Broadband providers urged to promote cheaper deals as millions miss out

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The UK’s telecoms watchdog has urged broadband providers to better promote bargain deals for low-income households after finding millions could be missing out.

Ofcom said more than half of low-income households do not know about cheaper broadband and phone deals, known as social tariffs, which could save them around £200 a year.

Just 5% of eligible households have signed up to a discounted package which offers superfast broadband speeds from as little as £12 a month, according to Ofcom’s report.

It comes amid a rise in the number of households struggling to afford communications services as the cost of living has soared.

Nearly 30% of households had an issue affording their services in January, double those that said so in April 2021, Ofcom found.

Affordability issues can include having to reduce spending elsewhere to pay for a service, making a change to a deal or missing a bill.

But awareness remains a challenge and providers may not be being clear to customers about how to find and sign up to the packages, Ofcom said.

The watchdog said it has asked companies to review their social tariff webpages “as a matter of urgency” after finding examples of incorrect information about the deals online.

It is also urging TalkTalk and O2 to introduce social tariffs for broadband and mobile and waive fees for anyone who chooses to switch providers in order to access a deal, as two large providers who have yet to do so.

Most major broadband providers now offer a fixed social tariff, including BT, Sky, Virgin Media and Now.

Vodafone, EE and Three, via sub-brand Smarty, are among the mobile network providers to have launched the discounted packages.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s group director for network and communications, said: “Hundreds of thousands of customers are now benefitting from the huge savings that can be made from securing a social tariff.

“But millions are still missing out on superfast speeds for super low prices – with many not aware they even exist.

“We’re urging anyone who thinks they could be eligible for a discount deal to contact their provider today and potentially save hundreds of pounds.

“Providers should also do much more to help these customers find and access these deals, at a time when these savings could make a massive difference.”

A spokesperson from Virgin Media O2, the combined broadband and mobile network group, said: “Since September, we’ve provided information about our social tariffs in more than a million communications to customers and last year alone we saw a 424% increase in uptake.

“We continue to promote our Essential Broadband packages to ensure that our customers are aware of the best deals available to them.”

The provider added it has called on the Government to cut VAT on broadband social tariffs, which it promises to pass straight on to customers.

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