UK telecoms industry agrees to help customers with cost-of-living crisis

Fibre broadband deals
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The UK telecoms industry has agreed to a range of measures to ensure customers stay connected to mobile and broadband services as the cost of living rises following talks with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

BT, Openreach, Sky TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone are among those to have agreed to ensure customers struggling to pay their bills are treated compassionately and are allowed to move to cheaper tariffs without penalty, or agree a feasible payment plan.

All have said they will ensure customers are aware of social tariffs available to households on universal credit while mobile operators have also agreed to increase promotion of their low cost offers.

Broadband affordability

“The telecoms sector knows that people are facing real challenges with the cost-of-living crisis,” said Andrew Glover, chair of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA). “Our members are determined to do what they can to help their customers through this period and, together with government, we will work to raise greater awareness of the support available.

“These commitments, along with the social tariffs that are available from many members, will hopefully help people in need at this challenging time. We encourage customers who are struggling with their bills to reach out to their broadband provider to get help.”

At least six broadband providers – BT, Community Fibre, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Virgin Media O2 – offer at least one discounted deal to anyone receiving universal credit. These tariffs cost between £10 and £20, and speeds range from 10Mbps to 67Mbps.

However as of April 2022, just 2% of those eligible for social tariffs have taken out a subscription.

At the time, regulator Ofcom suggested that 1.1 million households struggled to pay their broadband bills, a figure which may have risen over the past few months as the cost of food, fuel, and utilities increases due to wider geopolitical challenges such as the war in Ukraine and Brexit.

Prior to this latest intervention by the DCMS, several operators had already agreed to drive awareness of their social tariffs, which may have driven takeup over the past two months.

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.