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Ofcom Study – Age and Disability Hampers Use of UK Communications Services

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 (1:01 pm) - Score 292
computer keyboard and mouse user

The telecoms regulator has today released their first Access and Inclusion report, which finds that older people, and those with disabilities, or low incomes, are still using communications services less than others but the gap is narrowing. Ofcom has also published a report on the pricing of related services.

The ability to use a mobile phone or use the Internet is obviously of vital importance to the vast majority of us and that’s particularly true for those in vulnerable circumstances, especially if they cannot easily leave their homes because of disability or illness.

However Ofcom’s Access and Inclusion report notes that one in five people with disabilities still lack Internet access, although the situation is getting better with each passing year (e.g. Internet access among disabled people increased from 65% in 2014 to 79% in 2016).

Study Highlights

* Disabled people are using tablets and smartphones much more. Access to both types of devices rose by 16 percentage points from 2014 to 2016, reaching 46% and 57% respectively.

* Internet access among disabled people also increased, from 65% in 2014 to 79% in 2016. However, that still leaves one in five disabled consumers who are not online.

* People on lower incomes are more likely to shop around compared to those on higher incomes, suggesting that competition is working for those who want to save money.

* Consumers on lower and moderate incomes continue to use services at similar levels to those on higher incomes, but an increasing number of younger consumers are experiencing problems with debt. Ofcom is currently reviewing its fair debt management policies for mobile and broadband.

* Older people tend to have much lower engagement with the communications market, and less likely to shop around or switch.

Separately Ofcom has also published their latest research into Pricing Trends across the communications market, which broadly finds that people are spending less on telecoms and TV services but getting more for their money (e.g. faster broadband speeds, bigger data allowances etc.).

However the report also finds that the prices people pay “depend heavily on their ability, or willingness, to shop around for the best deals“. As the number of choices in the market has increased, so has its complexity.

Pricing Trends Highlights

* People are spending less on telecoms and TV services. Average monthly household spend on landlines, fixed broadband, TV and mobile services fell by 9% to £113 in real terms in the decade to 2015, despite a small (2%) increase in 2015.

* People are also getting much more for their money. Average monthly home broadband data use grew from 8GB to 97GB between 2008 and 2015, while average connection speeds increased from 4Mbit/s to 29Mbit/s. Similarly, average mobile data use increased from 0.1GB in 2011 to 0.9 GB in 2015, and 4G (which launched in 2012) accounted for just under half of UK mobile connections in 2015.

* The price of mobile data services has fallen significantly. The average cost of a ‘basket’ of mobile services – including 500 minutes of calls, 200 texts and 5GB of data – fell from £57 in 2012, to £40 in 2016.

* Entry-level bundle prices have also fallen. The average price of the major UK ISPs’ cheapest landline and superfast broadband bundles fell by 25%, to £34, between 2009 and 2016. Over the same period, the average price of triple-play superfast bundles with pay TV fell by 16% to £43.

* Some pockets of consumers are being hit with price rises. The price of landline line rental has increased, despite a decline in wholesale costs. These landline-only customers are more likely to be older and from lower income households. Ofcom is currently consulting on plans to cut the bills of BT’s landline-only customers –who make up 80% of the landline-only market – by at least £5 per month.

* Some mobile customers may over-pay for their handset. Contract mobile customers who have the cost of the handset combined into their monthly bill may end up paying too much for their handset, if they continue to pay their full monthly charge once the contract term is up.

Most of the conclusions really just confirm what has already been shown through previous reports (hence why we’re not delving too deeply into the reports), although it’s good to get an update on progress and to see that for the most part the situation appears to be moving in the right direction.

Ofcom also expects to publish their first report for consumers on quality of service on communications services, which will be released over the “coming weeks.” In the meantime we’ve pulled some raw data from their Access and Inclusion report, which is pasted below for your “enjoyment“.

ofcom_access_and_inclusion_2017

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Chris

    Lots of old people don’t have the skills or a realistic chance of developing them to use a lot of modern technology. My father-in-law is 92 and computer illiterate. He is also showing signs of dementia so has no realistic hope of being able to access the Internet. However, his doctor’s surgery requires repeat prescriptions to either be ordered online or in person (he can’t walk far and should not be driving). They will not allow repeat prescriptions to be ordered over the phone! And this is just one example, banking, insurance, service comparison information, government forms etc are all becoming largely Internet based. The disabled need good communications to help level the playing field a bit. They have enough challenges, without being disadvantaged with poor communications (hope that did not come across as patronizing, not my intention and I have disabilities of my own). Anyway, more people need to be helped to get online AND more effort needs to be given to those who never will either get access or have the ability to use the Internet.

    C

    • Avatar GNewton

      Basically, you should NOT have to rely on the internet to get access to basic public services. There always need to be alternative methods of access, such as by phone.

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