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How to save £200 a year on broadband

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Written by: Emma Lunn
24/04/2023
Millions of low income households are overpaying for their broadband by not switching to a ‘social tariff’.

According to Ofcom, only around 5% of eligible households are signed up to the discounted packages designed for people on benefits or low incomes.

Social broadband tariffs are available to an estimated 4.3 million households that receive one of a range of government benefits. The packages offer superfast speeds from £12 a month.

However, despite take-up of social tariffs quadrupling since January 2022, Ofcom’s research shows that just 220,000 households (5.1% of those eligible) are signed up to a social tariff, despite about 4.3 million households claiming Universal Credit.

Vodafone offers speeds of 38Mbps for £12 a month, making it the best value social broadband tariff. It comes with a 12-month contract, with no mid-contract price rises and no early exit fees. To qualify you need to be in receipt of “specific government benefits”.

Lack of awareness

About 85% of broadband customers could switch to a social tariff with their existing provider without paying a fee.

But awareness of these deals remains low, as more than half of eligible households (53%) continue to be unaware of their existence during the cost-of-living crisis.

Research by YourMoney last year found that details of social tariffs are almost impossible to find on the websites of some suppliers, including BT and Sky.

Ofcom has now carried out similar research and found that broadband providers still aren’t being upfront with millions of customers about how to find and sign up to these packages. The regulator said the low take-up figures demonstrate that more needs to be done to ensure those most in need are aware of the support available.

Of eligible customers that are aware of social tariffs, most had heard about them through social media (26%) and television (21%). But just 9% found out about social tariffs through their provider.

In Ofcom’s review of provider websites, it found that information about social tariffs remains challenging to locate in some cases and it discovered examples of incorrect information about the deals on webpages.

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

‘Outrageous’ approach from providers

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s group director, network and communications, said: “Hundreds of thousands of customers are now benefitting from the huge savings that can be made from securing a social tariff. But millions are still missing out on superfast speeds for super low prices – with many not aware they even exist.

“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. Providers should also do much more to help these customers find and access these deals, at a time when these savings could make a massive difference.”

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “With millions of households across the country struggling to make ends meet, it’s outrageous that some providers continue to conceal their social tariffs from customers.

“Broadband providers need to step up their efforts to promote their social tariffs to low-income consumers and ensure people aren’t missing out unnecessarily. They must also make sure customers do not have to pay any Early Termination Charges to move to another firm’s social tariff.

“We’d strongly encourage anyone who thinks they could be eligible for a social tariff to get in touch with their provider as soon as possible – as switching to these discounted rates could halve their bills overnight.”

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