news


UK government appeals to the social conscience of operators

mobile phone bill

If it wasn’t already obvious that UK consumers are in for a bleak winter, the government this week called on CSPs to spread the word about their social tariffs.

The department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) summoned BT, Virgin Media O2 (VMO2), Sky, Vodafone, TalkTalk, Three, Hyperoptic and regulator Ofcom to a meeting. DCMS used the opportunity to remind telcos of their obligation to help people struggling with the cost of living crisis, noting that eligible customers could save up to £180 per year if they signed up to a social tariff. Digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez also urged operators to think carefully before raising prices.

It follows another meeting held in June, after which the industry pledged to implement a range of measures, including allowing vulnerable customers switch to cheaper contracts without incurring early termination fees, and promoting their social tariffs. In September however, Ofcom found that only 31% of customers who are eligible for social tariffs are actually aware of their existence.

“Today we agreed that more has to be done to raise awareness of social tariffs and stressed the impact price increases have on people and families up and down the country,” said Lopez, in a statement on Wednesday.

“Helping families manage the cost of living is a priority for this winter and beyond. It is vital to find out what more we and the telecoms industry can do to support families worried about their bills,” she said.

Altnet Hyperoptic seems to have received the message loud and clear. On Tuesday it knocked £5 off the price of its 150-Mbps social tariff, making it available to eligible customers for £20 per month. It also offers a 50-Mbps plan for £15. The service is available to anyone eligible for benefits including but not limited to universal credit, income support, pension credit, job seekers allowance, and housing benefit (click here to learn more).

Consumer group Which? welcomed Hyperoptic’s announcement and called on other CSPs to cut their prices too.

“We strongly encourage those providers that are still not doing so to follow suit and ensure they are offering a range of affordable broadband options and properly advertising their social tariff offerings to those eligible,” said Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?, in a statement.

Regulator Ofcom is also getting in on the act. On Wednesday it called on the BBC to do more to serve lower-income households. It did some research that found those who earn less are also less satisfied with the content on offer from the state-owned broadcaster. Ofcom also found that staff from lower socio-economic backgrounds (a more palatable way of describing poor people) are also under-represented at the Beeb.

Anyone with an ounce of critical thinking skills would conclude that the dearth of blue collar voices in the upper echelons of the BBC – and any other organ of mainstream media, for that matter – is the reason why its output doesn’t connect with blue collar audiences. Nonetheless, Ofcom has launched an in-depth review into how the BBC does – or does not – connect with people on lower incomes.

 

Get the latest news straight to your inbox. Register for the Telecoms.com newsletter here.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.