More than half of low-income households in the UK are in the dark about bargain broadband deals, according to a new report by communications regulator Ofcom. It is concerned people are not getting the right advice when it comes to switching to a social tariff.
Social tariffs are low-cost broadband deals offered to customers on benefits and cost between £10 and £20 a month.
Ofcom says millions of families could save around £200 a year by switching.
Although take up of these deals has quadrupled since January last year, the majority of people are still missing out on the savings it says. One of the main reasons, according to the the regulator, is that families do not know about the deals.
Reduced social tariffs allow UK households receiving government benefits such as Universal Credit, Pension Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support to pay less for internet and telecoms access.
Current providers include BT, EE, SMARTY, Community Fibre, NOW, Sky, Virgin Media, KCOM, Hyperoptic, G Network and VOXI.
Ofcom says it is also urging TalkTalk and O2 to introduce social tariffs in the broadband and mobile markets respectively.
Around 4.3 million UK households could be getting cheaper broadband, but only around 220,000 people – or 5% of households – are currently signed up to the offer, according to Ofcom.
Consumer groups are urging customers to act now and look at the packages available – especially given the cost of living crisis.
As well as being much more affordable, social tariffs are usually on shorter-term contracts. Plus there are no early exit fees – so people are not tied to the contract if their circumstances change, and you can leave without paying a penalty.
According to Ofcom’s affordability tracker one in three UK households had an issue affording their communication services, reflecting the ongoing pressures that people are facing.
Ofcom says more than half of eligible households continue to be unaware of social tariffs and that more needs to be done to encourage people to get the support – a similar plea was made last year.
The watchdog is concerned that broadband providers are still not being upfront with millions of customers about how to find and sign up to these packages.
Of eligible customers that are aware of social tariffs, most had heard about them through social media and from television.
But just 9% found out about social tariffs through their provider. Ofcom says that highlights how the industry needs to go further to promote their social tariffs effectively and make them easier to find.
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s director of network and communication, said she believed broadband providers should go further, “at a time when these savings could make a massive difference. 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,” she said.