The global coronavirus pandemic has meant more people are struggling to pay their broadband and mobile bills
Nearly five million UK households have struggled to afford their telecoms bills this year.
That is according to new research from Ofcom, which revealed 4.7 million (19 per cent of homes) have struggled to pay for telecoms services during the global coronavirus pandemic.
It comes in a year where the need for connectivity has been more important than ever, with millions of Brits still working remotely.
Ofcom found that six per cent of those struggling financially are finding it difficult to cover their fixed line bills, while five per cent battle to cover their mobile bill.
In order to cope with the payment struggles, 11 per cent of households have cut back their telecoms package.
However other alternatives have included spending less on food and clothes (five per cent), cancelling a service (four per cent), missing a payment (two per cent) or changing payment method (two per cent).
Ofcom Networks and Communications Group Director Lindsey Fussell said: “Lockdown has laid bare our dependence on a reliable internet connection.
“And while we welcome the support companies have provided customers this year, some people continue to face challenges and it’s clear providers can do more to support customers who are in financial difficulty.”
Some broadband providers, including BT, KCOM and Virgin Media, do offer cheaper tariffs to help customers on lower incomes, but the regulator says not many customers take these offers up.
Ofcom has called on providers that don’t offer a targeted affordable tariff for customers to introduce this for lower income consumers.
Ed Dodman, director of regulatory affairs at telecoms complaints handling body The Ombudsman Services welcomes the steps taken by broadband providers.
“Next year looks set to be a challenging one for many consumers, especially given the planned closure of government support measures such as the furlough scheme.
“As the ombudsman we are starting to see an increase in complaints linked to affordability issues – and this increase could well continue into next year.
“Given this we feel it’s important that the telecoms sector continues its efforts to ensure that consumers who need additional support are given it.”
BT has also reaffirmed its support to help those less struggling financially.
“We’re here for customers who are worried about their finances and have been working hard to support those who tell us they need help with their bills,” said a BT spokesperson.
“We offer a low cost landline and broadband package specially for those on low income and we’re currently improving this for 2021. More people will be able to benefit as we’re extending eligibility to include everyone on Universal Credit.”