Telecommunications

Mobile and broadband users feel the chill as prices rise

Millions of home phone, broadband and mobile customers are facing significant bill increases over the coming months after a flurry of price-hike announcements.

February is not only infamous for its terrible weather, in recent years it has also been the month when broadband and phone companies unveil price increases – with most happening in April.

Sky, Virgin, BT and most of the mobile networks have announced that their customers will be paying more. The hikes are mostly at, or around, inflation, meaning you won’t be able to leave mid-contract. However, in some cases you will.

Remember: telecoms firms reward those who switch supplier with the lowest bills, so this could be a good time to reduce your monthly fee by £15 by moving to another provider. Here’s what’s happening.

Virgin Mobile

An estimated 140,000 customers will face significant rises when Virgin Mobile removes some old pay-monthly tariffs – including a few sim-only contracts. Virgin says customers will be moved on to the closest equivalent tariff, but some will be hit by £80-a-year increases as a result. If you are affected, you can leave your contract penalty-free or switch to a different Virgin deal, as long as you contact the company before 31 March. Virgin Media says the “vast majority” of customers will face price hikes of less than £7 per month from April.

Virgin Mobile’s pay-monthly and sim-only plans increase every July by March’s retail price index (RPI) rate, which will be announced in April. Meanwhile, Virgin Media usually increases its home phone/broadband/TV packages in July – it was 4.9% last year.

Broadband cable and router

Customers on Sky’s basic deal can cancel without paying an early termination charge. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA

Sky Broadband

Millions of Sky customers will see their bills increase by £2 a month from 1 April.

While Sky’s superfast broadband packages will be unaffected, the provider’s basic Essential service will rise by £2 a month – taking the cost of the service to £24 a month.

Customers on the basic deal can cancel without paying an early termination charge. Again, you must call Sky within 30 days of receiving the hike notification. If you are affected by a TV deal price rise, you cannot use this to leave penalty-free because the terms and conditions are different.

BT

Customers’ monthly bills rise in line with January’s consumer price index (CPI) figure – a much more palatable 1.3%. The modest increase means that those on its unlimited broadband package will be paying one of the UK’s highest monthly fees – £46.08 – after 31 March.

In July, it raised the cost of its TV/sports packages by between £1 and £4 a month. BT Mobile bills also increase by 1.3%.

The BT subsidiary Plusnet will raise its broadband prices for existing customers in December, in most cases by £2 a month.

Three, O2, EE and Vodafone

Three and O2 are upping the cost of pay-monthly and sim-only mobile bills by 2.7%. They use the higher RPI, rather than the lower CPI figure, to increase bills. Three customers will see their bills rise in May, while O2 ups its fees in April.

EE customers’ mobile bills will be hiked by 2.2% on 30 March. The increase could be up to an extra £2.29 a month for those on more expensive contracts.

Vodafone is to increase pay-monthly prices by February’s RPI figure, which will be announced in late March.

GiffGaff

Giffgaff is increasing the price of calls and doubling the price of texts for customers on its standard pay-as-you-go deal. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Giffgaff

In January, Giffgaff announced it would be increasing the price of calls and doubling the price of texts for customers on its standard pay-as-you-go deal. The change came into force this week.

Text messages have doubled in price to 10p each, while phone calls to UK mobiles and landlines increased from 15p a minute to 25p a minute.

The firms that aren’t putting up prices

Increasingly, some companies are ruling out in-contract price increases, and the standout firms in this regard are Tesco Mobile, TalkTalk and Zen.

Switch and cut bills in half

Switching home phone and broadband supplier – and mobile operator – is so easy. But despite big savings, too few households do it. Someone paying BT £46 a month can pay half that.

Plusnet and the Post Office have the cheapest basic broadband at £16-£19 a month, according to Broadbandchoices.co.uk. Plusnet costs £18.99 a month for a 12-month contract with £75 cashback.

For those wanting a faster fibre 38MB-plus service, you will pay £21-£23 a month from a host of firms.

If you are free to switch mobile provider, you should arguably not be paying more than £10 a month. MoneySavingExpert has a good guide and says one of the best sim-only deals is from Smarty, with 6GB data, unlimited calls and texts for £7 a month. Voxi, on the Vodafone network, offers 8GB of data and unlimited calls for £10 a month.

It’s super-easy to take your mobile number with you, and switching takes a matter of minutes.