Broadband ISP Plusnet to Introduce New UK Price Hikes Policy

Low-cost focused UK broadband ISP Plusnet, which is a BT Group (EE) sibling, is to follow their parents by introducing a new pricing model, which moves away from the old percentage (%) figures and inflation (CPI) approach to annual price hikes. Instead, from 9th July 2024, they’ll introduce a “clear and simple” view of future price rises, expressed in “pounds and pence“.

The change is designed to reflect Ofcom’s recent move to BAN broadband ISPs and mobile operators from doing mid-contract price hikes that are linked to confusing inflation and percentage-based changes (here). But the regulator’s change was never designed to stop mid-contract hikes (i.e. it’s more about making future package pricing clearer and simpler), which means that providers must now tell customers precisely what any future price increases will be when they sign up (“in pounds and pence“).

NOTE: Plusnet has also just discounted their Openreach based full fibre (FTTP) plans again, which for example reduces their top 900Mbps package to just £39.99 per month on a 24-month term (or £29.99 for 300Mbps, £32.99 for 500Mbps).

The first broadband and mobile providers to announce their intention to adopt this approach became BT and EE during April 2024 (here), although at the time it was stated that sibling broadband ISP Plusnet would, for whatever reason, “follow later this summer.” As expected, Plusnet has now revealed when they’ll introduce the same change.

For all new contracts signed up on or after 9th July 2024, a price rise of +£3 per month will be effective each March from 2025 onwards. Existing customers who want to re-contract their package will also become subject to the same change of terms / pricing policy (if you don’t re-contract and joined before this date, then the old CPI + 3.9% terms will still apply). Finally, out of bundle services will increase by 5% on 31st March each year (these aren’t covered by Ofcom’s policy).

A Plusnet spokesperson told ISPreview:

“Our focus is to provide Plusnet customers straightforward broadband at straightforward prices. From the 9th July 2024, we will be introducing a pricing model aligned with Ofcom’s approach, offering our customers a predictable long-term view of their contract terms. These new contracts will make it simpler for our customers and provide more certainty on what annual price changes will be.”

We are very supportive of Ofcom’s recommendation to show upfront pounds and pence amounts for price change and remain committed to supporting all our customers, especially those who are financially vulnerable.”

On the one hand this approach, which other providers will have to adopt too, is clearer. But on the other hand, it does still continue an approach that will most likely see new and re-contracting customers being hit with an above inflation increase in their monthly prices (i.e. given how quickly inflation has fallen in the past year and the presumption of it staying low by March 2025).

In addition, the £3 increase seems to apply no matter how much you’re paying today (i.e. it doesn’t scale with different monthly rentals), which effectively means that it will hit those on the cheapest and often slowest packages the most.

Admittedly, this does help to protect ISPs from the inherent difficulty of trying to balance mid-term price rises against unknown increases in future network costs and inflation, but it’s also unlikely to damped calls from those who believe there should be an outright ban on mid-contract hikes – something we’d support. Speaking of which, if broadband ISPs can now predict this, then it arguably increases the case for just baking the hikes into a fixed price contract.

However, it’s worth remembering that not all providers adopt the same approach as the biggest players and many smaller ISPs, particularly newer alternative networks, often already promote packages with simple fixed price terms.

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