Why do UK broadband customers stay loyal to poor providers?

ISP loyalty is often harmful to consumers, yet there are good reasons why people are reluctant to switch provider

Tuesday, 20 July, 2021

There’s an interesting disparity in brand loyalty across different industries.

Many people buy the same marque of car over and over, sticking like glue to a certain mobile phone manufacturer, and only drinking their favourite brand of beer or coffee.

On the other hand, most people think nothing about switching insurance company each year, or nipping from one supermarket to another.

Historically, there’s been a great deal of loyalty shown towards internet service providers, perhaps because of their increasingly central role in keeping our lives on track.

A survey by Which? back in May revealed 44 per cent of respondents had never switched to a different provider.

That’s a remarkable level of ISP loyalty, considering how competitive the UK market is – and how many companies are advertising deals on the homepage of our site.

Sadly, this good faith from consumers isn’t always reciprocated.

ISP loyalty can effectively be punished through stealthy price rises being used to fund new-customer discounts, and sluggishness in terms of offering the latest products or services.

Below are some of the reasons why people stick with the provider they know – and explanations for why this shouldn’t prevent you seeking out a new broadband deal…

Fear

Can I receive other ISP services over my phone line? What if another ISP has really poor customer service? Could I end up offline for days on end?

None of these should be an impediment to changing ISP. Any service delivered across an Openreach (phone) line should be comparably fast, and same-day switching is now the norm.

Apathy

This often manifests as a reluctance to install a new broadband router and update wireless settings, or a concern that transferring network might involve a great deal of paperwork.

Spoiler alert – it doesn’t. The Which? survey showed two thirds of customers found switching easy, with new ISPs liaising with outgoing ones to ensure a smooth handover.

Loyalty

It’s tempting to argue a company that hasn’t let you down deserves your custom. Yet most ISPs have hundreds of thousands of clients – your patronage isn’t keeping them afloat.

Loyalty is admirable, but not if it’s costing you more money or forcing you to miss out on products and services you could get from a rival (range extenders, quad-play services, etc.)

Confusion

The broadband industry is laced with jargon and technical language, which may baffle the uninitiated. Maximum line speeds, average uploads, range extenders…there’s a lot going on.

Our broadband jargon buster will cut through some of the noise, while our recent news story on one-click switching should alleviate some confusion.

Availability

This can genuinely be an issue. If full fibre broadband firms like Virgin Media and Hyperoptic haven’t cabled your street, you can’t switch to their proprietary services.

However, most ISPs will pipe their services along an Openreach connection, which every home in the UK should have. Dozens of companies will be able to deliver stable connectivity.

Email provision

Our final concern is a real reason for ISP loyalty. Some providers will delete proprietary email accounts a few months after you leave, or levy a monthly fee to retain access.

If you’re unwilling to pay, set up a free Gmail or Outlook account. Update key senders with your new address straight away, and set up email forwarding to catch any firms you forgot.

You can find out more about how to switch broadband using the guides at BroadbandDeals.co.uk.

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Neil Cumins author picture

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Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!