A quarter of broadband customers are paying for unexpected charges on their bill, according to research from price comparison site moneysupermarket.com.
British households that use broadband
have paid more than £160million in additional, unexpected charges in the last 12 months, the study found, for things such as not paying their bills by direct debit, not opting out of paper billing, and set-up or installation costs.
Moneysupermarket.com condemns these hidden charges which have affected nearly 4.5 million households, especially at a time when budgets are tight and every penny counts, while broadband providers
pocket an average £36 from each customer.BT broadband
customers are paying an extra £51 a year on average, Virgin Media broadband
customers have to find an additional £42, Sky broadband
customers are charged £35 more than they expect, and AOL broadband
wrings another £29 on average from each customer.
Not opting for paperless billing accounts for almost 10 per cent of the charges, and non-direct debit payments make up seven per cent, while others include fees for late payments, and unexpected installation charges.
Moneysupermarket has also found that a quarter of broadband users do no more than skim read their contract details, while eight per cent admitted to not reading them at all.
Consequentially, 53 per cent of Sky customers, 60 per cent of Virgin Media customers, and 65 per cent of BT customers were unaware of the additional charges they faced when the bill arrived.
"Although we've seen telecom bills fall in the past year, providers are still clawing back millions with unnecessary charges, many of which are unfair." commented James Parker, mobiles and broadband manager at moneysupermarket.com.
"People without an email address or unable to pay by direct debit shouldn't be unfairly charged. Ofcom should look at either eradicating these charges or imposing strict caps to protect the consumer."
Mr Parker urges all customers to read their contracts thoroughly, including the small print, because or they could be leaving themselves vulnerable to unexpected charges.
They should look out for things like charges for going over the download limit, calling the provider if there is a technical problem, and any set up fees which the provider might impose.
"Whilst we support charges that are fair and protect the broadband provider from exposure to bad customers, we are against fees imposed without users' knowledge." he added.
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