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.