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Three launches £12 a month phone tariff for low earners

Written by: Rebecca Goodman
A £12 per month social phone tariff has been launched by Three for people receiving certain benefits.

The sim-only plan for £12 a month includes unlimited data, calls and texts, as well as superfast 5G internet speeds. 

The tariff has been launched through Three’s sub-brand – SMARTY – and is aimed at supporting vulnerable people and those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

As such, it is a rolling contract that can be changed or cancelled at any time without penalty. Those who sign up to a social tariff are also protected from mid-contract price rises.

However, to get it, you must be receiving one of the following: Income based employment support, Income based job seekers, Income support, Pension credit, or Universal credit.

Social tariffs for low-income households

Social tariffs are offered for phone and broadband customers who receive certain benefits, but there is no requirement by firms to offer them.

However, the telecoms regulator Ofcom has previously said more needs to be done to help those struggling with bills, including offering social tariffs to customers. It came after Ofcom figures revealed the number of households having affordability problems doubled between 2021 and 2022.  

There are several products on the market, including the EE Basics tariff which is also £12 a month and includes unlimited minutes and 5GB of data, as well as the Vodafone £12 a month social broadband tariff. 

But generally, one of the criticisms of social tariffs has been that they are not well promoted. In fact, a investigation found some social deals were virtually impossible to find on some of the major firms websites.

Catherine Hiley, telecoms expert at Uswitch, said: “It’s never been more important that the most financially vulnerable stay connected to their mobile service.

“Without this, they risk losing contact with vital support networks and, for jobseekers, being deprived of an important tool that can help them find work.

“Social tariffs offer a decent service at a lower cost to anyone who receives benefits but there is still a lack of awareness that they exist.

“Today’s announcement by Three and sub-brand SMARTY to offer a SIM-only social tariff for unlimited calls, texts and data for £12 a month will help spread the word and also encourage more providers to follow suit.

‘People are in need of support’

Three said it is launching the social tariff to help customers with rising prices and soaring inflation, which is currently at 10.5%.

It also comes as price rises are expected for millions of mobile phone customers from April. Some contract customers will see their bills rise by up to 14.4%, despite pleas to cancel or reduce these hikes from organisations including consumer champion Which? and price comparison site Uswitch. 

Mid-contract price hikes are also currently being investigated by Ofcom

Elaine Carey, Three’s CCO, said: “With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to put financial pressure on many of our customers, Three is committed to playing its part in the solution. More than ever, people are in need of support and that should include access to affordable connectivity without restrictions.

“I am delighted that we are launching this tariff today, offering low-cost access to our network for the customers who need it most.”

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