BT, EE and Vodafone 7.9% mid-contract price rises on the way – can you beat the hikes?

A person uses their mobile and broadband (images: Getty Images)

Broadband and mobile providers, including BT, EE and Vodafone, will hike bills by up to 7.9% this spring. It comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its December UK inflation figures today (17 January), which many providers base their prices on. How much will your contract rise by – and can you avoid paying more? Here’s all the info.

Coming amid industry regulator Ofcom’s consultation on whether to ban mid-contract price rises, the hikes will coincide with other bill increases. Council tax is set to go up by at least 5% for many households across the UK, while water companies are also expected to put up bills for millions. At the same time energy prices are still near record highs.

Catherine Hiley, deputy editor at Look After My Bills, said: “Mid-contract price rises are unfair on consumers, particularly at a time when inflation is high and the cost of living crisis is putting a strain on people’s pockets.

“Today’s news that many providers will be putting up their prices by 7.9% from the end of March will come as a nasty shock to a lot of people. But it’s worth noting that not all providers impose mid-contract price hikes. Take a look at the T&Cs in your contract to see if you’ll be affected.

“If you’re nearing the end of your contract, or are one of the millions of consumers who are out of contract on their broadband or mobile, you could likely still save £100s by switching to a cheaper deal. And even if you’re not able to switch just yet, make a note of your contract end date and be ready to switch to a better deal as soon as you can.”

To see how much you could save by switching, head to our best broadband deals guide and check out our broadband comparison tool. For the cheapest mobile deals, check out our cheap SIM price comparison.

How much will my broadband/mobile bill increase?

Mid-contract price hikes are set to come into force in a couple of months. They will affect most broadband, mobile, pay TV and landline customers.

Below, we’ve put together a table showing all the price hikes we currently know about, and when they’re expected to come into force. We’ll regularly update it as and when more information becomes available. If your provider doesn’t appear on the list, scroll underneath the table for more info.

Provider Price hike? Date prices go up
BT 7.9% (no hike for Home Essentials customers) 31 March
EE 7.9% (no hike for EE Basics mobile users) 31 March
Shell Energy* 7% 1 April
Sky No hike for in-contract mobile users (other hikes still TBC) N/A
TalkTalk (broadband only) 7.7% (4% for out-of-contract Fixed Price Plus users) 1 April
Three 7.9% 1 April
Vodafone 7.9% 1 April

*Shell Energy is reportedly in the process of being bought by TalkTalk. See more in our guide to Octopus Energy’s takeover of the energy/broadband business.

What about other providers?

We are still yet to hear how much the other major providers O2, Sky and Virgin Media will change their prices by. O2 and Virgin Media set their prices by a slightly different measure of inflation, January’s Retail Prices Index (RPI). This statistic will be published on 14 February 2024. Sky doesn’t base its hikes on inflation and will announce its price hikes imminently.

How can I beat mid-contract price hikes?

Given the way most contracts work, not everyone can beat the price hikes. Here’s what you should do now depending on the situation you’re in:

  • Out-of-contract (or approaching the end of your minimum term)

If you’re not currently tied in with your provider, you can switch to another deal at any time without facing exit fees. Our best broadband deals and cheapest mobile deals guides will show you what’s available out there. It’s worth switching anyway as post-contract prices can be £100s more expensive than a new contract.

Say your minimum term is drawing to a close (or will be coming to an end in early May), it’s also worth taking a look at what’s out there. Once you’re around a month away from the end of your contract, you will be in the strongest position with your existing provider to haggle. If they can’t beat the deals available elsewhere, you should consider switching to a new provider.

  • Within the minimum term of your contract

People who are well within the minimum term of their contract will, in most cases, be unable to do much about the mid-contract price hikes. Switching could land you with a hefty exit fee that would be more expensive than the mid-contract hike, and may wipe out any savings you can make with another deal.

This is because most providers write mid-contract rises into their contracts when you sign up (more on this below). You’ll usually only be able to switch penalty-free if they exceed the amount by which they say they’ll up your bills every spring. In these instances, which tend to be rare, you will typically have 30 days to quit your contract.

If you’re well within your minimum term, you may be able to haggle with your provider. But your negotiating hand will be relatively weak given they’ll know your contract has a while to run and that you’ll have to pay a big penalty fee to leave them. Some providers may offer to buy you out of your contract (ie, they’ll cover the cost of your exit fees). While this may save you some money, doing so could compromise your efforts to get a better deal when your contract ends.

Why will prices go up by so much?

Consumers are facing hefty mid-contract price hikes because of inflation. Most providers set their annual increases by an inflation figure from either December or January, and then add another percentage on top. They argue that doing so allows them to cover any cost increases associated with providing you with your service. Sky is the outlier as it doesn’t use inflation as a reference point.

The hikes we know about so far have occurred because the providers have used December’s Consumer Prices Index (CPI). Announced on 17 January, this official measure of price rises across the economy rose from 3.9% to 4%. Most providers then add another 3.9 percentage points to the inflation figure, giving us the maximum increase (so far) of 7.9%. TalkTalk undercuts its rivals slightly by adding 3.7 percentage points.

We’re still yet to hear how big the hikes from other major providers will be. O2 and Virgin Media use a slightly different measure of inflation, the Retail Prices Index (RPI), which used to be the UK’s official inflation statistic. They also take their figure from January’s data, which will not be released until 14 February 2024.

RPI tends to track higher than CPI (it’s calculated in a slightly different way), so O2 and Virgin customers could face bigger hikes. The latest data shows RPI came in at 5.2% in December 2023. As with the other providers, the pair then add 3.9 percentage points on top of the inflation figure.

The practice of taking an inflation figure and then adding another percentage on top only started to appear in 2020. Ofcom is planning to ban this system and force providers to set out increases from the outset of a contract.