Why do some broadband providers charge for an email address?

07 May 2021

Some broadband customers who switch provider need to pay if they want to continue using the email address their old provider gave them. After we reviewed this practice, the two providers that do this have changed the information they give you, to make it clear what your options are.

Ofcom doesn’t regulate email services directly, but we would be concerned about any practice that could put people off switching. So we’ve been looking at this issue as part of our work to make sure customers are treated fairly by their providers.

What happens to your email address when you switch broadband provider?

If you switch to another company for your internet service, but want to keep using the email address you were given by your old provider, they will still be providing you with a service. Some companies charge for this.

Different broadband providers have different policies about what happens to your email address when you switch away from them. Here’s what happens with some of the major providers:

Customers might not be aware of these differences, or the options available to them when they cancel their contract. It’s important these options are clearly explained in the information people receive about ending their contract.

When we looked at the information given by providers, we were concerned that BT and TalkTalk were not making this clear enough. Following our review, both of these providers have now updated how they communicate this to customers.

BT now makes it clear that when customers change provider, they will still have access to a basic web-based email service for free as well as having the option of a paid-for premium service. Customers who switch away from BT will be given access to its free web-based service as the default when they cancel their contract.

TalkTalk now lets customers know they can still access a free basic web-based email service for two years if they have not opted for the paid-for premium service.

Have you considered setting up a free webmail account?

Our research found that, for around 1% of people who considered switching but didn’t, the main factor was not wanting to lose the email address they had with their current provider.

But there are many alternative free email services available, often quick and easy to set up, which can help you transfer information from your existing email account – such as your contacts and the messages you already have. You can also set up these accounts on the ‘Mail’ app on your smartphone or tablet, so you can easily access your emails without having to log in via an internet browser.

This means your email address doesn’t have to tie you down to your broadband provider. In fact, if your inbox is full of unwanted marketing mail, changing your email address is a great opportunity to start from scratch and make sure you only get the emails you want.