Sky Broadbands Terms and Conditions: Are they legal?

I was asked for advice recently on an issue with Sky Broadband, I won't go into too much detail but those familiar with Sky won't be too surprised to know that half of what the 'customer service advisor' said was absolute rubbish.

So I thought I'd take a quick look at the T&C's for their service, I must admit I'm rather shocked at what I found;

 

So let's start at the top of the current T&C's;

 

You must keep the Sky Broadband Product you have chosen for a minimum of 12 calendar months from the date your telephone line is first activated by us or BT to receive Sky Broadband (the Minimum Term), unless you or we are allowed to end this contract earlier (Condition 11). If your Contract ends during the Minimum Term (other than where you have a right to end it – see Condition 11(b)) we may charge you an early termination charge. We may charge this amount directly to any credit or debit card which you have provided us with details of and, by entering into this Contract, you are authorising us to do so. We will give you reasonable notice in writing before these charges are made.

 

Now I don't work for a bank, but I seem to recall that card companies are generally not too happy with companies attempting to process payment without explicit customer consent. Whether or not such an argument would stand up in court is also not clear, but it probably doesn't matter as there's far better to come.

 

Your use of Sky Broadband, and that of those you allow to use Sky Broadband, must comply with our Usage Policies. If your chosen Product has a Usage Cap then you must not go over that Usage Cap each month otherwise we may take action against you. This may include upgrading your Product to one with a higher Usage Cap if you go over your Usage Cap twice in any six month period. You will then have to pay the then current price for that Product. We will send you email alerts to tell you if you are approaching your usage allowance. You should make sure we have an email address that is up-to-date and that you check for emails regularly. Please see our Usage Policies for further details. You are responsible under this Contract for the use of Sky Broadband by any person you allow to use it (Condition 2(c) and Usage Policies).

 

So what Sky are claiming here is that if you go over your usage cap twice in 6 months, they have the right to upgrade your package to a more expensive option, and there's nothing you can do about it! WRONG. This term would almost certainly fall foul of the UK's Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and at the very least you'd be entitled to leave Sky _without charge or penalty_ if they were to try and enforce this term (the change of package being a material change to your agreement).

So what else do we have?

 

Sky Broadband is variable and our prices, Products and the Email & Tools can change, even during your Minimum Term. However, if we reduce the level of service provided by your chosen Product and you reasonably consider that you have been materially disadvantaged by this you will have a right to move to another Product accessible by you or end this Contract. You can also end the Contract during your Minimum Term if we increase your Sky Broadband Payment more than once, or by more than 10% or the annual increase in the UK Retail Price Index, whichever is the greater.

 

Again I'm not a lawyer, but as I understand it just increasing the price once _during the minimum term_ is sufficient a change for the customer to be able to terminate the contract without penalty. The law does apply to service providers in a slightly different way, but as a rule of thumb if you have signed up to a service at £10 a month for 12 months, the provider cannot adjust the price (even to £10.50) during that time. It's slightly different where VAT is involved, but not for a companies charges.

 

Your right to cancel does not apply to you if we automatically upgrade your Product in line with our Usage Policies.

Actually, I think you'll find it does, under the UTCCR's. Now further down the T&C's Sky do say that you can downgrade again if you can keep your usage below the old cap in subsequent months. However, what can you do if you can't? You could argue that the package is not suitable for your needs, and that although Sky do offer a more suitable package, other packages (from other providers) are far more suited to your needs. What Sky cannot do is co-opt you into a more expensive subscription and keep you there

 

By becoming a customer you agree that any member of the British Sky Broadcasting group may use and share, within that group, the information you provide and other information we hold about you  for account management and, unless you have told us otherwise, for market research, sending you periodic newsletters about your services and the marketing of group and third parties’ products and services including for a reasonable period after you cease to be a Sky customer. This may include contacting you for marketing or market research purposes by post, telephone, email or SMS unless you tell us you don’t want to be contacted for such purposes in any of these ways by calling us on 08442 41 41 41 or sending an email to MySky@bskyb.com.

Not only do Sky charge you to watch TV with Adverts, but they pass their data around the BSkyB Group to try and make more money out of you. If you should want to opt-out of this, there's no quick form you need to either phone them (at your own cost) or send an email to a fairly generic e-mail address. Further down the T&C's is another clause specifying that they may also pass your details to third parties, unless you choose to notify them by phoning them, or e-mailing.

 

Conclusion

Those who've read the T&C's will notice that all this text comes before the actual detail even begins. It may be a cynical view, but I can't help think that Sky is relying on customers not knowing their legal rights here. It's unethical and frankly should be illegal.

Have a read of their full T&C's and ask yourself exactly how much of it would stand up in court? There are some very, very big holes.

Try, for example, phoning Sky and complaining that your broadband speed has dropped substantially. If you are on Sky Connect you'll be informed it's because of traffic management, and yet their T&C's state

Customers who breach the Usage Cap or who regularly download large amounts at peak times will have restrictions placed on their accounts to reduce their download speeds at peak times. Only a small number of customers will be affected by this, typically fewer than 5%. We remove these restrictions when our network is not busy.

Ask why the speed is low _all_ the time, and you'll fail to get an answer! The answer is actually pretty simple, but you'll never get it out of their customer service advisors. There are two main issues with speed on the Sky network (and, to be fair many other ISP networks) - Overly aggressive throttling, and oversubscription of the exchange.

So the point of this post is simple, when dealing with any company (especially Sky) ensure you know your rights and question anything that doesn't seem quite right, It doesn't matter what the Terms and Conditions say if the law says otherwise.

Many ISP's get a bad press, but Sky is in my opinion without a doubt one of the worst out there at the moment, though the collective award goes to every ISP that uses the term "Traffic Management". What a lovely name to use for something that deliberately slows your packets, the benefit is to the provider and not to the customer. Yes, they claim it ensures a consistent quality for all customers, but the lesson is that if your quality of service is poor then you should either invest in more bandwidth or try squeezing less customers onto one shared link!


 
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