We can’t ditch our broadband… we’ll lose our email address! Customers feel they have no option but to stay put
- Some internet providers delete linked email accounts if customers switch away
- Virgin Media closes accounts in 90 days, while TalkTalk gives 12 months
- Not switching can cost customers £162 per year, according to Uswitch
Dave Bradford would love to ditch Virgin Media and get a new broadband provider. It has just hiked his bills by another £6 a month and he feels penalised – not rewarded – for being a loyal customer for over 20 years.
But like a number of Wealth & Personal Finance readers, Dave feels he has no option but to stay put. That is because he has a Virgin Media email address, which would be deleted if he switched away.
‘I have always used the same email address,’ says Dave, 79, from Cambridge. ‘All of my contacts have it. At my age, I just don’t have the energy to set up a new email address and tell everyone.’
Reading between the lines: Many customers have had the same email address since they first went online many years ago
Millions of broadband customers are set to see their bills hiked in the coming weeks, many by 14 or even 17 per cent. We think inflation-busting, mid-contract rises are grossly unfair and have been campaigning in recent weeks for suppliers to think again.
Households are endlessly told that to keep their bills in check they must shop around when their current contract ends to get a better deal.
Doing so can save hundreds of pounds. Yet a number of readers have told us that they feel prevented from doing this because switching provider risks losing the email address on which they rely.
Many have had the same address since they first went online many years ago. In theory, they could switch to a free email address, such as Gmail or Hotmail, but doing so feels like an insurmountable upheaval.
Martin Gates, from Hampshire, has had an email account with Virgin Media for years. He says: ‘My emails are an archive of all of my subscriptions, accounts and information over the years. If I changed my email address I would be bound to lose something important. I can’t afford the risk.’
Which broadband firms let you keep your email?
Policies vary between broadband providers. Virgin Media says email accounts are only available to current customers. Those who leave have their email account terminated and closed 90 days later.
Email accounts managed by Virgin Media include those ending @virginmedia.com and @ntlworld.com.
Sky allows former customers to keep their email account free of charge and indefinitely. Those who wish to hold on to their email account just have to log in from time to time to keep it active.
Staying loyal to a broadband provider to keep your email address could prevent you from enjoying savings of up to £162 a year on average if you switch
Catherine Hiley, Uswitch
BT allows former customers to access a basic form of their email account for free. Those who want to retain the same features once they leave BT can pay for Premium email, which costs £7.50 a month. BT email addresses end with @btinternet.com, @btopenworld.com and @talk21.com.
TalkTalk allows you to access your email account for 12 months after you switch. You can send and receive messages, but not actively manage the account. Accounts that are inactive for six months are deleted automatically.
Comparison website Uswitch says that almost a quarter of people rely on their email address provided by a broadband provider, especially people aged 65 and over.
Its broadband expert Catherine Hiley says: ‘Staying loyal to a broadband provider to keep your email address could prevent you from enjoying savings of up to £162 a year on average if you switch.
‘If you create a new email with a service such as Gmail, you’re also free to change broadband in future without changing your Gmail email address.’
Virgin Media says that its policy is clearly set out to the customer ahead of their account being closed and they are sent repeated re-minder communications encouraging them to take action before they lose access.
A Virgin Media spokesman adds: ‘There is a cost to us to provide an email service and so it’s not something we’d provide free of charge to former customers.’
SEVEN KEY TIPS TO HELP YOU BREAK FREE
Switching email address if you have never done so before can feel like a daunting task. However, give yourself enough time to smoothly switch over and you may find it is worth your while.
1) Set up an email address with a free service. Gmail and Outlook are two of the most popular. Do this plenty of time ahead of when you plan to switch broadband provider – you may even want a few months to switch over.
2) Set up a forwarding system on your old email account so that all new emails are automatically redirected to your new email address. This sounds fiddly, but isn’t necessarily. You can usually find the option to redirect in the inbox settings of your old email account. This will work as long as your old email account is still active.
3) Import all of your contacts from your old account to your new one. You can do this in bulk to ensure that you don’t miss out any important contacts that you have forgotten about.
4) Send an email to your main contacts to let them know your new email address.
5) Set up an auto-responder message on your old email address. That will mean that when someone emails you at that address, they will receive an automated message saying their email has been forwarded, and explaining that you will be responding in future from the new email address.
6) Make a list of all of the accounts and logins that are linked to your old email address. Go through and update your details for each one with your new email address. Don’t forget online banking, streaming services and social media accounts.
7) Once you have saved any old emails you want to keep, delete the rest – especially those with any personal information in them.