Many internet account holders want to know whether switching accounts to someone else is possible, especially when moving into or out of property, or for other reasons.
In many cases, it could save time and money to simply allow the name on an internet account to be changed, and everything to carry on as normal, with the new person taking over responsibility. But is this actually allowed?
It differs with different companies, but here is a summary answer:
Internet providers do allow switching of account holders, but some will only allow it exceptional circumstances like illness or death. Policies vary between ISPs and countries, but both the transferring and receiving parties need to submit verification checks and other paperwork to complete the process, and all due bills must be paid.
The same person is usually allowed to switch their own account to new address in their name, subject to fees, but transfer of the account holder is not always allowed without a good reason (policies do vary, so there isn’t a one size fits all answer).
If your ISP doesn’t allow account ownership switching except in exceptional circumstances, and you are wanting to switch because you are moving, then unfortunately you will likely be tied to your contract and have to pay either contract exit fees, or to set up a account and installation at your new address.
This can be annoying as all people are trying to do is make sure they have an internet service up and running wherever they are, and account switching would make things easier in so many cases, but ISPs usually stick to their contracts and rules on this particular policy. In the cases where switching is allowed, it usually involves fees and ID verification.
Let’s look at the different possible scenarios of this in more detail. In the last few sections we’ll also cover the specific account switching policies for the major ISPs in the main Western English speaking countries (USA, UK, Canada, Australia), so you can find the exact policy terms for your provider.
You Can Sometimes Switch From an Outgoing Tenant to an Incoming One
This is a common reason why people may want switch, when moving into or out of rented property. Wi-Fi is usually included and taken care of by the landlord when renting rooms in shared houses; this is more about renting apartments and houses by yourself.
The incoming person may be quite happy to take over the existing internet contract from the person leaving, and just switch everything to their name to keep the internet service up and make things simple. Similarly, outgoing tenants may be tied to a contract term, and would rather pass it off onto the incoming person to keep to the contract going and save on fees, as long as both parties are happy.
It’s a nice scenario and would be ideal in a lot of cases so the internet service isn’t disrupted, but only some providers allow this.
If you’re in America, you may be in luck – Verizon and AT&T do appear to allow this. Comcast/Xfinity are more strict and require exceptional circumstances to switch. Policies in other English speaking countries vary – see the sections further below where we cover each country.
When not allowed, ISPs argue that because the original contract was signed between the ISP and the original person, this is how it needs to stay, and it can’t be switched to someone else. If someone else wants use the service, they need to set up a new account in their name and start over. They typically hold customers to their contracts.
If they wanted to, they probably could of course modify their policies and allow transfers, but looking at this cynically, they make more money out of having people set up new accounts or transfer to new addresses, with the associated admin and activation fees. Some ISPs are stricter than others about account switching.
Here are some considerations where switching isn’t allowed for moving purposes:
For incoming tenants – This means that you will have to set up a new internet account in your name, and pay the associated admin and activation fees. Your internet service may or may not be disrupted while this happens.
For outgoing tenants – This means you will have to pay to set up a new account at your new address if there isn’t already internet included there. Switching your account to a new address is usually allowed – see section below – but if you want to break out of a contract totally before the minimum term you signed for is up, then you’ll also be liable for exit fees, which vary but can be expensive and run to several hundred dollars.
Internet Providers Allow Switching of Contracts Due to Health or Death
This is a specific case when account switching may be allowed when the ISP’s general policy normally forbids it – when someone in your family is in very ill health or has passed away, and you’d like to take over their internet contract and move it to your name. Other exceptional circumstances like military deployment and incarceration may also allow for this. This is usually allowed, subject to paperwork and possibly some fees.
Again policies on this vary, and some ISPs didn’t even have a page specifying what their policy is on this when I looked. However, in these kind of compassionate cases, ISPs usually will allow you to switch accounts, and it wouldn’t be good for their reputation if they didn’t. If you contact them, they’ll likely be willing to help in these cases.
However, there can be some tedious paperwork to switch accounts in these cases, requiring submission of ID and other documents. We’ll link to pages for specific ISPs later later in this post.
A Possible Way Around Transfer Restrictions
If your ISP does not technically let you transfer account ownership just for home moves, then one possible way around it if the parties are close family or friends is to simply keep the contract in the original person’s name, but change the payment details to the person taking over the account.
In other words, the contract is initially in Bill’s name, with Bill’s bank details. Bob wants to take it over, but the ISP won’t let him. But because they know and trust each other, they keep it in Bill’s name, but put in Bob’s bank/payment details instead, and just ride the contract out this way. Once the contract’s expired, you can keep it running or start a new one.
That way, the contract is still technically in the name of the original person, but the new person is the one actually paying the monthly bills. This may or may not be allowed with different ISPs; some companies may require that the account holder and payment details match and you’ll have to check with each provider. But this can sometimes be a way to avoid contract break fees if the two parties know each other and are willing to do it this way.
You Can Usually Move Your Account to a New Address
This is a slight variant on this process, where a transfer of an internet account is allowed, not to someone else, but for the same person to move their account and service to a new address.
This can be useful if they are moving somewhere else but the minimum contract term they committed to hasn’t expired yet, and they don’t want to pay a release fee.
This typically is allowed, subject to some boring paperwork and probably admin and activation fees to set the new connection up, but usually less than paying a full exit fee on a contract before the minimum term is up.
This situation can cause difficulties though, if your ISP service is available at your old address, but isn’t available in the new place you’re moving to. You can’t switch directly over then, and you may be liable for exit fees, as well as setting up with a new provider at your new address.
Internet Account Transfer Policies For American ISPs
Let’s cover the account ownership transfer policies for the major American providers:
Verizon – Actually do allow account transferring, and even have a Transfer Service feature in their app that helps you do it. You can also phone Customer Service, together with the person you want transfer the account to, and run through some identity verification checks, to transfer the account over. The new holder is responsible for the remaining length of any contract (it continues as it was and does not start over). The outgoing person must pay all outstanding fees before the transfer can take place. See here for an account transfer guide for Verizon.
AT&T – Do allow transfer of billing responsibility to someone else – see here for their guide on doing it. The transferring person needs to log into their account and complete the required steps. The receiving person then needs to accept the transfer within 14 days to complete the process. All due balances need to be paid, and the new owner will receive separate bills for previously bundled packages for the first few billings cycle (can be re-bundled later on).
Comcast/Xfinity – Do allow transfer of account ownership, but their page on this specifically states for life changing events like death, illness, military deployment or incarceration. It isn’t 100% clear, but it doesn’t look like they allow switches only for moving house or tenancy changes. To switch, verification documents and transfer request forms need to be submitted, and a customer service agent will call back and discuss. It looks a little stricter than the other ISPs – it appears like there needs to be an exceptional reason to switch. See their FAQs page on this more for.
Internet Account Transfer Policies For UK ISPs
Here are the account switching policies for the major UK internet companies:
BT – Stricter policy. They do not allow account holder changes just for moving or separations, but they will allow transfer in the case of death. Customers are typically held to contracts and will be charged fees if they leave contracts early. Contracts can be switched for the same person to a new address, but subject to fees. One option is to change the payment person/details, but keep the account holder the same until the contract runs out.
Virgin Media – More relaxed policy. They can arrange for you to take over the contract of an outgoing tenant if you want to keep the services. They will also switch in the case of illness or death of the account holder. Transfers of account to a new address with the same name are also allowed, subject to a small fee.
Sky – Account holder transfers or cancellations are allowed in the case of death of the account holder, and also for other specific circumstances like Marriage, Death, deed poll name change and gender reassignment. Tenancy changes are not mentioned, so it appears they they will not change because of moving and there needs to be a good reason for switching the account holder. May be able to discuss on an individual basis if you contact them.
TalkTalk – Their website isn’t very clear about account switching. There’s no pages on account holder switching or deceased relatives that I could find, but they do say that you can keep your existing contract if you move somewhere else (they need at least 14 days notice to set everything up though). See here for an bad account of someone trying to cancel for a deceased relative and not getting great service.
Vodafone – Do allow transfers for death and also for moving but keeping the same account name. They state that you need to speak with them about switching broadband accounts in other circumstances. Mobile switches are easier than internet switches.
Internet Account Transfer Policies For Canadian ISPs
Let’s cover transfer policies for the bigger Canadian internet companies:
Bell – Policy pages are quite vague. They don’t officially say you can transfer a contract for moving, but their Terms and Conditions document does say in Clause 11 that the contract cannot be transferred without their permission. You may have to contact them to see if this is possible. They do allow the free transfer of mobile contracts to someone else, and also in the case of death. Their policy for internet contracts is less clear.
Shaw – Couldn’t find anything on their site about transferring contracts. They do have a free Self Service option for users moving address with the same account, but nothing about switching owners. Presumably they would only allow in exceptional circumstances.
Rogers – Contracts can be transferred, but needs the prior written permission of Rogers and all parties involved (see here, clause 1, d). All outstanding bills needs to be settled. Worth exploring as early contract exit fees in Canada can be quite hefty.
Internet Account Transfer Policies For Australian ISPs
Lastly, let’s cover the bigger Australian internet providers:
Telstra – Relaxed policy – account holder transfers are allowed, both for death and other reasons. Will need to submit the relevant forms and get approval from both parties for account switches, can take 7 days. Can’t transfer from Business to Personal though. No charge for personal transfers, $44 charge for Business transfers. Change of ownership form here.
Optus – Transfer of ownership of accounts allowed. See here for the bereavement transfer form; see here for a more general account ownership switch form. If you can’t get someone to take the account over, then contract exit fees can be several hundred dollars.
TPG – Transfers allowed. See the form here.