Broadband News

Ofcom considering stepping in to fix unfair ISP email deals

The fate of a long cherished email address and the costs of retaining one are looking likely to be a focus of Ofcom in 2020 based on a report by the BBC.

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.

Last year we also secured commitments from companies to treat customers fairly, so we've asked them to explain how this fits with that promise.

Comment by Ofcom spokesperson

The issue is not about charges while you have a broadband service with a provider, but rather what happens when you migrate away, in the worst case which seems to be Virgin Media they shut down the email account 90 days after you leave. Others charge varying amounts e.g. TalkTalk is £5/m and while BT offer a basic web interface option for free the price for full access i.e. POP3/SMTP/IMAP4 is £7.50/m.

Clearly for people who migrate to another provider to save a few pound a month on their broadband the cost of retaining an old email address that will likely be linked to their banking, shopping and social life could wipe out any savings.

So is what the broadband charges grossly unfair?

If you are happy with a free gmail or outlook address and the terms these carry, i.e. often free with online content means while it is free there can be data collection going on for marketing purposes. There may also be issues for some over the POP3, SMTP, IMAP4 options available, account size and for lots of people the lack of a support line to talk to when things go wrong.

So what are the paid options? Well you can get a personalised domain and email for 99p per month, but these often have limitations e.g. mail box size or limited number of email addresses, once you start increasing the options it is not uncommon to see pricing in the £5 to £10/m region and end up with something that someone running a small business would be paying.

So horror stories of people paying £120 over two years for their email address while headline grabbing are not that different to the commercial email market.

If Ofcom was to intervene to avoid market distortion effects on the wider UK hosting community it would need to investigate how much it costs to run mail services and handle the queries that invariably arise.

The best case scenario would seem to be imposing something like what BT does, i.e. basic webmail interface service for free for ex-broadband customers who had been with the provider for 12 months or more previously. 

On our forums the topic of what to do with email is not one of the most popular topics, but a regular one and for years the advice has been to take the plunge and sign up for your own domain and email account. There are lots of UK based services that actually operate and store your data in the UK but it would be unfair to list one or two of them so best to ask on our forums for what others have been using long term.


It will cost the ISP’s to service the emails and I always thought it odd that people expected to be able to keep their email for free.

Not saying that £7.50 a month is justified, but I would expect to have to pay for the service.... with gmail it is advertising / privacy. Not sure about outlook

  • martmiller
  • about 1 year ago

I could NEVER understand why people use ISP email services at all. Like the article says you can use Gmail or Outlook completely free and they don't change when you change ISP or get a dedicated domain.

It's likely down to the fact that most people don't understand or are not made aware of these things (educated). Instead of rules we should educate otherwise we 'dumb down' the population until they can do NOTHING for themselves. Which, maybe what some people would like so they can capitalize on them with companies offering to switch for you, power, telecoms, etc. That means data collection!

  • nervous
  • about 1 year ago

But if you register a domain name (for example, the provider will usually redirect email ([email protected]) to [email protected]).

You can then happily change isp whenever you wish and just change the redirect.

For a cheap domain there may be a limit on the number of email nameboxes.

  • ronjohnreid
  • about 1 year ago

ronjohnreid +1. Though I have had a free BTinternet email account since I left their dial up service in 2004. For a while I paid f(5£pm IIRC) for Plusnet email accounts. They stopped charging me for this when they introduced their new billing system a few years ago now. The government likes to interfere in markets where some consumers don't make the effort to get the best deal. They just make things worse for those who do make the effort.

  • Michael_Chare
  • about 1 year ago

Fail to see how this is 'unfair' you got an email address because you were a paying subscriber.

If they want to enforce a period of grace then fine no problem at all.

As for this BT free webmail, They deleted my user account email while i was still a paying customer, as I hadn't used it for a long time, so they're hardly an example of good practices.

  • Swac3
  • about 1 year ago

BT wanted £5 a month to continue my email when I left them five years ago. I moved my contacts to an independent provider and ignored the BT threat to cease my email service after four weeks. It still works perfectly ...

  • mike41
  • about 1 year ago

Back in the day, when I first started using email, Gmail never existed, Hotmail (as it was then called) had quite tight limits for attachments, and IIRC own domains where expensive and only seen as for companies, so it made perfect sense to use an ISP's webmail, over the decades things have changed and of cause nowadays it makes much more sense to not use a ISP's webmail, something I found out the hard way a few years back.
I don't see why ISP's shouldn't charge ex customers, but as it's a possible point for putting off switching ISP's and IMO is the reason they are offered,should be regulated

  • burble
  • about 1 year ago

I begrudge having to pay BT £7.50 a month just to keep my email address. I’d joined BT broadband about 15 years ago (limited broadband options back then!) as you can imagine it became my main email, then I changed isp about 5 years ago. I have so many important emails that I can’t afford to loose & would take a lifetime & a forest to print so I end up paying the fee. At some point I will send my old emails to my newer email address, there’s quite a few thousand emails I need to keep but then I’d loose the ability to search by sender :(

  • Southpawe
  • about 1 year ago


You're paying 7.50 a month so you can look at Old emails ? you do know you dont need to be connected to read emails dont you ? I've got emails on my computer here from like 2012 theyre just saved on the HD by the email program, they wont go anywhere if i leave my ISP.

  • Swac3
  • about 1 year ago

When you think of changing add in the cost of keeping the email address. Simple.

  • Somerset
  • about 1 year ago

Kcom, in Hull, just told me my 89 year old mum can’t keep her email address when she loses her account, as she is moving into a care home, having been a customer for 60 years.

No option to keep the email address that she has given to various friends, relatives, companies etc.

  • HgtGuy_JK
  • about 1 year ago

Godaddy, who were once upon a time a good value ISP, are now wanting to charge be $4.99 a month for workplace email linked to the overpriced domain I pay them for.

  • adamski
  • about 1 year ago

I've had the same webmail address for over 2 decades, it's a account, and it doesn't cost me a penny. Same with my @gmail account, which I got when it was launched, and that's also been free. My current ISP is TalkTalk; migrated from AOL to them (when they purchased the UK company), and they didn't charge me for migrating my address either. When it's contract renewal time, they have been keen to keep my business; total loyalty time is getting on for 20 years, and all those e-mails have been saved to Outlook on hard drives, no need to be online to look at any of those!

  • FrankDieterT
  • about 1 year ago

@Southpawe you've got a couple of options:

1) Set it up as a POP3 account instead of IMAP and download all the emails to your mail client


2) Setup a new email account and import the emails from the old one. You don't need to send/forward them to yourself. IT can be as simple as just dragging them from the Inbox on old address to Inbox on new address within your email client. We do it for customers all the time (albeit with a scripted tool).

  • KarlAustin
  • about 1 year ago

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