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Struggling families have been given the welcome news that their broadband bills could be cut as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

Millions of low-income households could be eligible for cheaper deals with internet service providers being encouraged by the Government to offer ‘social tariffs’.

A new service, which goes live this week and is being run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will allow internet service providers to verify – with customers’ permission – whether they are in receipt of a relevant benefit and therefore eligible for extra financial support.

The Government has called on all broadband providers to offer and promote discounted broadband and mobile deals for people on Universal Credit and other benefits. Current statistics show that only 1.2% of those eligible have taken advantage of such a package.

The scheme is already being supported by Virgin Media O2 who, following discussions with Government, has announced that they will use the system to verify eligible customers signing up to their Essential Broadband tariff. The company will also waive early termination fees for those moving from existing tariffs.

Savings of £100-plus

Customers on social tariffs could in some cases save more than a hundred pounds a year. The new system will also simplify the process by removing the need for customers to prove their entitlement to broadband providers as regularly as every month.

The Government’s Cost of Living Business Tsar, David Buttress, has welcomed the new scheme and committed to continue working with industry to scale up and promote existing social tariffs, as well as encourage all providers to offer a discounted tariff.

He said: “Times are tough and families across the country are feeling the pinch, so we’re making it easier for companies to reduce phone and broadband bills for struggling families.

“Some of the biggest network operators have already committed to take advantage of this new scheme and we want to see other providers follow their lead so that everyone eligible for a social tariff can access one.”

Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Social tariffs are vital for families struggling with bills, keeping them connected even in tough times.

“Our discussion with broadband companies led to the range of social tariffs on the market today and we’ve secured a raft of new cost-of-living commitments from them to ensure help is available for anyone that needs it.”

 

Permission needed

Internet service providers will be required to gain customers’ consent before speaking to DWP about their eligibility. DWP will minimise the information provided, sharing nothing other than confirmation that the person is entitled to a qualifying benefit at the time of contact. This ensures that claimants’ data remains as safe as possible.

Social tariffs are available to eligible customers in 99% of the country following Government-led negotiations with broadband companies.

Alongside the launch of this scheme, Mr Buttress has also announced new cost-of-living deals and discounts as part of the Help for Households campaign.

The new deals include:

  • Publishing firm Scholastic is offering 20% off children’s books. Scholastic will also donate an additional 20% of all order values over £10 in Rewards to local schools.
  • A curated set of Back-to-School deals from Amazon, with discounts on backpacks and school uniforms, as well as stationery essentials from BIC, Staedtler and Papermate.
  • A number of other Help for Households partners, including Marks & Spencer, Primark, Shoezone, ZSL and Go-ahead have agreed to promote their existing support schemes to raise awareness.

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