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Mobile Firms and UK ISPs Commit to Protect Vulnerable Users

Sunday, March 29th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 1,746
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Most of the major UK broadband ISPs and mobile network operators have today agreed a set of “important commitments” with Ofcom and Government (DCMS) help to support and protect “vulnerable consumers,” as well as those who may become vulnerable due to circumstances arising from COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

At present vulnerable customers (e.g. elderly people, those with disabilities or sickness and others on benefits etc.) who are self-isolating could be more negatively impacted by the current situation than others, particularly if they start struggling to pay their bills.

Some operators have already moved to tackle this, although those efforts have so far been quite sporadic and tended to centre around a mix of general connection tips (e.g. use your home broadband for calls instead of mobile, position your router correctly for better WiFi or try not to do a wee on your router etc.), as well as some special freebies and discounts (e.g. free calls, unlimited data etc.).

However, until now, most of the aforementioned efforts have done little to tackle some of the more complicated problems, such as helping those who may suddenly find themselves unable to pay their bills (i.e. facing the prospect of disconnection at the worse possible time).

NOTE: BT (EE), Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three UK, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and KCOM have all agreed the following commitments.

The New Commitments (Effective Immediately)

All providers have committed to working with customers who find it difficult to pay their bill as a result of Covid-19 to ensure that they are treated fairly and appropriately supported.

All providers will remove all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services.

All providers have agreed to offer some new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported. For example, some of these packages include data boosts at low prices and free calls from their landline or mobile.

All providers will ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out.

The above are in addition to a range of supportive measures offered by the individual providers to their customers affected by circumstances arising from Covid-19.

Oliver Dowden MP, Digital Secretary, said:

“It’s fantastic to see mobile and broadband providers pulling together to do their bit for the national effort by helping customers, particularly the most vulnerable, who may be struggling with bills at this difficult time.

It is essential that people stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. This package helps people to stay connected whilst they stay home.”

Melanie Dawes, CEO of Ofcom, said:

“We recognise providers are dealing with unprecedented challenges at the moment. So we welcome them stepping up to protect vulnerable customers, at a time when keeping in touch with our friends and families has never been more important. We’ll continue to work with Government and industry to help make sure people stay connected.”

The result is still somewhat opaque in places but there is now a clear commitment in place to help those who need it, even if we’re not sure quite what the result will be for the first one (billing).

UPDATE 9:44am

As part of this movement, O2 has announced that they’re lifting the cap on voice minutes to provide unlimited domestic calls for all pay monthly customers on consumer contracts (excludes enterprise, SMB). O2 is also offering over 1 million Pay and Go customers an additional 300 minutes – more than three times the average used in a typical month.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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