Households eligible for broadband social tariffs are not taking up the offer over concerns the speed offered will be too slow, a new report from Which? has found. Ofcom figures show that just 3.2 per cent or 136,000 of the 4.2 million households on Universal Credit who are entitled to the discounted deals have taken them up.
The consumer group surveyed more than 2,000 people eligible for fixed broadband social tariffs, finding that 39 per cent of those who could sign up and were aware of them did not intend to do so. The main reasons cited for not switching were fears that the social tariff speed offered was too slow (44%), not being able to leave a current contract (32%), the deal not being good enough (24%) and lacking information (24%).
Six in 10 eligible households (63%) said they were completely unaware social tariffs existed, with half of this group saying they were likely to switch after hearing about them.
Which? raised concerns that some broadband providers only offered slower than average connections for social tariffs, while others still do not offer them at all - potentially trapping customers who could be eligible for discounted deals on expensive contracts.
The watchdog’s research found that Sky, Now and Vodafone only offered social tariffs for fixed broadband with average speeds of 38Mbps or less – significantly lower than the median UK download speed of 59Mbps.
While these connection speeds would work sufficiently for some households, they might not be enough for those with more demands on their broadband, including families with a number of people using the internet.
Virgin Media O2, and Sky offer several social tariff packages at different speeds at various price points.
Virgin Media O2 recently launched its new Essential Broadband Plus social tariff offering 50Mbps for £20 per month to those on Universal Credit.
Which? said other providers such as EE, Plusnet, Shell and TalkTalk still did not offer their own social tariffs.
Which? is calling on all providers to offer a range of social tariffs to suit every household’s needs and ensure they are properly advertising all their social tariff offerings to new and existing customers.
It has also urged providers to ensure people do not have to pay Early Termination Charges (ETCs) to move to a social tariff, even if they are moving to another provider.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “People who are struggling financially and trying to make savings during the cost-of-living crisis should not be made second-class citizens when it comes to broadband - which is vital for work, education and family life.
“Our research shows that lack of awareness and concerns about slow connections are major factors hampering take-up of social tariffs - so broadband providers need to do more to promote their social tariffs to low-income customers and improve their range of options to ensure that these deals fit customers’ needs.”
Sky said: “We’re focused on providing support to our customers and colleagues who need it most.
“We encourage customers who are struggling financially to get in touch with us so we can work out how best to support them.”
The quickest way to find out if you can lower your monthly broadband bill is to contact your provider directly. New legislation introduced by the UK Government now means that providers can automatically check your eligibility through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - with your consent.
Below is a quick guide to social tariff deals from BT, Sky, Now Broadband and Virgin Media O2.
Sky Broadband Social Tariff - £20 per month
Sky Broadband Basics could be for you if you’re struggling to pay your Sky Broadband bills, but want to stay connected.
The package costs £20 per month for 18 months.
- Sky Broadband Superfast 35 with an average download speed of 36Mb/s
- Or if fibre isn’t available where you live, Sky Broadband Essential Plus with average download speeds of 11Mb/s
- Sky Pay As You Talk - only pay for the calls that you make
It comes with a new 18-month contract, but if you need to leave before it ends, Sky won’t charge you any early exit fees on your broadband.
After 18-months the price will go back to the standard rate, but they will tell you what this will be when you get in touch to take Sky Broadband Basics.
You’ll also get an email to let you know when the price is coming to an end, and you can get in touch to talk about the options available.
You must be an existing Sky broadband customer and need to be claiming Universal Credit or Pension Credit to qualify for Sky Broadband Basics.
Sky will ask you for your National Insurance number so they can check if you’re eligible.
Find out more on Sky.com here.
NOW Broadband Basics - £20 per month
This is a package designed for NOW Broadband members and costs £20 per month on a monthly rolling contract.
- NOW Fab Fibre Membership with an average download speed of 36Mbps
- NOW Calls - the Pay as you Use calls plan included at no extra cost, so you only pay for the calls you make, with no monthly charge
As it’s a monthly contract, you just need to let them know 31 days in advance if you want to cancel, and you won't need to pay any early exit fees.
To be eligible for NOW Broadband Basics, you must be receiving either Universal Credit or Pension Credit.
Similar to Sky eligibility, you must be claiming Universal Credit or Pension Credit to qualify for Sky Broadband Basics.
NOW will ask you for your National Insurance number so they can check if you’re eligible.
Find out more on NOWTV.com here.
BT Home Essentials - £15 per month
BT Home Essentials is the new name for BT Basic, providing broadband and home phone services to customers on benefits.
Two broadband packages are available with speeds of 36Mb and 67Mb, while customers who just want a landline can sign up for home phone only with unlimited minutes.
The eligibility criteria for BT Home Essentials are tight and customers must be in receipt of certain benefits to qualify.
Eligibility for BT Home Essentials
BT Home Essentials is open to new or existing BT customers who are receiving one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit)
- Income Support
- Jobseeker's Allowance (income based or with contributory allowance that is less than the income based portion)
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
The person in receipt of an eligible benefit must be the named account holder on their BT Homes Essentials plan.
BT package options
Home Essentials Unlimited Fibre Essentials
- Cost: £15 per month (12 month contract)
- Speed: 36Mb average
- Upfront costs: Free
Home Essentials Unlimited Fibre
- Cost: £20 per month (12 month contract)
- Speed: 67Mb average
- Upfront costs: Free
Home Essentials - Calls Only
- Cost: £10 per month (12 month contract)
- Upfront costs: Free
When a customer applies for BT Home Essentials, they will need to pass an eligibility check. This will include the type of personal information normally supplied when applying for broadband such as surnames and addresses.
However, applicants will also need to supply their date of birth and National Insurance number so their specific eligibility for Home Essentials can be checked.
An option of a security deposit is available for those with low credit scores.
Find out more on the BT Home Essentials here.
Virgin Media Essential broadband - £12.50 per month
Virgin Media Essential broadband helps you get online for £12.50 a month with a 15Mbps fibre broadband speed.
Eligibility for Virgin Media Essential broadband
It’s a broadband-only package available if you’re already a Virgin Media customer and you receive Universal Credit.
To qualify for this pack, Virgin Media needs the account owner to show some proof that they receive Universal Credit before they can set them up.
To apply, just fill in an online application form and they will email you back with how to complete the eligibility checks.
As soon as they go through, they will swap you over and you won’t have to pay any extra fees or charges for changing from your current Virgin Media services.
Essential broadband plus - £20 per month
The new offer from Virgin Media O2 offers an impressive 54Mbps Fibre Broadband for £20 a month - available to new and existing customers with free set-up.
Essential broadband plus with Stream - £20 per month
This is the same deal as the Essential broadband plus package, so its 54Mbps Fibre Broadband for £20 a month, but, you can also add on the exclusive entertainment service, Stream, for a one-off fee of £20.
Monthly cost won't change
Virgin Media says it will keep you connected at £12.50 or £20 a month for as long as you’re eligible. This means the price of your Essential broadband package won’t change while you’re receiving Universal Credit payments.
Flexible 30-day contracts
All Virgin Media O2 Essential broadband packages come with 30-day rolling contracts, which means whenever you’re ready to go back to your usual Virgin Media services, just give them a call and they will sort it all out for you.
Find out more about Virgin Media Essential broadband packages here.
To keep up to date with the latest cost of living news, join our Money Saving Scotland Facebook page here, or subscribe to our newsletter which goes out four times each week - sign up here.
- £324 cost of living payment dates for people claiming Tax Credits
People on certain benefits could be due £150 heating bill help this winter
Martin Lewis shares ‘no-brainer’ boiler tweak to instantly save £100 on your energy bill
DWP £10 bonus payment for people on State Pension and certain benefits
Families can apply for £25 weekly boost for children up to the age of 16 from next week