The media regulator has called on broadband firms to do more to help struggling households, as more than eight million homes struggle to pay their bills.
According to a new Ofcom study, nearly a third (29 per cent) of customers are having problems paying for their phone, broadband, pay-TV and streaming bills, doubling since 2021 to the highest figure since records began.
One in seven respondents said they had cut back other spending, such as on food and clothing, to afford their communications services, while nine per cent said they decided to cancel a service.
Ofcom’s Group Director’s Lindsey Fussell expressed the regulator’s concerns about the prospect of large price increases for people locked into their contracts, as well as the duty on providers to treat their customers fairly.
Ofcom research shows that millions of low-income households are still missing out on broadband ‘social tariffs’ – special discounted superfast connections priced at around £10-20 – because providers are not doing enough to advertise this support, or are refusing to offer these packages at all.
While take-up of broadband social tariffs has more than doubled in the last six months – rising from 55,000 to 136,000 – only three per cent of eligible households have signed up. That leaves many Brits missing out on average annual savings of around £144 per year.
While Ofcom does not regulate retail prices, Fussell pressed companies to think very carefully about whether significant price rises can be justified during the cost-of-living crisis.
It urged all major mobile providers to introduce a social tariff, especially TalkTalk, Shell Energy, EE, Plusnet and Vodafone.
Chief of broadband startup Cuckoo Alex Fitzgerald praised Ofcom’s statement and told City A.M.: “Big broadband is posting stupendous profits at a time of soaring prices whilst hard-working Brits are being squeezed. It’s just plain wrong.
“At Cuckoo, we’re continuing to freeze our prices at 2020 levels to help customers tackle the cost of living – and we’re fixing them there for at least 12 months. We know the major providers can afford it, why aren’t they doing the same?”