Have you ever been temped by an all-in-one package that covers your TV, internet, broadband and mobile phone bill? We look at the pros and cons of subscribing to this kind of package.
While it’s still possible to buy your household telecoms separately, bundling them together as a package is increasingly becoming the norm.
Research shows that the popularity of household telecoms packages in the UK is at an all time high; and it doesn’t seem like this trend will be reversed any time soon. In fact, it’s estimated that, by 2019, 79% of UK households will be subscribed to a package.
But is taking out some - or all - of your household telecoms as a package actually worthwhile? Or is bundling just a marketing ploy to make you buy services you don’t actually need?
More to the point, could buying them separately ever result in a better deal?
Let’s have a look.
Why go for a bundle?
Bundling is popular because the discounts and perks on offer make a package deal seem more attractive than the alternative, where you get everything separately. More to the point, you’re dealing with only one company and getting all your telecom essentials for a single price.
The UK broadband and mobile network markets in particular are highly competitive, which can make comparing deals overwhelming. So, a package deal is typically perceived as being more convenient than handling everything separately.
- Virgin Media
By contrast, a company like Plusnet is called a triple-play provider, because they offer broadband, phone and mobile, but not TV.
The more services you bundle, the larger the discount
In general, taking out even just two services together works out cheaper than buying them separately. Buying all four services together - a quad-play deal - usually works out the cheapest.
Many quad-play providers also offer promotional deals as an incentive for you to sign up. Typically, the price will be discounted further for the first three to six months of your subscription, resulting in even more savings.
With that being said, just because a package is cheaper than buying separately doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good value (more on this later).
Many bundles have additional freebies and perks
Many quad-play providers give you additional perks when you sign up for one of their packages. This acts as a further incentive for you to sign up.
Perks differ from provider to provider. However, they range from gift vouchers, free photo printing services and free cloud storage to extra mobile data and free access to premium TV channels and live sports.
Bundling is convenient
Let’s face it. Bundling saves time and reduces the hassle factor, because it takes a lot of research, product comparison and running around (or phone calls and emails) out of the equation.
More to the point, you get one monthly price and one bill instead of two, three or four of them. The simpler billing process makes it easier for you to stay on top of your expenses.
You also only have to deal with one company if you run into issues. Of course, this can be a good or bad thing depending on the company’s track record when it comes to customer service.
The disadvantages of bundling
Sadly, bundling your household telecoms also comes with some disadvantages.
Most packages require a long-term commitment
Typically, buying a bundle requires you to sign up for a 12 to 18 month contract. Cancelling your service early will often involve an early disconnection fee.
Cancellation fees can be especially problematic if you’re moving house but one of the services in your bundle isn’t available in the area you’re moving to. In this case, it seems that, unless your provider decides to take a lenient approach, you could still have to pay an early termination fee.
To top it off, even though your services are bundled together, some providers tend to apply different early termination fees for each service in your package. This means your overall early termination fee may be steeper the more services you have in your package.
within 14 days of your purchase if the sale was made online, by phone or during a home sales call
within 30 days of being notified that the monthly price is going to go up
Switching can be problematic
Long-term commitment aside, switching provider isn’t always straightforward. According to Ofcom, 79% of switchers report having some kind of difficulty during the process. These difficulties include having an interrupted service and problems with payments.
The main problem is that different terms and conditions tend to apply to different parts of your bundle, even though you’ve bought them as a package. So, while switching your broadband and landline might be fairly straightforward, for instance, you could run into an unexpected snag if you also have TV and a SIM.
As things stand, Ofcom’s rules cover broadband and landline switching, but not TV and mobile. However, it’s currently considering proposals to make switching easier when you have a three-play or quad-play package.
You might have to pay for services you don’t use or don’t need
Bundles can be inflexible, in the sense that you may have a limited choice when it comes to selecting the individual services in your package.
It’s not unusual, for instance, for certain TV channels to only be available with more expensive broadband plans. As a result, you may have to pay more for your broadband than you actually need simply because you want to have access to specific TV channels.
The problem is even more evident when it comes to landlines.
While broadband-only packages do exist, the choice is quite limited compared to broadband and landline bundles. It’s even harder to find a broadband and TV package without also having to take out a landline.
But landline usage in the UK has been on a steep downward trend. And, in a survey conducted by RootMetrics, 95% of those surveyed said they wouldn’t miss not having one. In other words, most bundles are making you pay for a service you probably don’t need and won’t ever even use.
The quality of your package can be mixed
Finally, not all the services in your bundle may be of the same standard. For this reason, a bundle may not necessarily be good value, even though it’s cheaper than buying everything separately.
By way of example, you may choose a bundle on the strength of its TV offering, only to find that the broadband is slow or unreliable. Conversely, your package could have great internet, but a poor choice of TV channels or poor mobile reception.
Unless you’re in your 14-day cooling-off period, you may be stuck with a service you’re unhappy with for 12 months or more.