Re: Out of order.
"Looks like the advice is to pull your domains out of 123-Reg to another provider ASAP and say that you will take them to small-claims to recover any costs as they have not lawfully changed the terms of your agreement with them.
They will then allow you to transfer free of charge, but you need to do it quickly or else you might renew and then you wouldn't have as strong a case."
No, that's not true.
Because the attempt at a renegotiated agreement by one of the parties, lacks one of the essential four factors for a binding contract to exist (offer, acceptance, something FRESH of value exchanged or promised between the parties, and intention to create legal relations), it will not bind, and the previous agreement will continue to bind, unless certain possible conditions are met.
1) One would be that the web firm was going bust because it had promised too much in exchange for too little with that specific offer. Keeping going would be providing something of fresh value. However they would have to have 'clean hands', i.e. be in genuine difficulty.
2) Alternatively, *when the period of the original agreement is up*, they can say they no longer wish to offer services in the future unless the terms are changed, including a domain porting fee. For subscribers leaving at that point, there will be no porting fee. However this raises issues of fairness for those who do wish to stay, which have to be balanced with questions of fairness to the firm.
For those customers, the question of whether the firm ought to be bound by its original agreement will turn a) on the words of the original agreement, and whether they amounted to a promise to be bound for the lifetime of the customer's keeping their domain with the hosting company, and if they do, then b) on the reasonableness of the change of terms, and c) whether (in consumer cases) whether the new change of terms amounts to an "imbalance in the obligations imposed on the parties contrary to the requirements of good faith."
It may be that the offer to maintain no porting fees 'no matter what', was part of the original fresh offer in exchange for which the person joined the company. However if commercial reality says that companies really do have to change their terms at occasional intervals (and I think it does), then they may be bound - BUT ONLY until the end of the original agreement period, i.e. when you come to renew, you will have to pay for FUTURE portings-out, but NOT the one at that moment.
This could be disputed on the grounds that the sheer hassle of joining another company was something which the individual subscriber was keen to avoid by sticking with a company... and it goes on and on. Much will turn on the terms of the original contract, and whether a promise of a price fix was incorporated into it, and whether that clause can be changed fairly, etc etc etc.