The UK’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 government-led summit 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 measures, put forward by the government in consultation with the industry, will ensure people struggling with bills due to the economic aftermath of the pandemic and war in Ukraine can continue to make calls, send texts and get online.
Bosses representing the vast majority of the UK telecoms market – including BT Group, Openreach, Virgin Media O2, Vodafone, Three, TalkTalk and Sky – signed up to the pledges at an event chaired by Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries and Cost of Living Business Tsar David Buttress today.
The commitments, which take effect immediately, include all providers committing to support their customers who may be struggling, as well as promising to continue to protect the connectivity of their customers known to be vulnerable as a priority.
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 government has already taken action to help those on benefits access cheaper deals by negotiating social tariffs for those on Universal Credit which are now available across 99 per cent of the UK, but this latest intervention means anyone struggling to pay their broadband or mobile bill as a result of global price rises can expect support from their provider if they ask for it.
Dorries has been calling on all providers to offer social tariffs – discounted broadband and mobile deals for people on Universal Credit and other benefits – to step up and support their customers.
Ofcom data showed less than two per cent of eligible people are taking up these discounted offers.
“Families across the country face increased anxiety about keeping up with bills, so today I agreed with broadband and mobile industry bosses what more can be done to support people during this difficult time”, Dorries said.
Commenting on the meeting, Chief Executive at Mobile UK, Hamish MacLeod, said: “Mobile operators welcome the commitments agreed upon today with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, which build on offers already in place to help the most vulnerable.
We welcomed the chance to discuss with the Government not only how to raise awareness of such schemes but also to set out the further steps being taken to support those struggling with their bills.”
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.