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Ofcom warns it will intervene unless telecoms firms do more to help those struggling financially

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Ofcom has warned telecoms firms that they will face “interventions” from the watchdog unless they do more to aid those facing financial hardships.

The regulator said that new data has shown that those on low incomes are not receiving support from their suppliers in order to stay online.

Ofcom said that almost two million households struggled to pay their broadband bill last year despite prices for “new customers” being 20% cheaper last year than in 2015.

The average cost of mobile services last year was also 20% cheaper than in 2015, despite users now using over three times as much data.

Many suppliers, including BT and Virgin Media, have now introduced low-cost deals for those receiving benefits. This has saved households an average of £200 annually.

However, Ofcom warned what suppliers offering social tariffs needed to improve uptake.

Ofcom's networks and communications group director, Lindsey Fussell, said: "Many of us take being able to get online and use a mobile phone for granted, but if you're on a low income or have fallen on hard times, being able to pay for these vital services can be really tough.

"We're concerned that many households on the lowest incomes are struggling to stay on top of their bills and providers need to take action to make sure these customers get the help they need."

A spokesperson for BT said: “Since launching our Home Essentials packages at the end of June we’ve been pleased with how strong take up has been. However, we want to encourage more customers who need our help to get in touch.

“Fast, reliable connectivity has never been as important as it is today, with millions of people relying upon our networks to get back on their feet after the pandemic – so we launched BT Home Essentials our low-cost fibre package that will now include all customers on Universal Credit, to provide a potential 4.6 million families across the UK with half-price fibre broadband and calls.”

Director of policy at Citizens Advice, Matt Upton, said: "The fact that so many providers still aren't taking responsibility for protecting lower income customers shows just how precarious it can be to rely on voluntary arrangements and goodwill.

"Ofcom are right to say things aren't happening quick enough. If we don't see action soon, the UK Government needs to get involved."

Harry Pererra
Harry Pererra

Harry turns on his experience in journalism and programming to write about the latest news in the world of tech and the environemtn. When he isn’t writing for usave he is working towards his Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and prefers dogs to cats.

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