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Feb 16

Social Tariffs: “Many Vulnerable People Don’t Realise they Are Eligible”

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Do you know about Social Tariffs? Ofcom has discovered that millions of families struggling with the rising cost of living could save £144 each on their annual broadband costs.

What are Social Tariffs Exactly?

Special offer broadband packages – often referred to as social tariffs – are available to roughly 4.2 million households receiving Universal Credit, although only 55,000 homes have so far taken advantage of these discounted rates – just 1.2% of eligible people. So that means millions of benefit recipients miss out on a potential annual broadband saving of £144 each.

Which Suppliers Offer them?

Six of the main broadband providers – BT, Community Fibre, Virgin, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM, O2 – offer at least one of the discount deals, priced from £10-£20 per month for broadband speeds between 10Mbit/s and 67Mbit/s.

Ofcom is now asking other broadband firms to support households in need of help by introducing their own personal social tariffs, with a wish to see companies make their deals available swiftly and simply for customers.

Ofcom estimates that 1.1 million households (5%) currently struggle to afford home broadband services, which goes up to about 1 in 10 of the lowest income households; and these problems are only likely to increase this year due to retail price increases, putting an even squeeze on household finances.

However, switching to a social tariff could provide financial relief for these households: a standard commercial broadband package costs an unemployed Universal Credit claimant, on average, £27 per month which is 8.3% of monthly disposable income, so a £15 social tariff would almost halve their monthly broadband price.

Read Up on Them

Ofcom are concerned, however, after seeing limited evidence of providers actively promoting the concept of social tariffs; these deals are largely left out of broadband advertising or price comparison websites. So Ofcom is now urging providers to offer their own social tariff: EE, Plusnet, Shell, Sky, and Vodafone do not currently offer this.

Any discounted deals are also being touted as important to inform customers about: communication about these as well as social tariffs is being urged, as is the providers’ need to make the information clear and prominent on websites. Ofcom are also stressing that it needs to be easy for customers to sign up and to realise and express their eligibility without providers making it confusing or difficult to do so.

“People rely on their broadband for staying in touch, working and learning from home. But for those who are really struggling with rising bills, every penny counts,” says Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Network and Communications Group Director. “Special discounts can make all thdifference, and too many broadband firms are failing either to promote their social tariff or to offer one at all. We expect companies to step up support for those on low incomes, and we’ll be watching their response.”

Social Tariffs

What the Experts Say.

Ernest Doku, broadband expert at uswitch.com, comments: “As we highlighted in November, it’s shocking to think that so many vulnerable people have never heard of social tariffs. While raising awareness plays a large part, there are still too many big broadband providers who are not offering help via social tariffs for their customers.

“At a time when the cost of living is soaring for many households, more needs to be done to make people aware of the deals that are available to those customers who struggle the most.

“Social tariffs are an important way for financially vulnerable households to get a decent service at a lower cost, and providers like BT, Virgin Media, Community Fibre, Hyperoptic and others are all doing their bit to help out. Providers are also incentivised to offer these types of tariffs, as Openreach has offered to waive the connection fees providers are faced with, should they opt to connect vulnerable households to their network. If you’re claiming one or more Government benefits in your household, you could be entitled to switch to these tariffs, which could reduce your broadband bills by hundreds of pounds a year on average. If a social tariff isn’t for you, or isn’t currently available at your location, try considering what you need from your broadband and mobile before locking into a contract and don’t overpay for data or speeds you don’t need.”

How to get a Social Tariff and what is available

It appears that because broadband providers aren’t advertising that they offer this, the best way to access these discounts is to speak to your service provider personally.

There are several broadband social tariffs available for those on specific benefits.

  • TalkTalk is the only provider that is offering broadband for customers in need for free. Although not technically a social tariff, TalkTalk told us it will be up to Jobcentre Plus staff to determine eligibility on a case-by-case basis. But if you’re out of work – particularly if you don’t currently have home broadband – you could be eligible.
  • BT Home Essentials for just £15 a month and speeds of 36Mbps. It also offers a speedier version of 67Mbps for £20 a month.
  • Community Fibre is another available product for £10 a month but will only come with speeds of 10 Mbps. It is also only available for customers in London.  
  • Hyperoptic is giving consumers the chance to get some of the fastest speeds of 50Mbps on its Fair Fibre 50 deal. Customers can upgrade to 150Mbps for £25 a month instead.

If you are interested and want to access on of these tariffs, you should first check eligibility.

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