Thousands of former BT broadband customers who have switched to a different internet service provider but pay to keep their BT email account will be hit with a steep price hike in May, with the monthly usage charge rising from £1.60/mth to £5/mth.
Dozens of angry BT Premium Mail subscribers have complained on Twitter or contacted MoneySavingExpert.com to vent their frustration after being told of the price increase, with some saying they feel they are being "held to ransom".
The regulator Ofcom has told MSE that it will be contacting BT to "fully understand the terms relating to its premium email price increase" and to consider whether the hike "raises any concerns".
See our Cheap Broadband guide for tips on getting the best broadband deal. Here's full info on the BT price rise and what you can do about it.
What is BT Premium Mail?
BT offers its Premium Mail service to those who don't want BT broadband anymore but still want to keep their old email address, eg, email@example.com. It's also available as a standalone, paid-for service if you have a BT broadband account and want to create additional BT Mail accounts.
BT won't say how many customers will be hit by the hike, but it's understood to be thousands. The monthly charge for a Premium Mail account will increase from £1.60/mth to £5/mth on 6 May.
'Held to ransom'
We've been contacted by a number of users angry at the changes.
Andrew says: "When I was on dial-up years and years ago we went with BT, then when broadband came in we ended up with TalkTalk. I was initially told I'd have to pay £1.60 a month to keep the email address and even though it was annoying I paid it, because it would have been a pain to have to change [email accounts] and lose all my contacts and swap information for banking accounts, for example.
"When I got the email about the £5-a-month charge I was quite surprised. It's a complete rip off and when I asked on the online chat room they basically said if I don't pay it then I can't keep the account. I feel like I'm being held to ransom. If push comes to shove I will have to swap accounts."
Henry says: "I have recently ditched BT after 30 years as our telephone and broadband provider, because we were paying over the odds. Unfortunately we have to retain our BT email service as it will be too disruptive to change. I am furious with BT."
Susan says: "For me and my husband to keep our domain email addresses it would be an extra £10 a month on top of our TalkTalk broadband service. Switching broadband services could be expensive if you have no option in keeping your BT domain address."
I've been hit by the hike – what can I do?
If you're a Premium Mail customer and don't want to pay the extra £3.40/mth, BT says you have two options:
- If you get broadband from another provider, you can switch back to BT broadband to avoid paying for your BT email address. It's also said it'll pay "up to £300" towards termination fees with your current provider if you're mid-contract. To preserve your BT Premium Mail account visit the BT website before 14 April 2016. However bear in mind that BT often isn't the cheapest provider – see our Cheap Broadband guide for the top alternative deals.
- If you're already a BT broadband customer and also paying for a BT Premium Mail account (eg, if you're paying to keep a different BT email address from when you were with them previously), BT says you can link your old email address to your current broadband account for free. Contact BT for details.
However you may also want to try the following:
- Switching your email. While this can be inconvenient (which is why some were willing to pay to keep their old address), there are many alternative free email providers out there, and many other broadband providers will offer a free alternative email address too. If you want to cancel your BT Premium Mail account you can do so by contacting BT and giving 28 days' notice.
- Haggling a better deal. Price hikes can give great ammunition to negotiate a better deal – even if BT won't budge on the price for Premium Mail, it might be willing to offer you a better price on any other BT services you have. See our BT Haggling guide for tips.
- Complaining. Contact BT's complaints team or try online complaints resolution service Resolver*. You can also contact Ofcom to raise concerns by calling 0300 123 3000.