BT has responded to the latest annual affordability report from Ofcom, which highlighted the low uptake of discounted broadband options for four million households who receive Universal Credit. With rising energy, food, and tax bills on the horizon for millions of people, Ofcom claims that more needs to be done to promote so-called “social tariffs” – discounted broadband bundles only available to the estimated 4.2 million households eligible for Universal Credit.
BT is one of the few broadband providers in the UK that offers “social tariffs”, with its Home Essentials plan launching back in May 2021 alongside the BT Here For You Hub, which brings together BT’s range of services for those who need extra help. Home Essentials offers 67Mbps download speeds and 700 minutes of calls from the landline for £15 a month.
For comparison, BT charges £32.99 a month for its Full Fibre 2 bundle, which offers average download speeds of 74Mbps. So, Universal Credit claimants will benefit from some hefty savings – around £17.99 a month, or over £215 over the course of a year. And the benefits don’t end there.
BT’s Home Essentials plan arrives with a 12-month contract, which is half the minimum contract term you’ll find with the standard broadband bundles from BT. Even then, BT will allow you to leave during the minimum contract term without incurring any early exit fees – something you will not find on any of its other broadband plans.
So, if your circumstances change suddenly, you’ll be able to switch from the BT Home Essentials plan at the drop of a hat without an extra charge. You’ll get the same BT W-Fi router as every other broadband plan from the firm too.
In response to the criticisms from Ofcom, BT has announced that it will now make its Home Essentials plan available in all of its high street stores. Until now, those who wanted to take advantage of the social tariff would need to apply online.
In order to sign-up new customers in-store, BT has rolled out a real-time eligibility checker into every one of its nationwide retail stores, which should make it faster for customers who receive Universal Credit and other legacy benefits to sign-up.
Tania Caporaso, Director of BT Customer Care said: “We know fast, reliable and affordable connectivity has never been as important as it is today. We’re urging anyone who qualifies for our at-cost, social tariff to get in touch, whether that’s on the phone or in one of our stores, to take advantage of BT Home Essentials, which has become a lifeline for many who want to stay connected for whatever reason that may be while they are out of work or unable to work.”
There are an estimated 4.2 million households that receive Universal Credit nationwide today. However, despite the prevalence of these discounted broadband plans, only 55,000 homes have taken advantage of these discounted rates so far – that’s just 1.2 percent of those eligible, Ofcom research shows. As such, millions of Universal Credit recipients are missing out on average annual broadband savings.
Ofcom called on broadband suppliers that already offer social tariffs, like BT, to make its plans more accessible to customers. The decision to make Home Essentials available in-store for the first time is a step to address this criticism from Ofcom.
The government-approved regulatory body also called on broadband suppliers that don’t yet offer social tariffs, like Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, EE, Plusnet, and Shell Energy, to launch broadband plans to help struggling families who need to be connected.
Speaking about the latest report, Networks and Communications Group Director at Ofcom Lindsey Fussell said: “People rely on their broadband for staying in touch, working and learning from home. But for those who are really struggling with rising bills, every penny counts. Special discounts can make all the difference, and too many broadband firms are failing either to promote their social tariff or to offer one at all. We expect companies to step up support for those on low incomes, and we’ll be watching their response.”
Published at Thu, 17 Feb 2022 09:04:07 +0000