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5 August 2020
Broadband providers hike prices pretty much annually these days, so if your bill's going up, or you're on a promo deal that's ending, switching isn't the only way to cut costs. We're flooded with stories from existing customers who have slashed £100s off their bills by using a method that dates back to the dawn of civilisation... haggling.
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In our February 2019 poll, TV and broadband providers took four of the top spots in our top 10 UK service companies to haggle with rankings. Sky customers, for example, reported an 84% success rate.
Here are examples from MoneySavers who've slashed their broadband bills by haggling:
I rang Sky and said I wanted to move my phone and broadband to Plusnet. Sky initially offered free broadband and £50 credit, which I didn't take. I called back later and was offered free broadband for 10 months and £10/month line rental for 10 months. I eventually managed to extend the free broadband to 12 months.
– Forumite dharle
Just had a brilliant result from Plusnet as an existing customer. I've been with them for 3 years and have experienced four line rental increases. When I received the email about the latest I gave them a call, having read about other available broadband deals on MSE. Having some numbers to hand really helped – I was offered a new customer deal and saved £120/yr.
– Rachel, via email
My contract with Virgin Media is ending. My introductory rate was £38/month, the renewal rate was £63.50/month. I phoned Virgin and chose the 'I'm thinking of leaving' option. I spoke to a lovely Scottish lady and she said she would see what she could do. As a result I am now paying £43/month for the same service, a 32% discount on the renewal rate! Thank you Martin for your encouragement.
– Forumite Bounce56
If you’re fed up with price hikes or your bills are going through the roof because your promo deal's ending, don't sit back. There are a host of ways you can cut costs, while not sacrificing getting what you want.
Now we know haggling's often seen as the preserve of backstreet bazaars, but it's very much alive and kicking in the UK and there are huge savings to be made, particularly on broadband and line rental packages. The broadband world's a mature market and most people already have a provider, so competition to keep existing customers is fierce.
In a nutshell, call up and ask for a better deal. Say you're paying too much and you've seen cheaper deals elsewhere. If that doesn't work, tell them you're leaving. You'll usually get put through to companies' super-powerful hidden deals departments.
Remember, right now it may take longer to get through to companies, as many say call centres and customer service staff are much busier than usual as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here's the key thing to understand:
Companies only make their best deals available to newbies; they LOVE loyal customers, because they stay with the firm through thick 'n' thin, always paying full price and never checking if their deal can be beaten.
This lets big firms rake in regular, guaranteed, easy profit. So ask yourself a question: do you want to be a customer whose business is fought for, or one who's taken for granted? If you don't want to be taken for granted, take the haggle challenge.
While haggling can be powerful, it's just one part of your battle to get the best deal. Sometimes the 'new customer' offers you can get from alternative providers are simply unbeatable. So by all means haggle, but always check the top deals out there too – see How to get cheap broadband for our top picks.
Haggling may sound straightforward, but perfecting it's an art. Here are our top tips for broadband haggling – for more, see our guide on haggling with Sky, the AA & more.
In 2014, Ofcom increased protection for consumers around mid-contract price rises. This means that if you have a landline and broadband contract taken out after 23 Jan 2014 and there's a mid-contract price increase, you may be able to leave penalty-free, even if you're still in the minimum term.
This can also be the case if your provider hikes the price of an additional service you regularly use, causing you "material detriment".
If your provider puts prices up, it must give you at least one month's notice in writing and, if you're able to escape your contract without paying a fee, give you one month from when you received notice to do so.
If you haven't reached the end of your contract yet, unfortunately it's unlikely you'll be able to negotiate a lower price or leave your deal as you're committed until your minimum term's up (unless your provider increases prices – see our mid-contract price hikes info).
There's no harm in giving it a try earlier, but if you struggle, note in your diary when you'll be nearing the end of your contract – while providers now have to warn you when you're out of contract it's still a good idea to do this so you know when it's coming up. Call back then (notice periods are often 14 or 31 days, so to avoid it rolling on any longer than necessary, don't wait until the final day).
It's important to have a factual arsenal at your fingertips before you pick up the phone, so do your homework.
Research the deals and discounts your provider and its competitors offer as the basis for negotiation. Compare broadband, phone and TV using our Broadband Unbundled tool to find the best buys and sign up to our weekly email to get the latest offers.
If you're coming to the end of your contract, or are out of it, you're wielding a powerhouse weapon: loyalty. Tell them you want to move to a new provider and it'll automatically lead to a 'why are you leaving?' chat.
The customer service person should put you through to the 'customer retentions' department – aka the Holy Grail of haggling – where the operators have serious discount-giving power. (NB: This department might be called 'disconnections' externally, but make no mistake, customer retention is its job.)
Unless you have a lot of people in the house or you need the fastest speeds for bandwidth-intensive activities, eg, streaming or downloading, then standard 'copper' broadband will likely be plenty fast enough. So, if you're paying for superfast fibre and you don't think you need it, use it as a basis to haggle down the monthly cost.
Most people are on unlimited broadband deals, but if you just use the internet for browsing, emails and the odd YouTube video, you'll probably be fine on a limited use package. Even if your provider doesn't offer these, the fact that some do, eg, Sky, means you can use this fact to leverage a lower price for yourself.
Be wary though, data use has rocketed – catch-up TV and movie streaming hoover it up, and there can be costly fees to pay for going over your limit.
You may find that your customer service rep only offers a small discount at first, but if you don't agree with the price, use phrases such as:
- 'I've worked out my budget, and my absolute max is £[insert amount here]/mth...'
- '[BT/Plusnet/Sky/TalkTalk/Virgin] can do it for less...'
- 'I need to think about it...'
- 'I think my husband/wife will go bonkers if I agree to pay that...'
- 'It's still a lot of money...'
- 'Is that the very best you can do?'
Until recently, asking for a migration authority code (MAC) was a common broadband haggling tactic to trigger a negotiation. However, a change in rules means this code is no longer required when switching, so asking for it might lead to some confusion.
If you've had issues with your provider in the past, such as slow speeds (compare the advertised speed of your package to what you actually get by doing a two-minute broadband speed test) or long customer service call-waiting times – then politely tell them about it when you haggle. They should want to try to make it up to you.
You should never go with the first offer. Chances are, it's not the best deal they can do. Remember, be firm (but polite).
They may push you to agree to an offer because it's only available for a 'limited time', but don't feel pressured into agreeing to a price or deal unless you're certain.
While unconfirmed, we hear rumours that staff members at some providers have different quotas of deals they can offer.
Even if that's not true, it certainly feels like that to many. So, bear in mind you may have called the wrong person at the wrong time – calling back a few days later and speaking to someone else could pay dividends.
If you don't get what you want, you should seriously consider leaving. Remember, new customers normally have the pick of the best broadband deals and there are plenty of other providers out there. Compare broadband, phone and TV with our Broadband Unbundled tool to find the best one for you.
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