A charity has revealed the extent of a broadband based con that has been legally swindling customers out of hundreds of pounds in "cancellation fees."
Citizens Advice has brought to light the fact that it is considered acceptable among top broadband providers to present their customers with a choice: pay out large sums of money to switch companies or save cash put up with shoddy connection speeds.
A triumvirate of hefty exit fees, faltering connections and bad customer service have been exposed by the UK charity's campaign.
On average, it found that customers are charged £190 for switching broadband contracts – regardless of whether they have no choice because they are, for instance, moving house.
Those who do decide to change can also face "cancellation fees" of up to £625.
Citizens Advice also claimed that one in five customers who complained to the charity in the past year were involved in a cancellation or withdrawal dispute.
Also topping the list of customer gripes included reports that broadband companies were failing to address complaints altogether, and problems with costs and billing were spiralling.
Overall, 3,300 people have reported Internet and broadband problems to the charity since July 2013.
In the most extreme cases, some customers who refused to pay the exit charges were passed on to debt collection agencies, Citizens Advice revealed.
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said: "Internet service providers must not shackle customers seeking a better service with unreasonable fees that can turn into shock debt.
"All Internet users need to be able to easily have a way out of inadequate contracts and broadband speeds that only give them daily frustration."
James Padmore at comparethemarket.com said that the high fees deterred competition in the broadband market. "These high fees are designed to lock customers into their existing packages and to deter them from shopping around," he said.