How to switch broadband provider

Knowing how to switch broadband provider is key to reducing your outgoings at a time when the cost of living is going up

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With household budgets being squeezed from all directions, now is the ideal time to consider how to switch broadband providers.

As the rising cost of living continues to put pressure on finances, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’ve got the best broadband deal for you.  

“If you’ve been with the same broadband provider for a couple of years or more, then you’re probably paying more than you should be,” says Holly Andrews, managing director at KIS Finance. “This is because providers often save their best prices in order to attract new customers. Switching regularly is the key to paying the best price.” 

“Anything that can cut down your outgoings will be a huge help. Even if you can only shave off £5 - £10 per month on each household bill, this would be a saving of £25 - £50 per month if you did it across five different bills,” she adds.

How to switch broadband provider

The process of switching broadband providers can usually be completed in a few easy steps:

  • Check whether you’ve completed the minimum term on your current contract
  • Compare broadband deals, factoring in broadband speeds, download limits, contract length and cost
  • Contact your chosen new provider - if you’re switching between providers using the Openreach telecoms network, your new provider will complete the switch for you
  • Contact your existing provider if you’re switching to or from a provider that doesn’t use the Openreach network

Do I need to cancel my current broadband contract before switching?

Before you start looking for a better broadband deal, you’ll need to confirm whether you’re out of the minimum contract period for your existing one. If you’re unsure, give your provider a call to check. 

Minimum contract terms typically last between 12 and 24 months. If that time has passed, you’re free to switch to another broadband deal, penalty-free. Switching as soon as the minimum contract term ends will mean you’ll avoid the price hikes that usually kick in at this point. 

If you’re still in contract, however, you may be better off staying put for now.

“If you change mid-contract, you'll probably be hit with an early leaver penalty, so you'll need to set this against the savings you'll make by moving,” explains Kevin Pratt, spokesperson at Forbes Advisor. “There'll be details in your paperwork or on the provider's website.”

Under Ofcom rules providers can charge customers up to 100% of the value of the remaining monthly payments, minus the amount they save by not having to supply the service anymore. So early exit fees can be expensive. 

But there are two scenarios in which you might be able to get out of your contract early without paying the fee.

The first is if your download speed is lower than advertised. The second is if your provider increases prices within the agreed contract term. 

“In this case, you will have 30 days from the day you were informed of the price rise to cancel your contract with them and switch to a new provider free of charge,” says Andrews. 

How do I cancel my broadband contract?

The easiest way to cancel your broadband contract is to switch to another provider in the Openreach telecoms network, such as BT, EE, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone. 

Under the ‘one touch’ switching process that was brought in by regulator Ofcom in 2015, all you’ll need to do is call your new provider who should then arrange the whole transfer for you. This includes contacting your existing provider to let it know you’re switching. 

You will then receive notification letters from both your existing provider and your new one to inform you of the switch.

The process is a little more involved if you are switching to or from a provider that uses its own network, such as Virgin Media or Hyperoptic. "If your old or new provider is not on Openreach, you'll need to contact both firms to stop the old service and start the new one,” says Pratt.

How much notice do I have to give to my current broadband provider if I want to cancel?

This will depend on the provider and the circumstances but you’ll usually be required to give notice of up to 30 days. BT, for example, requires 30 days’ notice if you’re simply disconnecting, but only 14 days if you’re switching to another provider.

Your contract will usually be cancelled at the end of the required notice period.

Do I need to tell my current provider I am switching?

If you’re switching to another provider in the Openreach network, you won’t need to contact your existing provider as your new broadband provider will do this on your behalf.

However, if the provider you are switching to or from does not use the Openreach network, such as Virgin Media and Hyperoptic, you’ll need to contact both your existing provider and your new one to inform them of the switch.

New rules being introduced by Ofcom mean that by April 2023 no matter which network your provider uses, you’ll no longer need to contact your current broadband provider before making the move.

How long does it take to switch from one provider to another?

“The whole process should take no longer than two weeks, although that is mostly admin done behind the scenes,” says Forbes Advisor’s Kevin Pratt. “The physical process should take an hour or two on a specified day, and any interruption to your service should only be a matter of minutes.”

If you’re switching between Openreach providers, it won’t usually be necessary for an engineer to come to your home. But if you’re switching to Virgin Media from an Openreach provider, for example, an engineer will usually need to pay a visit to complete the installation process.

Rachel Wait

Rachel Wait is a freelance journalist. She has been writing about personal finance and consumer affairs for over a decade, covering everything from credit cards and mortgages to pensions and insurance. She has written for a range of websites and national newspapers, including Mail on Sunday, the Observer, Forbes and the Spectator.

Rachel is keen on helping consumers understand their finances.