Major UK operators vow to protect vulnerable customers ahead of landline switch 


In the UK, there are nearly 2 million vulnerable people who use personal alarms to call out for help 

Seven major network operators, including Openreach, CityFibre, and Sky, have agreed on new rules to protect people who rely on personal alarms as UK landlines are upgraded to a new digital network. The alarms work by automatically contracting the emergency services when a button is pressed. 

The commitment from the seven operators will ensure that the essential and lifesaving buttons are able to function, or alternatives are provided before any network migration takes place. Personal alarm systems do work with digital landlines, but power cut and other outages can cause them to fail. Copper phone lines usually continue to function, even during power cuts. 

The specific commitments outlined in the agreement are as follows: 

– Operators will have to work with partners, including internet providers, to check if their customers own a telecare device. 

– Operators will provide at least 12 months’ notice to phone providers before enforcing the switchover of a customer and will jointly discuss suitable migration options. 

– No telecare user will be migrated to a digital landline service without the provider, customer or telephone company confirming that they have functioning solution in place. 

– Telecom operators will work with Ofcom, Government, and phone providers to create a shared definition of ‘vulnerable’ customer, so it is no longer dependent on the company and establishes an industry wide standard. 

The agreement comes because in December, BT and other firms were ordered to stop providing the elderly with digital phone lines after a series of power outages left some stranded. In some instances, elderly people’s personal alarms had failed because of the digital landlines, leaving them in danger after an accident. 

“I welcome more telecoms companies joining forces to make this a priority, meaning we now have agreement from those responsible for our telecoms infrastructure and those providing mobile and broadband services,” said Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan in a government press release. 

“This will provide much needed reassurance to those relying on these vital devices and I will continue to pressure organisations to do everything in their power to make sure the switchover is seamless and safe,” she continued. 

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