FOUR million hard-up households may be missing out on up to £230 a year on cheaper broadband deals. The likes of BT, Sky and Virgin Media all of
FOUR million hard-up households may be missing out on up to £230 a year on cheaper broadband deals.
The likes of BT, Sky and Virgin Media all offer discounted “social” tariffs to customers on low incomes — but only 55,000 out of the 4.2million who are eligible are signed up.
Today, Sun Money is calling on the Government, regulator Ofcom and suppliers to do even more to support struggling customers.
Firms need to make it easier for customers to switch to a social tariff.
Many currently require you to phone up to get one. And there are only six providers offering these lower-cost deals, while 75 per cent of eligible customers are with a firm that does not offer one.
This means millions could face high exit fees to switch.
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The Sun is calling on more firms to offer deals — and to make them available to customers online. Consumer champion Martyn James said: “I fully support The Sun Money on this.
“We need tougher rules for ‘rip-off’ charges by telecom firms — and to make it easier to switch for those who need it the most.
“Internet access is hugely important for everyone, from children studying to those who are trying to find work.
“It is an essential service and should be treated and regulated as such.”
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Here is what you need to know, made simple . . .
THE SUN’S GIVEN ME BIG SAVING
ROSE MULVEY couldn’t believe it when The Sun told her about a little-known scheme that could see her cut hundreds of pounds off her broadband bill.
The extra cash she will save will come in handy as bills spiral due to the crippling cost-of-living crisis.
Rose Mulvey couldn’t believe it when The Sun told her about a little-known scheme that could see her cut hundreds of pounds off her broadband bill[/caption]
Rose, 31, from Exeter, used to be a doctor at her local hospital but had to quit her job and go on to Universal Credit after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.
She needs the internet to keep in touch with family and pals when she is unable to leave the house.
But she didn’t realise she qualifies for the cheaper deal on her broadband because she claims the benefit.
Rose said: “I had literally no idea the deal exists – I didn’t even know what ‘social tariff’ means.”
She pays £23.99 a month for her service with Shell Energy Broadband.
Her provider is one which doesn’t offer social tariffs but if she switched to BT’s social tariff, she could cut her bill to £15 a month – saving £108 a year.
“It’s a massive amount,” she said. “I have lots of extra expenses.
“I have carers at home, and if I leave my house in my wheelchair I need to pay for a taxi. The extra money could really help me.”
She said providers need to publicise the deals so that people like her are not missing out.
She said: “I don’t think it would be that hard for companies to advertise it more – maybe an advert on the TV or through working with councils.”
IT SHOULD BE EASIER FOR ALL
SINGLE mum-of-two Gina Hackett saved £300 a year by switching to BT’s social tariff.
She needs the internet to help her hunt for a job and so her 12-year-old son Malcolm can do his homework.
Single mum-of-two Gina Hackett saved £300 a year by switching to BT’s social tariff[/caption]
Her older son Paul is now living away from home, at university.
Gina, 43, was delighted when she called BT and found she could slash her monthly bills from £40 to £15 on the company’s Essentials tariff.
But she believes people are missing out because they don’t know about this.
Gina, from Derby, said: “Broadband providers and the Government should make more effort to advertise these cheaper deals.
“So many families are under pressure right now, but they need the internet for their children’s homework.
“People on Universal Credit, like me, need to be able to get online in order to search for jobs, as well as to keep in touch with their work coach and update their journal.
“If I don’t do this or I miss an appointment I’ll get my benefits cut.
“People say, ‘Just use the library’, but it’s not as simple as that.
“My local library is only open three days a week and sometimes there isn’t a computer free when you need to do something urgently.
“When I posted online about how much I’d managed to save I was shocked to find how many people who were eligible for social tariffs commented saying they didn’t know about them.
“Everyone should be told about the discounts when they make a benefit claim or when they take out a new broadband or phone deal.
“It should be much easier to apply online and you shouldn’t need to phone up and ask about it.”
HOW TO APPLY
THE application process varies from one provider to another, making it confusing and complex for customers to switch and compare deals.
For example, you can apply online with BT and Virgin. But Sky and Now require you to phone up.
Some firms don’t make it easy to find the deals on their websites either.
In most cases you’ll need to supply proof of what benefits you are on.
Most of the providers offering social tariffs require you to be on one of the following:
- Universal Credit
- Employment and support allowance
- The “guarantee credit” element of pension credit
- Income support
- Jobseeker’s allowance
WHAT’S ON OFFER
MAJOR providers including BT, Sky and Virgin — as well as some lesser-known names such as Now and Hyperoptic — offer social tariffs.
TalkTalk, EE, Vodafone and Shell Energy do not offer deals.
Sky and Now only offer deals to their own customers, but BT, Virgin and Hyperoptic allow anyone who is on qualifying benefits to join.
Keep in mind that you might have to pay an exit penalty to your current provider if you are moving to a new one that offers a social tariff.
There is a huge difference in the rates and speeds on offer so it is important to do your homework before deciding. For example, BT Essentials offers 36MB of data per second for £15 a month, or you could opt for its Essentials 2 package which is 67MB for £20.
The Virgin Media Essentials package offers much less data for the same price as BT’s cheapest tariff — it only provides 15MB for £15.
However, Hyperoptic offers a great middle ground if you want to keep costs as low as possible but still have decent speeds. Its Fair Fibre 50 package is £15 a month for 50MB.
Virgin’s social tariffs are only open to customers on Universal Credit. However, BT and Hyperoptic include a wider range of benefits.
Sky and Now, which only offer social tariffs to their existing customers, are also more restrictive about who qualifies.
They are only open to those on UC or pension credit.
Some firms offer the rate for a limited period of time. TalkTalk does not offer a social tariff but jobseekers on Universal Credit who don’t already have broadband can be referred by Jobcentre staff for six months’ free internet.
Before you opt for any of the social tariffs, check whether you could get a better deal on a standard tariff by shopping around using a comparison website such as Moneysupermarket.com or Uswitch.
But opting for a social tariff also has another key advantage — suppliers have committed not to raise prices mid-contract.
Plus, you’re not locked in, so you won’t have to pay an exit fee if you switch or cancel.
An Ofcom spokesman said: “There is a moral imperative on providers to support those on low incomes. This includes displaying social tariffs on websites and making it as easy as possible to sign up.”
Shell Energy and Vodafone both said they offer “competitive deals” which are comparable with prices offered by rival social tariffs.
Customers can also leave Shell Energy to move to a social tariff with another provider without paying an exit fee.
A spokesman for BT, EE and Plusnet said: “We urge anyone who qualifies for our at-cost social tariff to get in touch.”
A Sky spokesman said: “The most effective way to support the needs of vulnerable customers is for our advisers to listen and understand a customer’s individual situation.”
CHECK TO SEE IF YOU CAN CUT YOUR BILL
DESPITE the huge savings on offer, millions have no idea that they are missing out. The Sun has worked with cost-of-living champions Nous to create a way for households to quickly check if they can cut their bills.
You will need to share some basic details about you and your households and give permission to your bank to share details of your broadband spending and whether you receive benefits.
Nous will then securely pass the information to your broadband provider, with a request to switch.
Visit nous.co/thesun to find out whether you qualify for cheaper broadband, in just two minutes.
The tool works with major providers such as BT, Sky and Virgin Media.
If you are with another provider — or the tool can’t automatically confirm if you are eligible — you can still fill in the form and ask for your provider to contact you.
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Nous’s founder and chief executive Greg Marsh says: “We have worked with The Sun to create a free social tariffs app to help millions of hard-up households save money in just a few clicks.
“It’s now vital that companies also walk the walk and honour their commitments by making it quick and easy for people to sign up.”