Cheapest broadband: millions could save on broadband costs with social tariffs

Cheapest broadband: millions could save on broadband costs with social tariffs

Just 5% of eligible households are taking advantage of social tariffs which could deliver savings of almost £150.

John Fitzsimons

Household money

John Fitzsimons
Updated on 21 September 2023

Having a decent broadband connection is far from a luxury; it’s a necessity for modern life.

Unfortunately, the price of broadband has sky-rocketed this year as many providers including Sky and Virgin hit customers with hikes of up to 15%, leaving many customers struggling to meet the cost. 

However, it has now emerged that millions of households are missing out on a support scheme that could dramatically cut the cost of their broadband bills.

Fed up with your provider? Read our simple guide to switching broadband

What are ‘social tariffs’

Social tariffs are special broadband tariffs, offered by some of the biggest providers, at special discounted rates.

The tariffs are available to any household receiving Universal Credit, which means a total of 4.2 million households could qualify for a helping hand on their internet expenditure.

Yet Ofcom, the industry regulator, has revealed that only 220,000 families have signed up to the deals.

How much could I save with a social tariff?

The savings here aren’t to be sniffed at, either.

According to Ofcom, on average households with social tariffs save around £144 on their connection costs.

That’s a significant chunk of money at the best of times, let alone when we are in the midst of a cost of living crisis with the cost of everything from fuel to our grocery shopping on the rise.

While broadband bills may not be the biggest monthly outlay households face, every little helps when it comes to getting your finances in better shape overall.

Who offers social tariffs?

It’s important to point out here that these tariffs are not on offer from all broadband providers.

There are currently six providers that offer social broadband tariffs: BT, Community Fibre, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Virgin Media O2.

The deals cost between £10 and £20 a month, and in return, you enjoy speeds ranging from 10mbps to 67mbps.

In other words, while they aren’t necessarily the superfast deals, they are equally not to be sniffed at, particularly if you aren’t big on streaming or online gaming.

Why is take-up of social tariffs so low?

There’s no denying that the take-up of social broadband tariffs currently is staggeringly low. Millions of households are paying far more for their broadband bills than they need to.

So why aren’t they being snapped up by those eligible? According to Ofcom, it’s all a question of awareness.

It has accused providers of doing a particularly poor job of highlighting the availability of their social tariffs, with a massive 84% of benefits recipients having never heard of them.

The regulator said it had seen “limited evidence” of providers actively promoting their social tariffs to customers who could be eligible, noting that they don’t tend to feature in advertising or when people search for a new package of a price comparison website.

Fed up with your provider? Read our simple guide to switching broadband.

How to improve social tariffs

There are plenty of steps that could be taken by the industry as a whole to make social broadband tariffs more commonplace.

The first is obviously that more providers need to offer them.

Some of the biggest names in the communications industry, like EE, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone, don’t provide social tariffs.

This is incredible, really ‒ if they are to make a difference, then they need to be a standard part of any provider’s offering.

As we have seen though, merely including them in your proposition isn’t enough ‒ these tariffs need to be highlighted and advertised properly.

This could be done through partnering with local and national support agencies, places like Citizens Advice, to ensure that when people are looking for help with their finances they can be signposted towards tariffs that could cut their monthly outlay. 

Equally, whenever providers contact their customers about price changes, then they should ensure that social tariffs are highlighted.

It’s also vital that providers make it easy to work out not only if you are eligible for a social tariff, but also to actually apply. Putting barriers in place, like making it tough to prove that you're eligible, can not be acceptable.

*This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any sales of products or services we write about. This article was written completely independently.

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