Access to victim support websites will be data charge free
Mobile data charges for accessing support websites will be free of charge during the coronavirus pandemic, as part of a deal between the government and major telecoms firms.
Network operators BT/EE, giffgaff, O2, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have agreed that their customers (contract and pay-as-you-go) won’t incur data charges when accessing the following websites:
- Victim Support – victimsupport.org.uk
- Rape Crisis – rapecrisis.org.uk
- The Survivors Trust – thesurvivorstrust.org
- Male Survivors Partnership – malesurvivor.co.uk
- Refuge – refuge.org.uk
- National Domestic Abuse Helpline – nationaldahelpline.org.uk
- Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid – womensaid.org.uk and www.welshwomensaid.org.uk
- NSPCC – nspcc.org.uk
Those who have run out of data will still be able to access these websites but they will need to type in the exact web address into their mobile internet browser.
The move for ‘zero-rated’ websites will take effect “as soon as possible”, and the providers have agreed the measures will be in effect until at least 31 October 2020.
It comes as charities report a significant increase in visits to their websites during the coronavirus pandemic.
Digital infrastructure minister, Matt Warman, said: “This agreement will help people who are at risk of violence during this pandemic get the information and support they need, particularly those on pay-as-you-go contracts or tight data allowances.
“This is yet another positive commitment from the UK’s brilliant mobile network providers to support the vulnerable and contribute to the national effort to overcome coronavirus.”
Justice minister, Alex Chalk, said: “Victims need to know that support remains available despite this pandemic.
“Ensuring free access to these important websites and more funding for vital helplines is just one part of the work we are doing to make sure no victim is left to suffer alone.”
The UK’s internet providers have already agreed to remove data allowance caps on current fixed broadband services, so accessing these websites through a home broadband connection will not incur data charges.