According to figures from Ofcom, only 220,000 households are taking advantage of social tariffs, despite over four million homes being eligible for the discounts
With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to strike the most vulnerable people in the UK the hardest, Ofcom is this week once again calling on operators to do more to promote their discounted service offers, known as social tariffs.
For years now, the regulator has been pushing providers to offer more low-cost connectivity packages to households receiving state benefits. In fact, these efforts have been largely successful, with many broadband providers, including major players like BT, Virgin Media O2, Vodafone, and Sky, now offering discounted packages to customers claiming Universal Credit and other benefits.
Take-up of these offers, however, remains low. Last year, research from Ofcom showed that 4.2 million households in the UK were eligible to participate in social tariff offers, but only 55,000 (1.2%) homes were signed up to these packages.
Much of the issue here is visibility, with social tariffs typically being poorly advertised and misunderstood. According to Ofcom’s 2022 study, 84% of benefits recipients did not know they were eligible for social tariffs, despite over 1.1 million homes claiming to struggle with connectivity bills.
Now, more than one year on since this study was released, and Ofcom’s latest figures are beginning to show progress but only on a small scale. Compared to 2022, uptake has increased roughly four-fold, rising to 220,000 homes across the UK.
However, this figure still represents just a tiny fraction – 5.1% – of the 4.3 million households that are eligible to participate in these deals.
“We’re urging anyone who thinks they could be eligible for a discount deal to contact their provider today and potentially save hundreds of pounds. Providers should also do much more to help these customers find and access these deals, at a time when these savings could make a massive difference,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s director for network and communications.
While welcoming the increase in people taking advantage of social tariffs, Ofcom continued to be critical of providers’ efforts to inform customers that these deals were available.
Of those households that were aware of social tariffs, 26% said they had learned about them from social media and 21% from watching television.
Just 9% said they had been informed about them from their broadband provider.
In total, 53% of eligible households were still unaware of social tariffs as of February 2023.
Are operators doing enough to support vulnerable customers during the cost-of-living crisis? Join the operators in discussion at this year’s Connected Britain