Internet contracts

Introduction

There are various different options to help you stay connected and access the internet from your home. The internet connection you can avail of will often depend on where you live, the infrastructure that is in place and the service providers that operate in your area.

Before entering into an internet contract, you should do your research about the broadband speed and connection required and the service being offered by the internet service provider (ISP).

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) provides information on internet services and allows you to compare charges for internet services and combined packages across all operators. The site can help you to select the best package, based on your internet needs.

Broadband speeds and connections

Broadband is a term for high speed internet access and speeds are measured in Mbps (megabits per second). It is often shortened to Mb. The higher the number of Mbps or Mb, the faster the connection and online activity should be.

Download and upload speeds

When you are comparing broadband packages, you will also see the following mentioned:

  • Download speed – the speed with which you can receive content from the internet, for example, download a song or watch a movie on streaming services such as Netflix
  • Upload Speeds – the speed with which you can send content, for example, to send an email or upload a photo to a website

'Up to' and 'unlimited'

Many ISPs use the term ‘up to’ a certain Mbps or Mb of download or upload speed when advertising plans. This is because the speed that you can get in your home will depend on the following factors:

  • The type of connection you have
  • The modem or router being used
  • Where you are living
  • How devices (mobile, tablet, or PC) are connected – directly to the modem or via WiFi.

Many broadband plans offer ‘unlimited’ data. However, this is often subject to a ‘fair usage’ policy. Service providers must make sure that usage limits or ‘fair usage’ policies are set out in the terms and conditions in a clear and understandable way.

Flat rate and extra charges

Broadband plans are usually offered at a flat rate which means that you will be charged the same for internet services every month. However, if you go over the monthly data allowance this could mean extra charges. The ISP may also need to send out a technician which could mean extra charges for installation.

Bundles

Broadband is often offered as part of a package or bundle with TV or home phone. These types of packages can be good value but only if you plan to use them. Make sure you are happy with what is being offered for each (for example the data speed, the amount of TV channels and the calls included for home phone) before you enter into the contract.

ComReg has an independent price guide to help you compare the cost of broadband packages.

Internet services and your rights

ComReg is a statutory body responsible for regulating the communications sector. All providers must be registered with ComReg before they can provide an electronic communications network or service. Find out more about regulation of postal services, phone, internet and TV.

Do I have a right to basic internet access?

You are entitled to good quality electronic communications, including basic internet access, under the Universal Service Directive. This Directive was brought into Irish law by the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Universal Service and Users' Rights) Regulations 2011.

Under the Regulations, there should be at least one internet provider who can provide basic internet service to you.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan will make broadband available nationally over the period 2020 to 2027. You can get up to date information on the National Broadband Plan on gov.ie.

What information should I get when I sign up?

Before you enter into the contract, your internet service provider must give you the following information:

  • The name and address of the service provider
  • Details of the service to be provided
  • The quality levels (for example, download speeds)
  • Details of the pricing and charges
  • How long the contract is and how to renew or cancel it
  • Your right to compensation or refund if service quality levels are not met
  • Details of the complaint handling procedure

These consumer rights are set out in the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Universal Service and Users' Rights) Regulations 2011.

When you sign up to a new contract, you can only be bound to the contract for an initial minimum period of 24 months (2 years) or less.

Other consumer rights around internet contracts

In addition to specific laws covering internet contracts, you also have the following consumer rights:

  • Get what you paid for: When you sign up to internet services, you enter into a contract with your provider. This means they have certain obligations to provide the service they have sold you. You can expect that the provider will supply a service that works as described in your contract.
  • Clear contract terms: Contract terms must be in clear, plain and understandable language and must not put you at an unfair disadvantage. Find out more about unfair contract terms.
  • Fair commercial practices: Providers are not allowed to use misleading or aggressive commercial practices that could affect your decision to buy. Find out more about unfair commercial practices.
  • Changes to your contract terms: If a service provider wishes to change the terms and conditions of the service, you must be given 30 days’ notice and the option to leave the contract. This includes changes to the price it charges.

You can find out more about your consumer rights in Ireland.

Can I cancel my internet contract?

You should check the terms and conditions of your contract to find out what your cancellation rights are. You may have to pay a fee to cancel a contract.

Your legal right to cancel the contract for free depends on whether you signed up over the phone, in person, or online.

If you signed up over the phone or online

You can cancel the contract if you signed up less than 14 days ago over the phone or online. This is called a ‘cooling-off’ period. If you’ve already used the service, you are likely to be charged for what you have used.

If you cancel outside of the cooling off period, you may be charged a penalty fee or have to pay off the rest of your contract. Check the terms and conditions of your contract.

If you signed up in person

You do not have the legal right to a 14-day cooling-off period if you signed up in person, for example you met a salesperson and signed the contract in the shop premises.

Any costs and charges for cancelling your contract should be made clear in your contract and at the point of sale.

Switching internet provider

When comparing internet service providers and plans, you should think about:

  • Price of the contract and what’s included in the price (for example, TV and landline)
  • Charges and fees (can include connection charges, monthly rental fees, call costs, disconnection and reconnection charges)
  • What speed you need
  • What data limits apply and are they enough
  • Minimum contract period
  • Penalties for ending the contract early
  • Network coverage in your area

Before you switch, contact your current provider to check if any cancellation period or penalties apply. If your broadband service needs a telephone line to access the internet, you will probably need your Universal Account Number (UAN) to switch. This is usually on your bill, but if you cannot find it you should ask your existing provider.

Signing up

Once you have compared providers and decided on a plan to suit your needs, you can sign up to the contract by:

  • Giving your consent over the phone and having that conservation recorded
  • Signing a customer authorisation form
  • Filling in an online customer authorisation form

Check if your new service provider will contract your old service provider to start the change-over and if there is anything else you need to do to help with this.

Methods of billing

You can get your bills electronically (for example, email) or through the provider’s website. If you cannot access bills in an electronic format because of limited access to the internet or other issues, the provider must give you a paper bill free of charge. You must be told when the bill is available online (for example, by sending you a text message).

When you switch to a new provider, your first bill may be higher than expected. This is because you are paying from the date your service was connected as well as the price plan for the month ahead. You may receive a single bill for a bundle (home phone, broadband and TV) but if you make calls, texts or data outside your allocated allowance, you will be charged at a much higher rate.

ComReg has more information about internet billing.

I am having problems with my internet or broadband

If you have a problem with the service (for example, there are network coverage issues or you wish to dispute a charge on your bill) or the contract, you should first contact your provider to try sort out the issue.

The consumer information section of comreg.ie has advice on the following topics:

If you cannot sort out the problem informally, you can put your complaint in writing to the internet service provider.

If you are not satisfied with the response from the provider, you can then contact ComReg for more advice and help.

You can talk to a member of ComReg’s customer care team about your query by:

  • Text – send a text with the word COMREG to 51500 (standard SMS rates apply) to receive a call back from the customer care team
  • Live web chat
  • Online form
  • Phone on 01 8049668
  • Irish sign language through the Consumer Line at consumerline@comreg.ie or SLIS at bookings@slis.ie and an appointment will be arranged

ComReg cannot act on your complaint until you have raised it with your service provider and their complaint handling process is completed.

Find out more about how to complain about phone, TV and internet.

Further information

ComReg has detailed information on a range of topics about internet contracts.

The CCPC has more information about broadband and landlines.

Commission for Communications Regulation

One Dockland Central
1 Guild Street
North Dock
Dublin 1
D01 E4XO
Ireland

Tel: (01) 804 9668
Fax: (01) 804 9680

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Bloom House
Railway Street
Dublin 1
D01 C576

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm
Tel: (01) 402 5555 or 402 5500
Locall: 1890 432 432

Switcher Ltd

Suite B02
Fitzwilliam House
3-4 Upper Pembroke Street
Dublin 2

Page edited: 10 September 2020