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End the broadband bill hoax, says RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS

End the bill hoax and save millions in the process, says RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS: Broadband companies must offer fair and predictable prices

Thank God for Wealth & Personal Finance readers. Dozens of you have kindly reached out to share your tips for beating the price hikes for broadband and phones. Many wanted to help other readers find raises they can’t afford. Thank you. We are always so happy to hear from you.

But his ideas were not limited to helping other readers. A number suggested a great way that broadband and phone providers could cut their costs, too. Then maybe they wouldn’t be hungry enough to pay our bills. (Well, we can dream.)

It’s so simple. All they need to do is put an end to the bill gouging hoax.

Across the country, phone and broadband customers are calling their providers for a better deal. Judging by their letters and emails, a large number manage to successfully negotiate their invoices.

But it’s a faff. Clients hate it. First you have to go through the endless recorded messages asking you to press one for this or two for that. Then there’s the charade of having to pretend you’re planning to leave your supplier so they’ll offer you a better deal. Then you have to listen patiently as a customer service representative reads through a plethora of terms and conditions. And you’ve gotten off lightly if you’re not on hold at some point in all the gibberish.

One faff: maybe broadband companies would do better to invest less in customer service and more in offering fair and predictable prices in the first place.

Infuriating for customers, yes. But think about how expensive that must be for phone and broadband providers. They have to pay for hundreds of hours of staff time, call centers, training, and the required technology. It must be costing them millions.

BT tells customers it is paying the bills because it is “investing more than ever to give customers the best possible experience and service.”

Virgin says its prices are going up “to make sure we can continue to provide you with the quality of service you expect from us.”

But perhaps they would do better to invest less in customer service and more in offering fair and predictable prices in the first place. Every time we have to call them on the phone, they eat up their profits. And when they make a mistake, that’s when your costs really start to add up.

I’ve just signed up for a new broadband deal with BT. But it has so messed up the process that I’ve spent four hours and counting on the phone trying to rectify it. I am sure it has cost BT more in staff time than they could hope to recoup by having me as a customer.

Judging by your emails, I’m not the only one. Reader Andy Hunter, for example, has been trying all week to get a better deal with Virgin Media, after he wrote to say his bills would rise by £15 a month. He has spent hours in online chat and has gone from department to department over the phone.

‘In total I have received 17 documents with variable prices. It’s been very confusing and stressful trying to keep up with everything,” says Andy.

I feel for you, Andy. Being stuck in a broadband customer service nightmare is infuriating and exhausting.

Just think how much money Virgin Media would have saved if they got it right the first time.

Andy and I are fed up, but we’ll make it eventually.

But this system unfairly discriminates against people who can’t call and haggle.

Reader Douglas Lancaster has been trying, after being told by Sky that his bills are rising. But he is extremely hard of hearing and has a hard time understanding what is being said. Other phone and broadband customers don’t realize they can call for a better deal.

It can’t be right that those who can’t or don’t make a fuss end up paying more. This pricing system doesn’t work and needs to be fixed for the good of customers and vendors.

Last week, we reported that Tesco Mobile was one of the only major providers not to increase customer bills midway through the contract. The next day, he introduced mid-contract raises. What a shame.

Reader Ron Burrows has been told his bill will increase 14.4 percent. He says: ‘I am a retiree and I spent a lot of time and effort making the decision about which provider and contract to take. This is beyond disappointing. This is a complete waste of time, plus I am now disappointed in Tesco’s promise.’

Come on Tesco Mobile: lead, don’t follow. Reward customers like Ron for their loyalty and they will do the same for you.