04/08/2014 13:05 BST | Updated 04/10/2014 06:59 BST

'Sorry Your Broadband Doesn't Work, That'll Be £190 Please'

Imagine buying a new TV, taking it home, unboxing it and switching it on, only to find it's a dud and it doesn't work. Annoying? Absolutely. But does it mean you're out of pocket? Of course not - you simply take it back to the shop and get a refund.

Now imagine the shop refuses to reimburse you. Not only that, but the retailer says it will take your dud TV back, sure, but it's going to charge you a fee. And if you don't pay that fee it's going to enlist a debt collection agency to scare you into paying up.

Unfair? Absolutely. And it does nothing to build consumer trust.

But that's almost exactly the situation Citizens Advice has reported some broadband customers are dealing with.

Thousands of people are finding themselves locked into unsuitable contracts or hit by cancellation fees when they try to switch, mid-contract, in order to get a better service.

According to the report, the average cost for getting out of a broadband contract was £190, and in some cases as high as £625. Bear in mind that a basic broadband deal costs about £5 per month.

So why are these people trying to switch? Citizens Advice cites a mixture of reasons: sluggish speeds, persistent faults, and poor customer service. Valid reasons? I think so.

Frankly, if you're not getting the service you signed up for, why on earth should you keep paying for it?

The rules around switching mid-contract are pretty hazy, and vary between providers. It's about time the government and Ofcom tackled this issue head on.

This is not a problem limited to broadband - the same goes for mobile customers. If you switch to a new network, and find you can't make phone calls from your mobile, should you be able to quit without penalty? Of course.

Right now, the rules say you can do that, but we've heard stories from some customers of networks making it difficult to leave. research shows that seven million Brits have lost money by not understanding their consumer rights - with more than 18 million unsure of what they are entitled to.

It doesn't help that terms and conditions are lengthy and difficult to read of course, and most people don't pre-empt problems with services before they crop up.

But telecoms services are now considered essential services, and that means that if the service isn't delivered, we should be kicking up a stink - and we should expect to switch without financial penalty.

We, as consumers, reserve the right to vote with our feet, and it's about time the rules were set in stone.