Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Will I need to change my email address when I switch broadband provider?

I'm switching broadband provider but my current supplier provides my email address - what will I need to do to switch email addresses? Will I still be able to use the old one?

Keeping emails is a tricky business: the general rule is better safe than sorry.

Although there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that it can be just fine to use a previous provider's address for months and years after switching ISPs are under no obligation to keep those accounts open.

Let's look at some specific provider examples.

Keeping BT emails

According to BT's terms and conditions, when you cancel your BT broadband subscription you will lose access to your BT email account.

On the other hand, speaking from personal experience I know that this doesn't always happen: I'm still using an old BT Openworld email address years after cancelling my BT broadband and I've heard from many others in the same situation.

In BT's case there is a third way: BT's Yahoo Premium Email service is a paid service which will allow you to access your BT account, even when signed up to another ISP, without the worry that you might lose access to your account at any moment.

The service is priced at £1.50 a month and you can sign up seven days after you have left BT.

Keeping Plusnet emails

When a Plusnet account is closed access to all account features - including email - should be cut off within a month.

However, you can keep your email by requesting a downgrade to Plusnet's email only package, which is £20 for a year, during the cancellation process.

However, you have to request this option when you cancel: after the accounts gone it's too late.

Keeping Virgin Media emails

Virgin Media says that in line with other broadband providers it gives former customers three months to change all their account details across the web and then cleans up old email addresses, removing personal data and even, potentially, recycling the address (see below).

All in all, then, you could risk that your old email account will stick around longer but it's not advisable.

If you do go for this option, switching to an email service such as Outlook or Thunderbird which allows you to send multiple accounts to one inbox could be well worth doing just to make doubly sure that you don't lose all your messages and contacts or as a way of phasing in a new account from your new broadband provider.

Here are some brief instructions on setting up multiple accounts in Microsoft Outlook :
On the 'Tools' menu click 'Email Accounts'.Select View or change existing e-mail accounts and then click Next.Click the e-mail account you want to modify (in this case, your old BT account) and then click Change. Make sure that the settings you see match the information you received from your new Internet service provider (in this case, O2).Click Test Account Settings to verify that your account is working. If there is missing or incorrect information, such as your password, you will be prompted to supply or correct it.To add the your BT email back into Outlook, enter the set-up information provided by BT's Yahoo Premium Email service into a new profile.In the Microsoft Windows Control Panel, double-click the Mail icon, and then click Show Profiles. Click the profile you want, click Properties, and then click E-mail Accounts.

This will give you access to both your email accounts in Outlook.

It's also worth being aware of some of the free online email accounts that are currently available, especially if you plan on moving your broadband providers frequently in the future.

You might find that a Googlemail, Hotmail or Yahoo! email account will have just as many useful features as Outlook plus the added bonus of being able to back everything up to webspace.

There's another issue concerning some moving email accounts: provider email recycling.

Yes, even now one of your old email addressed is probably being used by a silver surfer in the home counties who's already ordered a set of William and Kate commemorative plates with it.

It's Virgin Media, in particular, who have come under scrutiny for the practice which is concerning since a customer with a recycled address who then would be able to sign into websites the former customer used, access password retrieval and subsequently take over the account.

Consumer and privacy groups think that in order to preserve privacy and prevent conflicts old email addresses should be consigned to the dustbin of broadband history.

However, Virgin Media says it waits six months before any possible re-allocation.

The Government's Information Commissioner added nothing to the debate by saying that, "The [Data Protection] Act requires that personal information should be kept secure and processed fairly." The best advice, it seems, is to change all important website logins which use your old email address since your broadband provider won't help you with this.

Online banking is the critical one (although these should never use personal email as log-ins in any case) as well as any websites where detailed personal information is at risk.

If you are experiencing any disputes with a service provider or retailer please contact Trading Standards who will be able to put you in touch with your local Trading Standards office or visit the Adviceguide from Citizens Advice Bureau. We are not in any way connected to Trading Standards or Citizens Advice Bureau.

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