The idea of TV cord cutting is to watch what you want, when you want – and pay a lower price. But even if you stay with the “traditional” pay-TV companies like Sky, Virgin Media, BT and the rest – there are still ways to reduce your bills considerably – by haggling.
Whether you’re trying to lower your broadband, TV or phone costs (or all of them combined) – a simple phone call (sometimes a couple) can save you quite a lot every year. My broadband costs haven’t gone up in three years (although they try to raise them every year!) – and they even upped my speed for the same price – so, yes, haggling works.
In this guide, I’ll go over the right way to negotiate with Sky and the rest of the communication utilities providers out there, what you need to know in advance, and how to get a better price.
Table of Contents
When Should I Haggle With Sky / Virgin Media?
Most broadband/TV/phone packages come with a contract, usually for 12 months (and sometimes for 18 or even 24 months). During your contract, the service you get supposedly stays the same, the price supposedly stays the same (but often doesn’t), and – you can’t leave.
If you try to leave in the middle of your contract, you will usually be required to pay a fine (most likely the remaining months on your contract).
The companies know you’re not likely to break your contract in the middle, so you’re not likely to leave them – so there’s no reason for them to make better offers. So – when CAN you haggle?
When Your Contract Is Ending
The best time to try and negotiate a better price, is 30 days (or less) before the end of your contract (in most cases, you need to give 30-days notice before you actually leave).
At that point, the company knows they’re vulnerable, and you might leave them for a better offer – so they’ll start churning out those better offers.
Write down a note in your calendar, to contact the company shortly before the contract ends. Never let it just expire or renew automatically – as the company will almost certainly raise your bills.
A Mid-Contract Price Increase
There are exceptions that WILL let you break a contract with Sky / Virgin and the rest without paying a fine. The first one is when THEY decide to raise the price you’re paying, in the middle of your contract.
The mere fact that these companies can sign a contract that prevents you from leaving, and then raise their pricing in the middle of it, is ridiculous. In my view, it puts the whole idea of a contract to shame, when only one side (you) is supposed to uphold its terms. But… yes, most of these contracts specifically allow the companies to raise prices (usually within certain limits).
However, this at least means that once you get the notice that the price is rising – you have 30 days to let the company know you want to leave them, without paying any fines – and they have to let you leave.
So, that’s an excellent time to haggle again. You can, at the very least, make them ditch the planned price increase – and sometimes even use this as an excuse to get LOWER prices. (Unfortunately, these companies know that most of their customers won’t bother to call and haggle at this point, which is why the price increase works for them).
Bad service is the third reason that will let you leave mid-contract without paying a fine.
For broadband, this means that if you don’t get the minimum speed that was promised to you, you need to contact your provider. If, in 30 days, they can’t fix the problem – they must let you ditch the contract.
Note, though, that as of this writing, Ofcom says that this rule only applies to the big broadband companies: BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.
For TV packages, removing channels from the package you signed up for is usually (though not always) grounds for breaking the contract without penalty (within a 30-days window).
How To Haggle With Your TV/Broadband Company
Step 1: Decide What You Need From Them
First, sit down and look at your current contract with your broadband/TV/phone company. What broadband speed are you getting from them? What’s your TV package?
Then, figure out whether you still need everything you’re getting. Do you really need this big TV package, or can you settle for fewer channels? Maybe even cut the cord and only watch Freeview and the streaming services like Netflix?
Are you satisfied with your current broadband speed? Is it too high – or maybe you need faster speeds for better streaming?
And do you REALLY need a landline phone? Some companies force you to get it along with broadband, but some (like Virgin Media) don’t.
Write down the minimum level of service you’re happy with – and use that as the baseline for the upcoming negotiation.
Step 2: Check Your Company’s Deals For NEW Customers
Unfortunately, loyalty isn’t really appreciated when it comes to broadband and TV deals. Sure, companies WANT to keep you, but since they know so many consumers only look at their bills once (when they join) – they only offer the best deals to new customers.
However, these prices will give you a ballpark figure as to how low you might be able to go when you start your haggling. If your company wants to charge you – their loyal customer – £40/month, and they’re offering the same package, for new customers, for just £20/month – then you’re going to have A LOT of wiggle room between these two numbers.
You won’t always be able to get the exact deal that new customers get – but it’s what you should aim for. (And hey, some companies do the unimaginable sometimes, and offer loyal customers better deals than the ones new customers get… but it doesn’t happen a lot).
The first place to start is to check your company’s offers page directly. Here are a few shortcuts (these are affiliate links for us) –
Alternatively, you can use one of the comparison sites – sometimes they have better deals than the ones on the companies’ own website – but not always.
When you compare prices and packages, it’s important to look at things that might change the total price for new customers – like setup fees – that some companies “hide” in the small print.
Finally, write down the best price you manage to find – from your existing company – for the package you’re interested in.
Step 3: Check Competitor’s Prices
Once you know what your existing company is offering to new customers, go and check what OTHER companies are offering.
Make sure you look at packages that are similar to the one you want – no point in comparing the price of a 17mb broadband deal to a 100mb one.
Write down the best prices you find from a few competing companies – you’re going to use these offers later.
Step 4: Write Down Your Minimum And Maximum Prices
Once you know what your existing company is offering to new customers – and what competing companies are offering – it’s time to decide what you want – and are willing – to pay.
Write down two numbers – the highest you’re willing to pay, and the lowest you want to pay (within reason – taking into consideration the prices you’ve seen in steps 2 and 3).
These two numbers should guide you at all times during the negotiations – companies will try to convince you with A LOT of smooth-talking. But if you stay within the limits you’ve set – you’re much more likely to “win”.
Step 5: Call Your Company’s Billing/Changes Department
Before you call – make sure you have a way to record the call. It’s a bit tricky on an iPhone, but on an Android phone, it’s just a matter of installing the right app – and there are plenty of good ones.
Sometimes companies will promise you something – and then “forget” about it. A recording is very useful in “reminding” them…
In addition, always write a summary of everything that happened in that call. It will be very helpful in the future, if you need to continue the negotiations with someone else, or if the company’s going back on their promises.
Finally, it’s time to call your provider – and you’re going to start with their first line of defence – their tier-one customer support representatives.
It’s important to realise this in advance: your first call, to ‘basic’ customer support, is going to be a huge waste of time. You can’t SKIP that call (in most cases), unfortunately – but you’re NOT going to get a good deal out of it.
With most broadband/TV/phone companies, the first tier of existing-customer support can only offer you the ‘bad’ deals. Be polite, say things like “That’s not good enough”, and they’re likely to offer you the same exact thing… again.
Sometimes they have SOME wiggle room, and will give you a slightly better offer – but you should NOT take that offer if it’s not within those price parameters you’ve set in step 4.
Remember: You will almost always get better deals in subsequent calls. The trick is to manage to talk with the coveted Customer Retentions department.
Step 6: How Do I Contact Sky / Virgin / My Company’s Retention Department?
The trick is very simple – tell them you want to leave/cancel your contract. During your first call (to the regular customer support staff), keep saying that if the offer they have for you isn’t good enough – you’re going to leave.
Once they understand you’re serious – they might transfer you directly to the retentions team. Alternatively, they might start your ‘quitting’ process, and even give you a date in which your services will stop (usually 30 days from now).
Don’t panic! You now have 30 days to negotiate a better deal, and in most cases, the customer retention staff will call you. You’ll have to wait a bit – sometimes they only call in the last few days before the actual disconnect, and it becomes a game of chicken.
If they don’t call you, and you’re getting anxious – you can try to call the regular number again, and say something like “I already have a written offer from your competitor for… ££/month (mention a real deal you’re aware of), and I wanted to check whether you have something to offer for the last time…”
Step 7: Negotiate With Customer Retentions
You’re finally speaking with the holy grail of haggling – the customer retention staff. They have the best deals to offer, so that’s the good news. The bad news? They’re experienced negotiators…
The thing is – they don’t really want you to leave. But they also want you to pay more, and they want to call your bluff.
So you need to convince them you’re not bluffing when you’re threatening to quit. Prepare some excuses in advance:
- “I only watch Freeview/Netflix”
- “I’m cutting the TV cord”
- “I was offered a great deal with Sky/Virgin/TalkTalk”
- “I’m moving to NOW TV“
- “I simply have to cut costs”
You get the point. Make them believe this isn’t just an empty threat – they might actually lose your business if you don’t get a good price.
Again, they might start with a deal that’s not good enough. Hold your ground – after all, you know what they can offer, because you did your research. And you know what you’re willing to pay.
Once you get a satisfactory offer – then – and only then – you’re done.
Step 8: Didn’t Get A Good Deal? Leave!
Remember when I said it’s important not to let them call your bluff? Well, it doesn’t have to be a bluff.
If your current broadband/TV company isn’t willing to give you a deal that’s good enough for you – leave them. It’s as simple as that (providing you’re out-of-contract).
More Tips And Tricks For Better Haggling
As someone who’s been haggling with these types of companies for years and years (and in more than one country), I can offer you a few more tips for better haggling:
- If all else fails, you can transfer the account to your spouse/partner/anyone else living in the house: You cancel, and they join in as a new customer. But keep in mind, you might be left without service for a few days when switching.
- Mention technical problems you’ve had: if your service throughout the year wasn’t perfect, mention that. If nothing else, it’ll help them believe you’re actually considering quitting.
- The online chat is a waste of time: With most companies, the online chat staff can’t offer you any decent deals, and would just tell you to call by phone.
- Be polite – but firm: Screaming at staff members won’t get you anywhere. They’re just doing their job, and they DON’T own “Evil Corp.”, So being polite might actually get you better deals. However, be firm – even if they’re super-nice, that’s still not a reason to pay more than you should.
- Be wary of fast smooth-talkers: Some salespersons talk fast and smooth, and if you’re not careful, they might sign you up to something you never intended to.
- You have 14 days to cancel: If, after the call, you regret the new deal you’ve made, you have a ‘grace period’ of 14 days.
- If they offer more “stuff” and benefits instead of a lower price – stop and think whether you actually need those things. Free weekend minutes on a landline? Great, but useless if you never use your landline. Faster broadband speeds? Good for some, not-needed for others. A cheaper price is – almost always – the best deal.
The bottom line? Haggling works. I’ve saved thousands of pounds over the years, and if you set aside some time for these negotiations, you’re going to save too.