The internet broadband bills of millions of low-income households could be reduced as the government’s announces new “social tariffs” for struggling households.
Next week, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will launch a new service that will enable internet service providers to check, with customers’ agreement, whether they are receiving a relevant benefit and are consequently entitled for additional financial assistance.
The government has urged all broadband providers to provide and promote social tariffs – cheaper broadband and mobile plans for individuals receiving Universal Credit and other benefits – despite the fact that just 1.2% of those eligible have opted for such a package.
Following negotiations with the government, Virgin Media O2 stated today that they will utilise the system to check the eligibility of consumers joining up for their Essential Broadband plan.
Additionally, the company would eliminate early termination penalties for customers switching from existing rates.
In other instances, customers on social tariffs might save over one hundred pounds per year.
The new scheme will also simplify the process by eliminating the requirement for clients to produce monthly proof of eligibility to broadband providers.
As a result of government-led talks with broadband providers, social rates are accessible to qualified users throughout 99.9% of the nation.
David Buttress, the Government’s Cost of Living Business Tsar, has welcomed the new plan and pledged to continue working with the sector to expand and promote current social tariffs and to urge all suppliers to provide a lower price.
Cost of Living Business Tsar, David Buttress, said: “Times are tough and families across the country are feeling the pinch, so we’re making it easier for companies to reduce phone and broadband bills for struggling families.
“Some of the biggest network operators have already committed to take advantage of this new scheme and we want to see other providers follow their lead so that everyone eligible for a social tariff can access one.
“This is just one of the ways that we’re working with businesses to offer help through our Help for Households campaign, building on the comprehensive £37 billion package of support already being provided by Government.”
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey, said: “It’s more important than ever that people get the financial support available to them, including cheaper broadband for benefit claimants, and this change makes these social tariffs even easier to access.
“I’d like to thank those providers leading the way in moving customers over to discount rates, and I encourage others to follow suit to help millions of households to cut bills.”
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries, said: “Social tariffs are vital for families struggling with bills, keeping them connected even in tough times.
“Our discussion with broadband companies led to the range of social tariffs on the market today and we’ve secured a raft of new cost-of-living commitments from them to ensure help is available for anyone that needs it.
“I urge anyone concerned about falling behind on payments to contact their supplier to see what support is available.”
Internet service providers will be required to gain customers’ consent before speaking to DWP about their eligibility.
DWP will minimise the information provided, sharing nothing other than confirmation that the person is entitled to a qualifying benefit at the time of contact. This ensures that claimants’ data remains as safe as possible.