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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 19/10/18

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Here’s a roundup of the week’s mobile, broadband, and energy news:

Website Blocking Could Prompt Customers to Switch ISPs

Government proposals to force internet providers to censor websites could incite 64% of British adults to switch their broadband provider to one that’s less invasive, a survey from MoneySuperMarket has found.

Each week, 6 million internet users try to access blocked sites—that’s one in 10 of us. Among young people, the number is higher: 45% of those aged 18 to 34 have attempted to access a site blocked by their ISP.

Currently all major ISPs offer parental controls that allow customers to filter content at the network level. The government has proposed implementing stricter controls on control, at the DNS level, beyond the reach of subscribers. For example, the proposed Age Verification System for adult content would require ISPs to block customer access to any commercial pornographic site that didn’t comply with the controls.

ISPs may block sites for various reasons but the censoring of adult sites would prompt a significant number of switches. MoneySuperMarket’s survey of 2,000 British adults found that a quarter would switch broadband provider if they were blocked from viewing adult sites through the Age Verification System.

However, controls are likely to apply to all ISPs, with the possible exception of small providers, which might struggle with the cost of implementing blocking systems.

But although respondents expressed willingness to switch ISP to find freer internet, they were divided about whether ISPs should be allowed to censor sites. 21% believed internet providers should be able to restrict access to certain sites and content, while 27% believed they shouldn’t.

Ads from Three Banned for Misleading Data Roaming Claims

The Advertising Standards Authority has blocked an online advertisement from mobile operator Three for “misleadingly” claiming customers could “roam the world in 71 destinations at no extra cost.”

The advert fails to explain that Three imposes a limit on mobile data use abroad—13GB for pay-monthly customers and 12GB for those on pay-as-you-go-deals. Customers face additional fees for use beyond those limits while roaming.

These ‘fair use’ limits are allowed under the legislation that grants EU citizens free mobile roaming throughout the continent. However, the ASA judged that these limits made the advert’s claims that customers could “keep data roaming on and use your data, and call and text back to the UK, just like you do at home” misleading.

Three claimed that few customers ever breached the 12-13GB limit and that the threshold was over six times the average monthly data used by customers, calculated by Ofcom to be 1.98GB.

However, the ASA rejected this defence.“Because for some customers there was an extra cost associated with the service, which was not made sufficiently clear in the ad, we considered that the claim “at no extra cost” was likely to mislead,” the ruling stated.

Another Small Energy Supplier Goes Bust

Usio Energy has become the third small energy supplier to collapse into administration this year, raising concerns about the viability of small suppliers just as their share of the market has grown.

Usio’s 7,000 customers will be transferred to a new supplier appointed by Ofgem. The regulator assured those households that their supply would continue uninterrupted and their credit balances would be protected.

Figures released by Ofgem last week show that increasing numbers of customers are opting for small suppliers over the Big Six which once dominated the energy market. Upstart suppliers now control a quarter of the energy market, up from 1% a decade ago. Customers often switch to challenger suppliers in pursuit of cheaper tariffs, but may find poor customer service from financially unstable businesses. Citizens Advice and other consumer advocates have previously raised concerns that the licensing process for new suppliers isn’t stringent enough and that customers are suffering.

Ofgem defended its procedures as “robust” and “rigorous,” but said it was launching a review of supplier licensing next month.

Renters Facing £102 Bill For Previous Tenants Energy Use

One in 10 renters in the UK have had to foot the bill for a previous tenant’s energy use, at an average cost of £102, new research has found.

Social housing tenants face even higher penalties, with tenants subsidising previous occupants’ energy use to tune of £151, on average. These figures come from a survey of 2,008 private and social renters and 250 landlords conducted by uSwitch.com

The costs faced by tenants are exacerbated by landlords not supplying information about the property’s energy supply. According to the survey, 70% of landlords don’t provide tenants with any information about energy tariff and switching, and 23% don’t even tell new tenants who their energy supplier is. Additionally, one in five landlords inaccurately believe they have the right to specify which supplier tenants use and whether they can switch, even when the tenants pay the energy bills.

As a consequence, 14% of all renters didn’t even know they could switch tariffs. Fewer than half (43%) took or were provided with a meter reading the day they moved in, making calculating their own energy consumption tricky and leading to them paying for others’ use. Landlords could save tenants hundreds of pounds by notifying them of their right to switch and reminding them to open and close meter readings when they move in and out of the property, uSwitch.com said.

New Energy Technology Could ‘Get UK Halfway to 2030 Emissions Target’

New energy technology could deliver energy savings of 11% across the healthcare, hospitality, and industry sectors, half of 20% reduction targeted for 2030, a report from Centrica has claimed.

These sectors account for a quarter of all emissions in the UK. Deploying distributed energy measures such as battery storage, onsite generation, and increased energy efficiency in just half of organisation in these sectors could deliver annual savings of 9m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Between now and 2030, these measures could reduce the amount of carbon pumped into the air by 137m tonnes.

The report from Centrica, the company that owns the UK’s largest energy supplier British Gas, highlighted four steps businesses should take to reduce emissions. These include increasing the visibility of their energy usage, balancing and diversifying energy sources, reducing risk by assessing possible disruptions to their supply, and linking business and energy plans.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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