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Cheaper social broadband tariffs ‘impossible’ to find on BT and Sky websites

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Written by: Emma Lunn
27/10/2022
Social broadband deals can save vulnerable households hundreds of pounds a year – but the packages aren't easy to find, our investigation reveals.

Social tariffs provide cheaper broadband packages for people claiming certain benefits. Some providers call them ‘essential’ or ‘basic’ broadband.

An investigation by YourMoney.com looked at how easy it was to find details of social broadband tariffs on the websites of major telecoms firms.

Shockingly, we found it virtually impossible to locate details of the cut-price deals on BT, Sky and Now Broadband websites.

At the other end of the scale, it was much easier to find social broadband tariffs from Virgin Media, Vodafone, G Network, and Hyperoptic.

Earlier this month, regulator Ofcom asked telecoms companies to offer more social tariffs and to advertise these deals better so we wanted to put this to the test.

YourMoney.com searched the websites of all UK telecoms providers which offer social broadband tariffs.

We expected to find the cheap deals for vulnerable households within a few clicks and a few minutes of our time, but, surprisingly, sometimes it was virtually impossible to find details of the tariffs at all.

BT Home Essentials Broadband

BT has offered a social tariff to customers since 2008 and the number of customers taking Home Essentials has doubled in the last two quarters.

BT Home Essentials package costs £15 a month for 36Mb or £20 a month for 67Mb, both with a £9.99 set-up fee. This price has been frozen this year.

All Universal Credit and Pension Credit claimants are eligible for the deals while those claiming Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseekers’ Allowance and Income Support might also qualify.

However, we struggled to find any information about BT Home Essentials on BT’s website.

On BT.com’s homepage a tool pops up asking “Not sure which BT package to go for? Answer a few quick questions”. However, none of the questions asked about being on a low income or claiming benefits.

In fact, searching the site for 15 minutes didn’t result in any trace of BT Home Essentials at all.

We eventually found details of the tariff by clicking a link to “important information” then “BT broadband”. Users can then click through to information about BT Home Essentials.

In our view and experience, this route is not obvious at all and we feel it’s unlikely that many people searching for BT’s social tariff would find it this way.

So, this is the quickest way to get to it: Go to the BT home page, hover over the “Help” tab then click “Here For You” and finally, click “Home Essentials”.

Alternatively, customers can Google “BT Home Essentials” which brings the Home Essentials page up as the first result, as does searching “BT social tariff” too.

Sky Broadband Basics

Sky offers 36Mb broadband for £20 a month for existing customers claiming Universal Credit or Pension Credit. Its subsidiary company, Now Broadband, offers the same deal called Now Broadband Basics.

But it’s nearly impossible to find details of Sky Broadband Basics or Now Broadband Basics on the respective websites.

On Now’s website, “discover our plans” took us to three different plan options but none of them were Now Broadband Basics.

Now’s “help me choose” tool didn’t ask any questions about being on a low income or claiming benefits. A dropdown box titled “What Now broadband package is right for me?” also failed to mention Now’s social broadband tariff.

To find it, customers need to go to the “Help Site” then search for “broadband packages” or “social tariffs”.

Broadband Basics does not sit on the main e-Commerce website because customers need to provide proof when asked whether the account holder and billpayer is receiving Universal Credit or Pension Credit.

A Now spokesperson, said: “At Now, we offer great value and excellent quality flexible broadband and entertainment packages. We recognise it’s a really challenging time for UK households right now and our focus is on ensuring members in need of financial assistance can continue to stay connected with totally unlimited reliable broadband and calls through our Broadband Basics package.”

It was a similar story with Sky – a long search of the site came up with nothing. Even searching for “Sky Broadband Basics” in the site’s search box didn’t yield any results.

To find details of Sky’s social broadband tariff you’d need to search for it from Google – this takes you to a “help article” with details of the package.

Or once on the webpage, select “Help” and search “Social tariff”.

A Sky spokesperson, said: “Sky’s broadband social tariff is available for £20 per month to all existing customers who are claiming Universal Credit or Pension Credit. We’d encourage any customers looking for further information about our social tariff to get in touch with us so we can help work out the best way to support them.”

The number to call is 03337593032.

TalkTalk

TalkTalk offers benefit claimants six months of Fibre35 broadband for free – after six months customers can cancel or roll onto a TalkTalk contract.

However, there are no details of this on TalkTalk’s website.

A TalkTalk spokesperson said: “We don’t offer a social tariff. We offer six months free broadband for eligible jobseekers in partnership with the DWP. Information is on our website here: DWP Scheme • TalkTalk Group.

“We don’t determine eligibility, the DWP do. Anyone who thinks they are eligible is advised to speak to their jobs coach, at their local jobs centre, who will determine their eligibility and then supply them with a code that they can redeem directly with us.”

Virgin Media Essential Broadband

Virgin Media Essential Broadband costs £12.50 a month for 15Mb and is available to people claiming Universal Credit.

In contrast to its rivals, we found details of this tariff in just three clicks on the Virgin Media website and it was clearly labelled.

From the homepage, users can click to get a drop-down menu, then “broadband deals” > “broadband for low income families”. This takes you to the Essential Broadband page.

G Network

G Network’s Essential Fibre is available to people claiming Universal Credit, Income Support, Pension Credit, Income-related Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It’s £15 a month for £50Mb.

Clicking on “home broadband” from G Network’s home page gives you two options “home broadband” and “Essential Fibre”.

However, it doesn’t state that this package is G Network’s social tariff until you have clicked on it – so you’d have to know what you were looking for to find the correct page.

Hyperoptic

Hyperoptic’s social broadband tariff is called Fair Fibre and costs £15 a month for 50Mb or £25 a month for 150Mb.

Clicking on “broadband” from Hyperoptic’s homepage results in a menu titled “our packages”.

One of the options is Fair Fibre. But, as with G Network, you might not realise this is a social tariff from just the name, and you’ll have click through to be told this is Hyperoptic’s social tariff.

Vodafone

Vodafone offers the cheapest social tariff on the market at £12 a month for 38Mb broadband. Vodafone Essentials Broadband is available to people on Job Seekers Allowance, Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Allowance and Personal Independence Payment.

It’s relatively easy to find details of the deal on Vodafone’s website – the broadband page has a section titled “Essentials Broadband” although you need to click through to see the eligibility criteria.

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