Thousands of BT customers are being slapped with a 50 per cent increase in the monthly fee for keeping long-established email addresses. Online complaints service Resolver says it is hearing from many disgruntled customers of the telecoms giant who are fed up with this ‘massive rip-off’.
Resolver’s Martyn James says: ‘Increasingly, businesses are cranking up these “small” charges as a way to increase their profits. Many people feel stuck with the price increase because their email address is longstanding and feel it is a real pain to change or redirect.
‘There is also the cost associated with keeping the email open during the overlap period once someone has moved to a new provider. Most people do not want key contacts to receive a curt “email address not recognised” message.’
Binned: Sally Hamilton plans to ditch her costly email account from BT, promoted by Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds (above)
Those affected by the price hike are people who used to have their broadband service with BT but have since switched internet provider – taking their BT email addresses with them.
At first the telecoms giant, which uses Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Reynolds to promote its services, charged just £1.60 a month for the so-called ‘premium mail’ facility. But two years ago the company bumped up the monthly rate to £5. Now from August customers will have to pay £7.50.
BT says customers who switch back to BT’s broadband service will get their emails for free.
As someone who switched away from BT’s broadband several years ago after enduring poor service, leaving in place a BT email address, this latest price hike is the prod I needed to make the move to a free web-based service. I plan to transfer to Gmail.
But like many people I feel somewhat daunted. How can I move my email without the risk of losing contact with friends, family and all the financial firms and utility companies I deal with online?
I checked out my home broadband provider Virgin Media as an option. It provides email addresses for free. But if I were to switch my broadband away in future, the firm would delete my account within a short period. I would have access to the email account for just 90 days after the service closes.
Experts say the challenge is often worst for older householders. Mark Pocock, telecoms expert at website broadbandchoices, says: ‘Older people are already the most reluctant switchers, with 22 per cent of over- 65s staying with their broadband provider for ten years. With providers charging to retain what customers see as an essential service they will be more exploited than ever.’
Pocock says the BT fee looks steep. ‘People who use Microsoft Office 365, for example, pay £7.99 a month to receive a whole suite of tools alongside email, including Word and Excel.’
Experts say switching email is easier than you think. Follow our eight steps to ensuring ‘you’ve (still) got mail’ after a transfer.
1. Choose provider
Consider signing up to an email account from web-based services such as Gmail and Outlook (formerly Hotmail). These accounts are free, have most required features and offer decent storage allowances.
Best of all, your email address will not be deleted if and when you switch broadband provider.
2. Plan ahead
Once you know your email account will be deleted, or if you want to get out of an expensive service, prepare in advance.
It is best to start the process at least 30 days before the account is deleted.
Some experts suggest starting the move a year ahead and running the two email addresses in tandem while completing the process – which in the case of BT email customers will require paying £90 – 12 monthly payments of £7.50.
3. Save information
Forward important messages from the old account to the new address. This might include an email with a flight confirmation, for example. To download or export a contacts list from the old account look at the support section of its website or contact the provider – as methods vary between suppliers.
4. Update logins
Many websites require an email address when logging in – for example, online banking, Facebook and subscription services such as Netflix. Make a list of the ones you use, log on to each and change the email details.
Junked: Some experts suggest starting the move a year ahead and running the two email addresses in tandem while completing the process
5. Tell contacts
From the new address, send an email to all contacts – using ‘bcc’ so that not everyone receives details of the contacts in your address book. To check it has worked, include yourself.
6. Arrange forwarding
Just as it is wise to use Royal Mail’s redirection service for physical mail when you move home, it also makes sense to set up a forwarding arrangement for emails.
This means that all messages sent to the old email will be automatically forwarded to the new one.
At the same time, set up an automatic reply on the old account to inform anyone who uses the old address that the new email is the more appropriate way to make contact.
Even if you are able to keep an old email account for free it makes sense to set up auto-forwarding, especially if you do not plan to use it again.
With Gmail, forwarding can be organised during the set-up phase using Google’s Mail Fetcher.
7. Keep email active
So long as a web-based email is used regularly, there is no risk of it being deleted, so use it or lose it.
8. Build own domain
One way to avoid being at the mercy of an ex-broadband provider’s nasty ongoing email charges is buying your own website domain name and setting up email addresses from there. It may not save money but it gives you a certain independence.
This method involves buying a domain name from a special registrar. There are dozens to choose from, including 123 Reg, GoDaddy, Fasthosts, Google Domains and Easyspace. Prices vary but usually start at between £10 and £20 a year for the name plus a similar sum for the email service.