Ofcom report says millions of families aren't taking up cheaper broadband deals

Fibre broadband deals
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The UK communications regulator, Ofcom, has said that as many as 95% of low-income households that qualify for cheaper broadband social tariffs have yet to sign-up or switch to them. 

This situation is something we had seen forecasted in recent weeks, but in Ofcom's latest consumer affordability report, it has been confirmed that just 220,000 of the 4.3m eligible customers are using the discounted deals.

It's claimed that savings of 'around £200 a year' can be made by families on broadband social tariffs, essentially cutting the annual cost of broadband 'in half'. 

Ofcom has blamed a lack of awareness and visibility of the deals being a key part of this issue, with 'more than half of eligible households (53%)' continuing to be 'unaware of their existence during the cost-of-living crisis'.

What are broadband social tariffs and who is eligible?

Broadband social tariffs are discounted deals that are available to some low-income customers. They are cheaper than typical broadband deals and can start from around £12 a month. Unlike standard tariffs they also don't include mid-contract price rises or exit fees. 

As of April 2023, there are around 20 different broadband providers offering social tariffs, including a number of popular companies such as BT, Virgin Media and Sky

These tariffs can cover a variety of average download speeds, from standard ADSL connections through to fast and superfast fibre options. However, it's important to bear in mind that the faster the speeds the higher the monthly cost will be - what's more, whether a household can get certain speeds depends on its access to provider networks.

Eligibility for the deals can vary from provider to provider, but typically you will be able to get one if you're a recipient of a means-tested state benefit. These can include Universal Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Pension Credit and Income-based Employment and Support Allowance. The best option here is for those who are potentially eligible to speak to different providers and find out for certain if they meet the requirements. 

There's also some evidence of providers giving out social tariffs to certain vulnerable households without any benefits, so again, those in search of these deals should speak to their existing provider directly to see whether or not they may be able to get one.

More awareness is needed

Ofcom did praise the expansion in the number of providers offering broadband social tariffs, but it stressed how more needs to be done to make the right consumers aware of them.

A key area was with provider websites not offering enough information. Ofcom claims that 'information about social tariffs remains challenging to locate in some cases', plus they also 'discovered examples of incorrect information about the deals on webpages'. They have since encouraged the offending providers to update their webpages 'as a matter of urgency', so they can clearly communicate with consumers about the social tariffs they're offering.

Speaking about the situation, Ofcom's Group Director, Network and Communications, said:

"Hundreds of thousands of customers are now benefitting from the huge savings that can be made from securing a social tariff. But millions are still missing out on superfast speeds for super low prices – with many not aware they even exist.

"We’re urging anyone who thinks they could be eligible for a discount deal to contact their provider today and potentially save hundreds of pounds. Providers should also do much more to help these customers find and access these deals, at a time when these savings could make a massive difference."

Other ways to find a cheaper broadband deal

For those of you who aren't able to access these tariffs, there are still some ways you can look to save on your broadband bills - which will be welcome news for many following the recent price rises we've seen from some providers. 

If you are currently out of contract, or yours is existing one is coming to an end, you have a window of opportunity to shop around for the best broadband deals and switch to a cheaper option. We can also help with this, as if you enter your postcode into our widget below, we'll show you the best and most affordable deals in your location. 

For those of you who aren't out of contract, you probably won't be able to switch without paying a penalty, so you need to weigh up whether or not the cost of paying this exit fee will be worth it against the money you'll save on a cheaper deal. 

Another option you have is to contact your provider directly and try haggling with them for a better monthly price - just be sure to do your research first and have some examples of cheap broadband deals ready to discuss with them.

Richard Hart

Rich is a freelance copywriter and content strategist with over 10 years' experience. His career has seen him work in-house and in various agencies, producing online and offline content marketing campaigns and copywriting for clients in the energy industry.