Why pay for something you can get for free?
An email address is the first thing everyone needs if they’re to take advantage of all the perks the internet provides, especially now many of us bank and shop online – for these activities, an email address is an absolute necessity.
This makes it especially frustrating – not to mention a touch unethical – when broadband providers treat it as a privilege, charging up to £90 a year to customers who want to switch to a new provider, but also want to keep their original email address.
After public outcry in February, branding the practice ‘daylight robbery’, Ofcom got involved. As of today, however, people in this situation still have to stomach the cost, so many of them just stick with their original broadband provider, just so they can keep their address.
To make matters worse, broadband price increases are afoot, at least from the bigger operators. For example, BT customers who renew or sign up to a new contract after 1 September 2020 are locked into a price rise which will see their monthly bills jump in March by the rate of inflation plus a further 3.9 percent. Openreach, which provides the infrastructure to the majority of the UK’s broadband services, has decided to increase wholesale prices by inflation rather than costs – a move which could increase broadband costs by £2,000 over five years for a typical UK business and will probably filter down to residential users too
Clearly, being locked into a broadband contract you don’t need is a bad investment. Read on to find out what you can do about this.
Why can’t you keep your email address after changing broadband providers?
Today, 90 percent of the UK’s internet-using homes are supplied with broadband by four big internet service providers: BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin.
Of the four, only one, Sky, allows previous customers to keep their email addresses when they switch to a different provider.
- BT Premium Mail charges £7.50 per month, adding up to £90 annually. These are email addresses ending in @bt.com, @btinternet.com, @btopenworld.com or @talk21.com.
- TalkTalk WebMail charges £5 per month, or £60 annually – emails ending in @talktalk.com.
- Virgin Media Mail – emails ending in @virginmedia.com – deletes previous customers’ email addresses after 90 days, meaning there is no extra charge, but customers must be ready to save all their important information and change logins before it’s all lost.
Many people have had their email addresses for years. They have valuable contacts and information stored in their inboxes, and their email is associated with household services, auto-renew contracts, bank login credentials and more.
Untangling this web of information to start afresh is such a daunting task that many choose not to break contract with their provider in the first place. Those who do decide to switch might find that whatever money they save on a cheaper broadband contract is – to some extent – gone covering the £60-90 annual email lock-in fee.
While compelling customers to stay locked into contracts or charging them to retain their email is certainly one way to make a profit, it’s not a good look for big internet service providers.
Until there is regulation – which is still a big ‘if’ at the moment – the best thing to do, and the only permanent solution, is to start migrating away from email addresses that come with a price tag.
Once you close your BT, TalkTalk or Virgin account, your emails will be gone, and not even auto-forwarding services can save you, so make sure you’ve got the checklist all ticked off before you walk.
How to escape the broadband email lock-in: A five-step guide.
Step One: Set up a new, free email address
Use one of the reputable web-based email providers such as Microsoft’s Outlook, Google’s Gmail or Verizon’s Yahoo! Mail. Outlook and Gmail both grant you 15GB inbox storage which is more than enough for most – Yahoo gets you a whopping 1TB. If you’re an Apple user you might already have a free iCloud Mail account which grants you 5GB of data storage – plenty for some, but if you want to upgrade to ten times that storage, it’s still less than a pound a month.
Step Two: Export your contacts
The easiest way to make sure you have all your saved contacts’ email addresses is to export them from your original account and then import them into your new email one. There is usually an option for this in the main menu, or if you get stuck, your provider will be able to talk you through this step.
Once you’ve got all contacts set up in your new account, you might want to send everyone a short email to notify them of your new address. You can do this in bulk and in a way that your recipients only see their address in the “To” field, rather than everybody else’s – here is how to do it on Outlook and Gmail.
Step three: Forward every important email over to your new address
Next, let’s make sure you have all the valuable emails in your new account. Look through your old inbox and any mail folders you have to find emails you want to forward over to your new address. While you may not be able to select multiple emails and bulk-forward them all at once (as TalkTalk and BT do not offer this feature), there might be ways to export your mailbox, download emails or use a third party service like Thunderbird to configure your email address as an IMAP account and export messages that way.
Step four: Change your email address on record for every platform or service you use
You’ve likely registered and logged in to plenty of online accounts with your old email address, which means it will be associated with multiple sites and services, such as:
- Online banking platforms
- Online shopping services
- Online supermarkets
- Virtual membership cards
- On-demand TV or streaming services
- Social networks
- Newsletters and subscriptions
To help find websites where your email is used you can start by checking your web browser. When logging into a website for the first time, your browser usually asks whether you want it to remember your password. If you’ve clicked yes, these sites will be stored in your ‘Saved passwords’ list and you can easily access these on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari.
The next thing to do is search your old email inbox for words such as “welcome” “username” “password” or “unsubscribe” – as these are likely on emails you received when registering or signing up for an online account. This website explains some other hacks that might work.
Step five: Say goodbye to your old broadband provider
Once your new email address is up and running and your old conversations, contacts and login credentials are all available through this new address it’s time to say goodbye to the email address that held you to ransom all this time.
Enjoy your freedom and cost savings!
- *All prices and data information is correct on date of publication.