One million people ‘priced out’ of broadband access due to cost of living struggles, charity warns
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The charity also said those claiming Universal Credit while still paying for broadband are more than four times more likely to be behind on their bills. It warned that the increasingly essential service was becoming out of reach for greater numbers of households and called for social tariffs to be better promoted.
Universal Credit claimants are among customers who should be eligible for discounted social tariffs to help them stay connected, but uptake of the lower rates is currently just 5%.
Ofcom figures show 95% of 4.3 million eligible households are missing out on saving £200 on broadband costs each year – leaving £824 million of support going unclaimed.
Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty said: “People are being priced out of internet access at a worrying rate. Social tariffs should be the industry’s safety net, but firms’ current approach to providing and promoting them clearly isn’t working. The people losing out as a result are the most likely to disconnect.
“The internet is now an essential part of our lives – vital to managing bills, accessing benefits and staying in touch with loved ones. As providers continue to drag their feet in making social tariffs a success, it’s clear that Ofcom needs to hold firms’ feet to the fire.”
The UK government said it has worked with the industry to introduce these low-cost tariffs to help support people on lower incomes, with rates starting from £10 a month.
A government spokeswoman said: “The government has worked with Ofcom and the industry to introduce a range of high-quality, low-cost broadband social tariffs into the market. Available in 99% of the UK, these offers start from £10 per month and are currently available from 19 providers.
“As well as this, our broadband eligibility checker simplifies the verification process and improves access to social tariffs for benefit claimants, with major providers Sky and Virgin Media already signed up and others encouraged to follow suit.
“In addition, Jobcentre staff regularly signpost claimants to relevant information on social tariffs, and claimants can access computers for their work search at their local Jobcentre.”
Walnut Unlimited surveyed 6,000 UK adults online including a total of 1,215 people in receipt of Universal Credit between 9 January and 8 February.