Ofcom wants broadband firms to do more to help customers pay their bills

Fibre broadband deals
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Ofcom says broadband providers should offer more assistance to those struggling to pay their bills and ensure customers have as much information as possible about any initiatives that can help them.

The regulator says that in light of the growing importance of connectivity to society, education, and work, coupled with the anticipated increase in living costs over the next 12 months, providers should take steps to ensure that no one is left behind by not having access to the Internet.

Research shows that around 1.1 million households (5% of the UK) struggle to afford their broadband service, a figure which rises to one in ten among the lowest income households.

Ofcom broadband affordability

Under new proposals published today, broadband providers should actively offer and promote social tariffs to those who are eligible. Only 84% of those eligible for the tariffs are aware of their existence, and Ofcom is frustrated at the lack of awareness.

Meanwhile, providers will also be urged to reach customers through as many methods of communication as possible to increase the chance of getting in contact. 

Ofcom also wants firms to work more closely with debt charities and to signpost free advice, wile it adamant that service restrictions or disconnections in a bid to force payment should be avoided.

It wants providers to understand a person’s circumstances before taking action or instructing debt collection services to seek payment and says any agency used should have strong policies for treating customers fairly.

“Phone and broadband are vital to our lives, but many households’ budgets are being seriously squeezed,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom network and communications group director. “So, it’s crucial that people who are struggling to afford their bills get the support they need.

“We’ve set out clear expectations on the steps providers should take, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on firms to make sure they’re treating customers fairly.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.