End broadband bill charade, says RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS

End bill charade and save millions in the process, says RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS: Broadband firms should offer fair and predictable prices

Thank goodness for Wealth & Personal Finance readers. Scores of you have kindly been in touch to share your tips for beating the broadband and phone price hikes. Many wanted to help fellow readers landed with rises they cannot afford. Thank you. We’re always so happy to hear from you.

But your ideas were not confined to helping other readers. A number suggested an excellent way that broadband and phone providers could cut their costs as well. Then maybe they wouldn’t be so hungry to put up our bills. (Well, we can dream.)

It’s so simple. All they need to do is put an end to the bill hike charade.

Up and down the country broadband and phone customers are calling up their providers to get a better deal. Judging by your letters and emails, a huge number are successful in negotiating their bills down.

But it’s a faff. Customers hate it. First you have to go through the interminable recorded messages asking you to press one for this or two for that. Next there’s the farce of having to pretend you’re planning to leave your provider in order for it to offer you a better deal. Then you have to listen patiently while a customer service representative reads out reams of terms of conditions. And you’ve got off lightly if you don’t find yourself on hold at some point in the whole rigmarole.

A faff: Maybe broadband firms would do better investing less in customer service and more in offering fair and predictable prices in the first place

Infuriating for customers, yes. But think how expensive it must be for the broadband and phone providers. They have to pay for hundreds of hours of staff time, for call centres, training and the technology required. It must be costing them millions.

BT tells customers it is putting up bills because it is ‘investing more than ever to provide customers with the best experience and service possible’.

Virgin says its prices are rising ‘to make sure we can keep giving you the quality of service you expect from us’.

But maybe they’d do better investing less in customer service and more in offering fair and predictable prices in the first place. Every time we have to phone them, it eats into their profits. And when they make a mistake, that’s when their costs really start to escalate.

I’ve just signed up to a new broadband deal with BT. But it has bungled the process so badly that I’ve spent four hours and counting on the phone trying to rectify it. I’m sure that it has cost BT more in staff time than it could ever hope to make back from having me as a customer.

Judging by your emails, I’m not the only one. Reader Andy Hunter, for example, has been trying all week to get a better deal with Virgin Media, after it wrote to say his bills would rise by £15 a month. He has spent hours on the online chat and has been passed from one department to another on the phone.

‘In total I have received 17 documents with varying prices. It has been so confusing and stressful trying to keep up with it all,’ says Andy.

I feel for you, Andy. Being stuck in a broadband customer service nightmare is infuriating and exhausting.

Just think how much money Virgin Media would have saved if it got it right the first time.

Andy and I are fed up, but we’ll get there in the end.

But this system unfairly discriminates against people unable to call up and haggle.

Reader Douglas Lancaster has been trying, after Sky told him his bills were rising. But he is extremely hard of hearing, and struggles to understand what is being said. Other broadband and phone customers do not realise they can phone up to get a better deal.

It can’t be right that those who can’t or don’t make a fuss end up paying more. This pricing system is broken – and it must be fixed for the sake of customers and the providers.

Last week, we reported that Tesco Mobile was one of the only major providers not to increase customers’ bills mid-contract. The next day, it introduced mid-contract rises. What a shame.

Reader Ron Burrows has been told his bill will rise by 14.4 per cent. He says: ‘I’m a pensioner and put a lot of time and effort into making the decision on which provider and contract to take. This is more than disappointing. This is a complete waste of my time as well as my now feeling let down on the Tesco promise.’

Come on, Tesco Mobile – lead, don’t follow. Reward customers like Ron for their loyalty, and they’ll do the same for you.

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