Email address charges branded 'daylight robbery'

BBC Technology 22 Feb 2020 12:42
By Dan Whitworth Money Box reporter
Wendy Small, pictured with her husband Geoff.Image copyright Wendy Small

Ofcom is writing to broadband companies to ask why some people are having to pay to keep old email addresses.

TalkTalk charges £5 a month and BT charges £7.50 a month if customers switch providers but want to keep using their email addresses as before.

Virgin deletes those it gives to customers 90 days after they leave, but Sky lets people keep theirs for free.

Ofcom told Radio 4's Money Box it could see no reason for what one customer called "basically daylight robbery".

Ofcom added: "We're looking at this to consider whether we need to step in and take action."

As the UK's four big providers, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin supply 90% of the UK's net-using homes with broadband.

Money Box spoke to one customer who has paid £260 to keep an old address during the three years since switching from BT.

It's a similar story for Wendy Small, from Bookham in Surrey, who's been charged £160 since leaving BT for another provider two years ago.

"I think it's basically daylight robbery and it doesn't help incentivise people to switch provider.

"I think that Ofcom should be taking action and look at the wider practice in the sector. If the sector refuses to change its practices, I think Ofcom should be stepping in to regulate."

An Ofcom spokesperson said: "We can't see a reason why you should have to pay these amounts to keep your email address. So we're looking at this to consider whether we need to step in and take action.

Image copyright Dave Currie

  • BT: £7.50 a month to maintain normal access (although users can retain their BT email addresses for nothing with limitations, including only being able to log on using a browser and having to log on regularly)
  • TalkTalk: £5 a month (or £50 for an entire year if paid in advance)
  • Virgin: Account deleted 90 days after disconnection
  • Sky: Users can keep old email address free after switching provider

The idea of having to change his email address with all the sites he uses is something Dave Currie, from Inverkip, says is just not worth any potential savings.

"I had to change logins for bank, gas and electric suppliers, car insurance, house insurance, holiday companies, airlines, all the online shops that require that.

"Having had to do it once, I would certainly be put off changing service providers, even for a much better deal. It just involved too much time and effort."

"If Ofcom is serious about mandating ISPs (internet service providers) to provide access to addresses after you leave your provider, then it will have to institute a system similar to the ability to swap your mobile phone number to another network.

"It could be that it will still be cheaper for you over the next 12 months to switch even if you are paying for access to your email address.

You can hear more on BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme by listening again here.

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