Last month, BT introduced a new charge for customers at the end of their contract. In order to ensure old equipment was returned at the end of your contract, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) will now charge customers between £43 and £50 if they fail to return their old router, depending on the model. Keeping the BT YouView set-top box costs between £60 and £115.
Since BT is now retaining ownership of its kit, the company will no longer charge customers upfront for a router or set-top box. Given that most people will either renew their contract with BT, or move to a different provider – which will provide their own router during the installation process, it shouldn’t make that much of a material difference to customers. After all, what do you care how many ageing routers you have in the attic gathering dust.
BT says it plans to ”refurbish” all returned equipment so that it could be reused. The policy will be coming to Plusnet and EE, both owned by BT, in the coming months, it confirmed.
Rival ISP Virgin Media has operated the same policy for some time now. Although there is no charge for any of the equipment installed to set-up your fibre broadband connection or TV V6 box (there is a £35 upfront cost that covers all engineer call-outs throughout the lifetime of your contract), customers who decide to leave the company will need to return the kit.
Virgin Media can charge outgoing customers up to £100 per TV V6 set-top box, up to £50 for a Hub 3 router. Up to £50 will be charged for wired and Wi-Fi boosters, too.
We really hope Virgin Media isn’t planning to add this controversial feature
Given the adoption of a similar scheme by BT, Express.co.uk reached out to Virgin Media to find out how successful the scheme has been for the ISP and whether the charges have helped to reduce the waste generated by a company of this size, which currently serves more than 15 million broadband customers and some 6 million cable customers.
Just like BT, Virgin Media says that it promises to refurbish the kit to ensure it’s suitable for onward use by another customer. In cases where older equipment cannot be reused, customers will either be sent a pre-paid postal returns pack, offered a kit collection by a Virgin Media technician, or advised that equipment can be returned to one of its high street stores.
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Of course, there are some instances where equipment cannot be collected by Virgin Media. In these instances, customers are encouraged to take the equipment to their nearest recycling centre.
This decision is taken with a view to reduce additional and avoidable journeys made by Virgin Media – further reducing environmental impact, the Reading-based company says. The ISP is a member of the UK’s Distributor Takeback Scheme, which helps to fund the recycling network. In addition, the company has worked with environmental experts WRAP to integrate a search tool into the website designed to help customers find the nearest and most convenient recycling centre.
The broadband and TV firm is now boasting that over the last five years, 5.3 million Virgin Media set-top boxes and routers have been refurbished for reuse – out of 9.5 million pieces collected back.
That’s a phenomenal success for the company, which already operates a zero-waste to landfill logistics supply chain.
If BT can see the same levels of success from its version of the scheme, it could be a good step towards reducing the impact of Wi-Fi routers and other electronic equipment on our planet.