Millions of internet users face costs of up to £60 a year to keep their email address if they switch broadband provider. Others risk losing their account altogether if they switch.
BT has announced it is tripling the amount former customers will have to pay to keep their BT email address when they switch provider.
The charge used to be £1.60 a month from May it will be £5 – a massive £60 a year.
So which other providers charge to keep your old email address and what can you do about it?
What email addresses are affected?
When you set up broadband at home, providers will give you an option of setting up a new email account.
These will generally have the name of the broadband provider in the email address, for example ‘@btinternet.com’ or ‘@virgin.net’.
Infuriating: Some broadband customers face losing their email address or paying to keep it when they switch provider
Even if you then set up your emails so that you can read them on your computer through Outlook or another programme, the service is still provided by your broadband company.
If you then choose to switch broadband provider, your former one may choose to shut your email account or ask you to pay to continue using it.
This does not apply to email addresses that are provided through remote services such as Hotmail or Gmail.
These can be logged into regardless of your broadband provider.
What does BT charge?
When you switch from BT to a different provider, if you wish to keep your BT email account you must pay £5 a month, up from £1.60.
The only way to get out of it is by signing up to its broadband service again. BT says it will pay up to £300 in exit fees if your provider tries to charge you to leave your contract early.
What does Virgin Media charge?
If you disconnect your Virgin Broadband service, your email account remains active for 90 days. During this time you must save any contacts, emails or files you wish to keep. After this, your account is closed.
What does Sky charge?
Sky is one of the few providers that won’t charge you to keep your email account active. Your account remains open so long as you log in regularly. Sky may shut down accounts that remain inactive for six months.
Price rise: BT will charge £5 a month to former customers who want to keep their email account
What does TalkTalk charge?
TalkTalk does not charge former customers to use their email accounts. However it does not supply technical support to them once they are no longer customers and strongly encourages them to look for alternatives. It will not close email accounts though.
What about AOL?
AOL email is not connected to your broadband provider, so it doesn’t matter if you leave AOL Broadband and go to another provider or you move countries, you can take your AOL email with you.
Is there any way around the costs or cancellations?
Free, remote email services are not dependent on your broadband provider, so you can switch as many times as you like without losing your email address.
Hotmail and Gmail are two options.
It is possible to save your old emails and contacts to your computer and sometimes to upload them to your new email account.
You can also forward emails from an old account to a new one.
However once an email account is shut you will no longer be able to receive emails sent to that address.
Therefore it is crucial before you shut down an email address that you alert people to your email address change.
You must also update any other accounts that are linked to your email in some way, for example that use your email address as a user name for a login profile.
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