Cheaper charges for UK consumers to end phone contracts

17 June 2010

Phone and contractCharges that consumers face for leaving their landline phone contracts early will be cut by as much as 85 per cent, Ofcom announced today.

Over the past 18 months, Ofcom has been working with the three biggest UK landline providers, BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, to ensure that the charges they levy when customers end their contracts early - 'early termination charges' - reflect the costs that the providers save by no longer providing the service.

Cheaper early termination charges will also apply to landline customers who receive broadband in the same package.

Early termination charges

Communications providers have obligations to meet under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999.

Ofcom's interpretation of the Regulations is that consumers who end contracts early should never have to pay more than the payments left under the contract - in fact they should often pay less, to reflect the costs providers save because the contract ends early.

Ofcom published a statement about our view of the law in December 2008, and opened a monitoring and enforcement programme in early 2009 to check whether communications providers' terms and conditions comply with the Regulations.

Customer savings

BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media do not believe their early termination charges were unfair.

But, after constructive discussions, they have agreed to significantly reduce those charges for landline (or landline plus broadband) services.

Ofcom is pleased they have taken these positive steps in the interests of consumers.

Each provider has different costs to account for so early termination charges will vary from provider to provider.

TalkTalk introduced its new charges on 1 June 2010 (except for its Tiscali brand, where charges will change on 1 November 2010). Virgin Media and BT will introduce the new charges in October 2010.

Other landline providers

Ofcom expects other landline providers to apply similar principles and to reduce their early termination charges to similar levels.

If they don't, they could face formal enforcement action.

Ofcom is continuing its work to ensure consumers pay fairer early termination charges across all communications services.

Ofcom's Partner for Strategy and Market Developments, Peter Phillips, said: 'We very much welcome the reductions made by BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media which mean that consumers will face much lower charges if they wish to end their contracts early.'

Early termination charges for popular packages

Provider and packageVoiceBroadbandEarly termination charge before Ofcom statement *Most recent early termination charge*New early termination charge *
BT Weekend-£11.54£7.50£2.00
BT Evening and Weekend-£14.53£7.50£2.50
BT Unlimited Anytime-£16.53£8.00£5.00
TalkTalk Evening and Weekend-£14.44£14.44£3.00
Talk Talk Anytime-£16.98£16.98£3.00
TalkTalk Essential1£18.48£18.48£8.00
TalkTalk Essential2£33.48£33.48£8.00
Virgin Media (cable) Phone3-£11.99£11.99£4.00
Virgin Media (cable) Broadband L3-£12.50£12.50£9.00
Virgin Media (National) Broadband L & Phone M1£25.99£25.99£8.35(1st month)then £6.35
Virgin Media (National) Broadband L & Phone M2£29.99£29.99£6.63(1st month) then £4.63

* Charges are monthly for remainder of contract. Prior to its 1 June changes, TalkTalk's practice was to cap total early termination charges at £70. Virgin Media does not enforce the cable charge shown and its current approach in practice is to discount the charges to £10/month for each cable service shown.

1 Provided by local loop unbundling

2 Not provided by local loop unbundling

3 Virgin Media cable customers taking phone and broadband will pay both charges