Ofcom Tackles Broadband Pricing For Vulnerable Customers

The UK communications regulator Ofcom has unveiled a number of measures associated with broadband contracts and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The new measures are said to protect vulnerable customers from high prices and ensure they are treated fairly. Additionally, ISPs are now required to cut prices for out-of-contract customers.

Last month Ofcom revealed that the UK had become a nation of streamers, after it found that half of homes in the UK now take Netflix, Amazon, Now TV or Disney Life.

Vulnerable customers

Ofcom said the new measures are designed to ensure out-of-contract broadband customers pay fairer prices, and ISPs offer better protection to vulnerable customers.

By vulnerable customers (namely pensioners and the like) Ofcom is seeking to ensure they don’t end paying more money for their loyalty to a particular ISP, when they don’t switch or renegotiate their broadband contracts.

Ofcom said that as part of its programme of work to ensure fairness for customers, it had reviewed broadband pricing practices to determine the best way to help vulnerable customers get better deals.

Ofcom said it had found that around 40 percent of broadband customers (8.8 million) are out of contract, and that significant savings are available to those who sign up to a new deal with their current provider.

Ofcom also said it was concerned about the out-of-contract prices paid by people who are stuck on copper broadband, without the option of switching to superfast broadband yet.

As a result, the UK’s largest ISPs have made a number of commitments to protect customers and cut prices for those who are out of contract, from March 2020.

For example, BT, Sky and TalkTalk will allow their out-of-contract customers to get the same deals as new customers, when they take out a new contract.

BT has pledged that those customers without access to superfast broadband will no longer pay more than entry-level superfast customers. And BT will provide a one-off automatic price reduction for vulnerable customers who are currently out of contract on more expensive deals.


TalkTalk and Virgin Media meanwhile said they will carry out annual price reviews with their vulnerable customers; and BT, EE, Plusnet and TalkTalk will protect out-of-contract customers from above-inflation price rises.

On 15 February 2020 broadband customers must also be told when their contract is coming to an end, and shown the best deals available.

“Broadband customers who are out of contract can make big savings – around £100 a year on average – by picking up the phone to their current provider and signing up to a better deal,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director.

“And in future, everyone will be told about the best tariff on offer,” said Fussell. “Thanks to the commitments we’ve secured from major broadband firms, many customers – including the most vulnerable – will pay less.”

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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