Virgin Media hikes prices for broadband, TV and mobile customers: here’s how to avoid them

Virgin Media is informing its customers that this year’s price hikes will increase ‘on average’ by 13.8%, and the increases will come into effect on either April 1 or May 1, depending on the package.

It’s the latest provider to confirm price hikes for 2023, as telecoms providers pile on the pressure at a time when many households are struggling to make ends meet.

Fortunately, Virgin Media customers have more options than many others: it’s possible to switch away, penalty free, but this will be the last time customers will be able to do so.

How Virgin Media customers can avoid the hikes

Unlike many other broadband providers, who build these annual price rises into the terms and conditions, Virgin’s contracts do not currently contain the same terms. As such, customers are able to switch without exit fees – but they must do so within 30 days of being informed of the price increase.

But Virgin will be making a change to its T&Cs that will come into effect from April 2024, which will prevent customers leaving penalty-free when next year’s hikes are announced.

To make things worse, while most other providers use the consumer price index (CPI) as a base for price increases, adding between 3 and 3.9 percent on top, Virgin Media will use the much higher retail price index (RPI) measure, and add 3.9% on top of that. Today, RPI is at 13.4%, compared to 10.5% for CPI, so it’s a significant additional increase. Virgin Media will become the only broadband provider that uses RPI.

We asked Virgin Media about its plans for price increases. It confirmed the changes and said that while price rises are never welcome, it has, like many businesses, been experiencing significantly increased costs to keep pace with demand. It stated its commitment to supporting customers and that vulnerable customers (eg those on social tariffs) would not see the price of their deal rise.

For many customers though, the latest announcement will represent an opportunity to find a better deal.

Many customers were dissatisfied with aspects of Virgin Media’s service – read our guide to the best and worst broadband providers to see how it rated, and who came out on top.

Should you switch or haggle as a Virgin Media customer?

If you’re happy with the service you receive from Virgin Media, you might be more tempted to haggle for a better deal, rather than switch. Haggling is most effective when your contract is coming to an end, but if you’re struggling to pay your bills at any point, it’s always worth calling and explaining your situation.

  • Providers have agreed to new commitments to help customers struggling to pay their bills.
  • For those on benefits, our guide to social tariffs explains how discounted tariffs are available to help reduce your bills.

However, bear in mind that haggling often involves signing up to a new contract, and as such you won’t be in as strong a position next year, when the new T&Cs will prevent customers from leaving without paying high exit fees.

Switching could be your best option. Switching broadband provider is easy – 61% of switchers in a recent Which? survey told us that they found changing providers easy to do, and 77% ended up with cheaper packages as a result.

Our guide on how to switch broadband can help, or head to our pick of the best broadband dealswith fast fiber packages from under £22 a month.

Which broadband providers are best and worst for price hikes?

Many providers are yet to announce this year’s rises, but BT Group, which includes BT, EE and Plusnet, has already said it will go ahead with price rises of 14.4% for the vast majority of its customers, including those that are out of contract . The table below shows how we’d expect providers to increase prices this year.

*Shell Energy Broadband reserves the right to increase prices by CPI plus ‘up to 3%’

Customers of other providers take a different approach. For example, Sky typically sets its own price rises, rather than following CPI or RPI, and above-inflation hikes aren’t currently built into the contract, so customers can haggle or switch when notified.

Some providers commit to keep prices the same for the duration of the contract – Zen Internet, Hyperoptic and SSE all promise not to raise prices during people’s minimum contract period.

Factoring in each provider’s approach to annual price rises can help protect you from future hikes.

Which? calls on providers to do more to help customers

A Which? campaign is calling on essential businesses, including telecoms providers, to help consumers grappling with the impact of the cost of living crisis. Like supermarkets and energy companies, telecoms providers must pull together to create a fairer market, and help those struggling with the financial and emotional impact of rising prices.

We’re calling on all providers allow customers to leave their contract and switch without penalty if prices are hiked mid-contract – regardless of whether or not these increases can be said to be ‘transparent’.

Given the current economic circumstances, we’ve also called for all providers to more carefully consider what level of mid-contract price increases are justified.

Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said:

‘Virgin Media O2 is hitting its customers with a huge price hike when many will already be struggling with the cost of living crisis, but customers on contracts can haggle for a better deal or switch to a cheaper provider without having to pay a penalty. Virgin Broadband customers in particular may want to switch, as the firm is consistently among the worst performers in Which?’s customer satisfaction surveys.

‘Disappointingly, the firm is also planning to follow others by introducing the broken model of above-inflation price increases baked into customer contracts. Ofcom is investigating firms who employ this practice, over fears that they are not being upfront about the eye-watering hikes people could face. Many customers on these contracts currently find themselves trapped and facing a lose-lose choice between price increases or significant exit fees if they want to switch to a better deal.

‘Which? is calling for all providers to allow all customers to exit their contracts penalty free if their tariff does go up mid-contract and that anyone eligible for a social tariff should be allowed to move to one without facing exit fees.’

For more ways to save, read our guide on 10 ways to save on your broadband and TV bills.

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