Millions of families under pressure from the rising cost of living could be missing out on a £144 saving on their broadband bills, Ofcom has warned.
Around 1.1 million households are struggling to afford their home broadband service, according to the watchdog, with this figure rising to one in 10 among the lowest-income homes.
Ofcom is predicting that affordability problems are likely to worsen in 2022 as the cost of living continues to rise.
Who is eligible for a discount?
Special discounted broadband packages, known as social tariffs, are available to around 4.2 million households that receive Universal Credit.
However, only 5,000 homes have taken advantage of the discounted rates so far, which according to Ofcom, is 1.2% of those eligible.
This means that more than 4.1 million benefit claimants are missing out on an average annual broadband saving of £144 each.
Which companies offer the social tariff?
Six broadband providers currently offer at least one special discounted broadband package. These are BT, Community Fibre, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Virgin Media O2.
The packages vary in price, raning between £1 and £20 per month for broadband speeds of 10Mbit/s - 67 Mbit/s.
Ofcom is now calling on EE, Plusnet, Shell, Sky, Talk Talk, and Vodafone to introduce these social tariffs.
It has urged providers with social tariffs already in place to promote them more widely and for other firms to follow suit, with swift and simple sign-up options to allow more people to take advantage of the saving.
Lindsey Fussell, networks and communications group director at Ofcom, said: “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.
“Special discounts can make all the difference, 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.”
As well as urging others to introduce their own social tariff, Ofcom has also stressed that discounted deals are properly promoted and easy to sign up for, saying customers must not be put off applying because it appears difficult to prove they are eligible.
Matthew Upton, director of policy at Citizens’ Advice, said: “We know that one in 10 people aren’t confident they’ll be able to pay their broadband bill in the next three months.
“This comes as the majority of us face huge increases on our broadband bill, piling on yet more pressure in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.
“It’s been more than six months since Ofcom and the government started pushing social tariffs as an answer, but the shameful 1% take-up says it all. It’s people on the lowest incomes who are missing out.
“If firms aren’t able to show serious increases in the number of people they’re helping move to these tariffs in the next six months, the Government and Ofcom must take action.”
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our email newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.