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A million people disconnect their unaffordable broadband

Rebecca Goodman
Written By:
Rebecca Goodman
Posted:
Updated:
18/05/2023

Rising prices have led to a million people cutting off their broadband service in the past year as they can no longer afford it, a charity reveals.

Those receiving Universal Credit are six times more likely to have lost their broadband access in the last 12 months when compared to those not claiming the benefit.

People who pay for broadband and receive Universal Credit are four times more likely to be behind on their bills, compared to those not receiving it, according to the data from Citizens Advice.

The charity fears the problem will get worse and said its research showed worrying signs that an essential service for day-to-day life is becoming out of reach for people.

However, it highlighted that there are a range of social broadband tariffs available for those on low incomes and those receiving benefits.

These start from £12 a month, are usually rolling contracts without penalty fees for leaving, and are exempt from mid-contract price hikes.

But uptake for these tariffs is just 5%, with 95% of the 4.3 million eligible households missing out on saving £200 on their broadband each year. That’s £824m a year going unclaimed.

In April Ofcom said it had raised concerns with providers around social tariffs not being accessible to those who could benefit.

It asked them to review their social tariff webpages “as a matter of urgency”, to ensure the information is accurate, clear and understandable for consumers.

Indeed, a YourMoney.com investigation found that providers’ social tariffs were near on impossible to find on some websites.

‘Social tariffs should be the industry’s safety net’

Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, 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.”

Lack of awareness of social tariffs

Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie, said: “Soaring mid-contract price rises in the current climate have been too much for billpayers to absorb. Broadband is an essential service and the market has been slow to respond to the challenges customers are facing.

“These cancellations speak, not only to the recent double-digit bill increases, but also to the lack of awareness about social tariffs among many customers who need them the most.

“Households who are not eligible for a social tariff but struggling with their broadband costs should contact their provider as soon as possible. If they are out of contract they will also be able to save money by switching to another supplier.”