The government has announced that the United Kingdom's biggest broadband and mobile operators have agreed to a raft of new commitments to further help customers with the rising cost of living following a meeting at No. 10 Downing Street. These include measures such as allowing customers struggling with bills to move to cheaper packages without charge or penalty, or agreeing manageable payment plans, and options to improve existing low cost offers and increasing promotion of existing deals.

The government says that the measures, put forward by the government in consultation with the industry, will ensure that people struggling with bills can continue to make calls, send texts and get online.

The commitments, which take effect immediately, are:

  • all providers commit to supporting their customers who may be struggling with the cost of living and to treat them with compassion, understanding and as individuals;
  • all providers commit to supporting customers struggling with their bills and to offer ways to keep them connected, such as allowing them to move to cheaper packages without charge or penalty, or agreeing manageable payment plans;
  • all operators commit to continue to protect the connectivity of their customers known to be vulnerable as a priority;
  • providers, supported by government, commit to take steps to raise awareness of low-cost products to those claiming universal credit; and
  • mobile providers commit to considering more ways to help their customers, including exploring tariffs, options to improve existing low cost offers, and increasing promotion of existing deals.

The digital secretary has also called on broadband providers that offer social tariffs to do more to raise awareness of them, after Ofcom data showed less than 2% of eligible people are taking up these discounted offers.

In a letter sent in April to the bosses of BT Group, Virgin Media O2, Hyperoptic, KCom, G.Network and Community Fibre, she asked for an outline of their plans to promote social tariffs and for estimates of take-up over the coming 12 months. These companies all offer social tariff products to low-income households, with some providers offering deals from as low as £10 per month. Vodafone, via its Voxi brand, recently launched the first mobile social tariff.

Social tariff offers are available to eligible people in 99% of the country and could represent a saving of more than 50% (around £180 per year) against the average cost of broadband.

Landline and broadband social tariffs have been offered by BT, Virgin Media O2 and KCom for several years, but since 2021 there has been a threefold rise in companies voluntarily offering their own social tariffs, with Sky, Now Broadband, County Broadband and others coming forward, after the government stepped in to negotiate the low-cost deals.

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