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15 Feb 2022

4.2 million households could halve broadband bills with discounted packages

Ofcom calls on providers to make social tariffs more transparent, as low awareness prevents take-up

Millions of families affected by the rising cost of living could save £144 on annual broadband bills through social tariffs, according to telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Despite 4.2 million households able to halve bills through special discounted packages, just 55,000 have signed up.

Ofcom is calling on providers to better promote these tariffs to customers, ensure information on them is clear and the sign-up process is straightforward, so customers aren't put off.

See where your provider ranks in our guide to the best and worst broadband providers.

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Customers left in the dark

Price increases are putting pressure on household finances, with low-income families affected the most. Ofcom's report on affordability found that 1.1 million households struggle to afford broadband, which is 5% of people. However, among low-income families the figure is higher, at one in 10 households.

A standard broadband package costs £27 a month, which works out as 8.3% of the monthly disposable income of someone claiming unemployment benefits. A £15 social tariff could nearly halve the impact, reducing it to just 4.6% of their disposable income.

Six broadband providers - BT, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Virgin Media O2 - currently offer at least one discounted deal, with packages priced at £10-£20 a month for average speeds ranging from 10Mbps to 67Mbps.

Not eligible for a social tariff? You could still save money on your broadband bills using our top 10 tips.

A person checking what debt they have

Ofcom calls on providers to act

Ofcom has said providers should ensure customers on lower incomes can benefit from reliable broadband at a price that's affordable. This includes:

  • Offering a social tariff - Providers that aren't currently offering social tariffs include EE, Plusnet, Shell, Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk (though TalkTalk partners with the Department for Work and Pensions to offer six months of free broadband to certain jobseekers).
  • Doing more to promote discounted deals - Providers should include details of available social tariffs in any communication about price rises, and could consider partnering with local authorities and other agencies to spread the word.
  • Delivering clear informationSocial tariffs should appear prominently on websites, along with clear information about who is eligible.
  • Making it easy to sign up - Broadband companies should ensure application processes are easy to follow to avoid putting off those who are eligible.

Read our guide to the best broadband deals, or check broadband deals in your area.

What social tariffs are on offer?

The table below lists the social tariffs currently available from providers. Eligibility criteria varies but is usually based on factors such as income support, universal or pension credit, job-seekers allowance and other factors. For more information about the package and eligibility, click the link in the table below.

ProductPrice per monthAverage speedEligibility
BT Home Essentials£1536MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)
BT Home Essentials 2£2067MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)
G.Network Essential Fibre Broadband£1550MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)
Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 50£1550MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)
KCOM Full Fibre Flex£19.9930MbpsVarious benefits (in and out of work)
Now Broadband Basics£2036MbpsUniversal Credit or Pension Credit
Sky Broadband Basics£2036MbpsUniversal Credit or Pension Credit

Which? says providers should do more

Which? agrees more needs to be done to raise awareness and take-up of social tariffs at a time when consumers need all the help they can get to fight the rising cost of living.

Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services, said:

'With the cost of living soaring, it's vital that consumers most in need of support are able to access fair deals that are right for their needs.

'Social tariffs can make a real difference, but woefully low levels of awareness and take-up are a reflection of how poorly broadband providers publicise these deals. Companies must do much more to promote them and make it straightforward for customers to sign up. Providers without social tariffs should consider the support they are providing low income households and whether they can do more.

'If you're not eligible for a social tariff, it's worth shopping around or haggling for the best deal, especially if you're one of the staggering 35 per cent of broadband customers out of contract. Our research has found that haggling with your current provider or switching deals could save you hundreds of pounds a year.