UPDATE 8pm, Tue 31 Jan: We've just heard that Sky has reached an agreement with Discovery to continue showing its channels as part of your Sky package, just hours before the channels would have been pulled. Now TV customers will continue to get the Discovery Channel too.
Sky TV customers face losing 13 channels from their screens from Wednesday, including Eurosport, Discovery, Animal Planet and TLC, because of a contract row between the telecoms giant and the Discovery group of channels. If you're affected, here's what your rights are.
Discovery Networks UK and Ireland has been in a contract dispute with Sky, and as a result, Sky TV customers with the Variety, Box Sets and Complete bundles as well as Now TV customers look set to lose the following 13 channels:
- Animal Planet
- Discovery Shed, Discovery Home & Health, Discovery History, Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo and Discovery
- Eurosport 1 and Eurosport 2
It's still unclear whether the channels will definitely disappear, but Sky's website warns that "at any point from 1 February, Discovery may remove them from the Sky platform".
For how to pick the best digital TV package and our top picks, see the Digital TV Deals guide.
I'm a Sky TV customer – what are my rights?
Sky's refusing to give us any info on how it'll be handling complaints, but we've dug into its terms and conditions to see what your rights are. There are two key points about changes to channel line-up:
- One part of Sky TV's T&Cs appears to allow a mid-contract change in channel line-up. It states: "The service may change, as it is variable. This means that we can change programming, change or withdraw any option or additional TV service, and change, withdraw or interrupt the channels you receive in your service.
"Your chosen option may offer you a variety of channels which are broadcast by various broadcasters, including Sky. Although we aim to provide channels that cover a wide range of interests, unfortunately we cannot guarantee the availability of any particular channel or programme."
- However a separate part of its T&Cs appears to allow you to cancel within your minimum contract term if you lose channels, without paying a fee. What's more, a couple of MoneySavers who've complained report quoting these T&Cs has been very effective.
Sections 10 and 11 of Sky's T&Cs read: "We may change any other conditions for a reason stated in condition 15(a) or 15(b) provided that if you reasonably consider that you would be materially disadvantaged by this you may end this contract under condition 11(a), even if you are within your minimum term...
"You may end this contract at any time including the minimum term by giving us 7 days' notice within 21 days of receiving notice from us if... you reasonably consider that you would be materially disadvantaged by any reduction in the number of channels within, or the level of service of, your chosen basic pack."
The Consumer Rights Act can also provide valuable ammunition for disgruntled consumers. It says if you've taken something into account when deciding to sign up or renew a contract, it must be treated as part of your contract. If the service you get then doesn't live up to this, you can ask for a repeat performance (which won't be possible if they lose the channels) or a price reduction.
Now you know Sky's T&Cs, demand a better deal
Our key message is this: if you're unhappy about losing the channels, don't just give up. You can ask:
- For a partial reduction in price, to reflect the fact you're getting fewer channels
- To leave your contract penalty-free, if you don't want Sky any more.
Remember, you're wielding the powerful weapon of consumer loyalty here, particularly if near or at the end of your contract. Our recent poll found 87% of Sky customers who tried to haggle got a better deal – see our Haggle with Sky guide for full help.
How to get a better deal
To do this, first complain to Sky directly and then escalate it to the Communications Ombudsman if you don't have any luck. Or alternatively, you can complain via the free Resolver complaints tool, which will help manage your complaint and escalate it if necessary.
Try quoting Sky's terms and conditions and the Consumer Rights Act if you need to, as some Sky customers have reported success after doing this. It's also worth noting that in February last year BT reportedly offered its TV customers a penalty-free exit from their pay-TV contracts after Fox and Fox HD disappeared from its roster of channels.
Our technology expert MSE Nick says: "Understandably a lot of customers won't be happy with the news that they're losing these channels, and it's disgraceful that Sky would expect them to keep paying the same for a lesser service. Sky should be taking steps to compensate TV customers for their loss."
Now TV customers can cancel penalty-free anyway
If you're a Now TV customer it's simpler – your TV 'pass' simply rolls from month to month, so you can easily cancel it with no penalty if you find the channel line-up lacking.
Since we first published this story we've heard from lots of Sky TV customers who've complained – with mixed success.
MoneySaver Jason emailed us: "I DID manage to cancel my contract without penalty due to the situation with Discovery.
"I used Sky's own terms and conditions to make the point that while one clause states they can change or alter their TV services, the clause relating to ending that TV service early states that if any changes are made that cause you a material disadvantage then you are allowed to cancel the contract early.
"I made the point that if I have to pay another provider to continue to watch Discovery or Eurosport then that WOULD be a disadvantage as it would add more money to my monthly outgoings."
Another MoneySaver who didn't want to be named told us he'd been offered a 30% reduction in the cost of his TV package, provided he signed a new 12-month contract.
Unfortunately sports fan Jeff wasn't so lucky in his haggling attempt: "I have the Variety Pack so that I can watch Eurosport for the World and British Superbikes. My wife watches many of the other Discovery channels. The vast majority of our viewing is via the free-to-air channels.
"I complained via chat ... and have been told that there is no intention of providing any compensation for the reduction in service ... The suggestion that I could upgrade to Sky Sports, which has zero motorcycle racing, for an exorbitant £27.50 per month is farcical and obviously out of touch with reality."
Why have negotiations between Discovery and Sky broken down?
There's been a war of words between the two companies, with Discovery insisting that "Sky refuses to pay a fair price" for its portfolio of channels.
Sky's hit back with a strongly worded statement branding Discovery's price expectations "completely unrealistic", claiming it has been "overpaying for years".
"We will now move to redeploy the same amount of money into content we know our customers value," Sky added.
Let us know if you've complained to Sky
If you're unhappy with losing the channels and have managed to get a partial refund from Sky or even cancel your contract penalty-free, let us know by emailing email@example.com.
Additional reporting by Megan French.