or four times higher than the agreed monthly contract fee.
Studying your first broadband bill is likely to induce a headache, especially if it’s complicated by delays, multiple payment periods or accidentally duplicated costs.
Even so, check every line thoroughly. Errors need to be reported immediately.
Study your contract to ensure introductory deals and discounts have been applied. It’s not uncommon for these to be missed off a package, which is then charged at normal rates.
If possible, email your provider to query the costs. It’s easy to get confused about what’s being said in a phone call, and live web chats leave you no record of what was agreed.
If there are obvious errors with the bill, the ISP may make a one-off refund in month two, or even add multiple credits onto your account to cover different areas of overbilling.
They might (and this is where proficiency with a calculator comes in handy) split a refund over the remaining months of your agreement –11 repayments during a one-year contract, for instance.
Finally, don’t assume the end of your contract guarantees a clean slate.
Broadband firms sometimes retrospectively calculate costs not covered by a final monthly payment, and then send letters demanding immediate settlement of ‘outstanding balances’.
Once again, do your own sums and reply in writing within seven days, arguing your case and indicating potential errors.
ISPs can find it remarkably difficult to calculate what they’re owed.
Your initial contract documents will help to resolve such disputes, so keep them safe and store notes from phone conversations in the same location for easy reference.