Fears of a broadband slowdown affecting take-up of social tariffs, warns Which?


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Job : Fri, November 11, 2022

Updated: Fri 11 November

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According to Which?

The consumer champion calls on telecom operators to improve their social tariff offers and allow eligible customers to switch free of charge.

Social Rates are special discounted offers available to certain low-income customers – typically those receiving benefits, such as Universal Credit. However, according to Ofcom, only 136,000 (3.2%) of the 4.2 million households benefiting from Crédit Universel benefit from a social tariff.

Who? surveyed over 2,000 people eligible for fixed broadband social tariffs to uncover barriers to enrolment. Worryingly, four in 10 respondents (39%) who are eligible and aware of social tariffs have no intention of signing up at all, meaning they could miss out on much-needed discounts.

The main reasons given for not switching among those familiar with social tariffs are the fear that the speed of the social tariff offered is too slow (44%), the impossibility of leaving an ongoing contract (32%), the offer not being good enough (24%) and lacking information (24%).

Six out of 10 eligible households surveyed said they were completely unaware of the existence of social tariffs – with half (51%) of this group saying they were likely to change after hearing about social tariffs.

Who? and he worries that “some broadband providers only offer slower-than-average connections for social tariffs, while others still don’t offer them at all – potentially trapping customers who might be eligible for discounted offers on expensive contracts”.

Which? revealed that three national fixed broadband providers currently only offer social tariffs with average speeds of 38Mbps or less – significantly below the median UK download speed of 59 megabits per second – Sky, NOW and Vodafone.

“While these connection speeds work well enough for some households, they may not be enough for those with more demands on their broadband – for example, families with multiple people using the internet.”

“Some providers – including EE, Plusnet, Shell and TalkTalk – still do not offer their own social tariffs.” Who? said.

Customers can usually switch to their own provider’s social rate without paying an exit fee on their current contract – although providers are not always upfront about this.

“However, people are often asked to pay this fee to switch to another company’s social rate while on contract.” Who? said.

“This means that customers whose providers do not offer social tariffs or only offer low-flow social tariffs could find themselves unfairly penalized for trying to switch to a social tariff that better suits their needs.” The Consumer Champion said.

Who? notes that three providers – Virgin Media, BT and Hyperoptic – all offer multiple social pricing packages at different speeds and at different price points.

Virgin Media currently offers a social rate of 15Mbps for £12.50 per month. That’s significantly slower than its slowest commercial rate and what Ofcom has previously criticized the company for. However, there are now plans to introduce a faster rate of 50Mbps for £20 – allowing those with more demands on their internet to choose a connection that suits them.

BT is offering a 36Mbps social rate for £15 a month and a 67Mbps deal for £20 to new and existing customers. Hyperoptic is also offering two social pricing options at higher speeds of 50Mbps for £15 or 150Mbps for £25 to new and existing customers.

As part of its cost of living campaign, Which? calls on all providers to offer a range of social fares tailored to the needs of each household and to ensure that they properly advertise all their social fares offerings to new and existing customers.

Rocio Concha, which one? director of policy and advocacy, said.

“People who are struggling financially and trying to save money during the cost of living crisis should not be considered second-class citizens when it comes to broadband, which is vital for work, education and family life.

Rocio added: “Our research shows that lack of awareness and concerns about slow connections are major factors hindering the adoption of social tariffs – so broadband providers need to do more to promote their social tariffs to consumers. low-income customers and improve their range of options to ensure that these offers meet customer needs.

“Providers also need to make sure people don’t have to pay an early termination fee (ETC) to switch to another company’s social rate. During a cost of living crisis, people shouldn’t be trapped into a deal that isn’t working for them due to high exit fees. »

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