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Gov Pressures UK ISPs and Mobile Operators on Cost of Living

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022 (1:21 pm) - Score 2,928
Parliament UK Building at Dusk in London 2021

The UK government, which wants to be seen as at least trying to do something about the cost of living crisis, has reportedly summoned bosses from most of the major mobile and broadband providers to Downing Street next week. Seemingly in the hope of finding more ways to help those who may be struggling to pay their bills.

According to the Telegraph, CEOs from BT, Vodafone, Virgin Media / O2 (VMO2), Three UK, TalkTalk, Sky Broadband and others (e.g. Ofcom) are all expected to attend the meeting next Monday. The move comes after most of the major operators imposed annual price hikes of up to around 10% on their customers. But in fairness, such operators are not immune to the rising costs and do have to pass that on at some point.

However, it’s not the first time that the Government has attempted to pressure the telecommunications industry into doing more. We saw similar activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ofcom has since been partially successful in encouraging provider’s to launch cheaper Social Tariffs for those on benefits. But awareness of these remains low, and most ISPs continue to hide them away on separate pages from their main packages.

According to Ofcom’s most recent Affordability Report, some 1.1 million households (5% of the UK) are “struggling to afford their home broadband service” and so could stand to benefit from such tariffs. However, out of an estimated 4.2 million households in receipt of Universal Credit, just 55,000 homes have so far taken such a package (1.2% of those eligible).

A Spokesperson for the Goverment (DCMS) said:

“We are looking at bringing together the UK’s telecoms leaders to explore how the industry can work together with the government to support consumers through the global rise in the cost of living.”

However, it’s worth pointing out that the competitive market means it’s often possible for most people to switch to a different provider or package and save money, if they so desire. Likewise, the value we all get back from broadband and mobile services has increased over previous years, which means you can often get bigger mobile data allowances or faster fixed line speeds for less money today – the latter is admittedly dependent upon how much competition exists in your area (experiences do vary).

So if money is a problem and your provider puts its prices up, then don’t be afraid to vote with your feet and leave, or try to renegotiate (Retention Tips). Speaking of the competitive market, it’s worth noting that many smaller providers have opted to buck the trend and keep their prices frozen this year (e.g. Gigaclear, Truespeed, KCOM, Giganet, FibreNest, Fibrus etc.) and some mobile operators, such as giffgaff, did the same.

Furthermore, the price we all pay for communication services is largely dwarfed by the colossal hikes in energy (i.e. gas, electricity and – to a lesser extent – water), petrol and other bills. If people are struggling to afford even a fairly basic broadband or mobile package, then they’ve probably got much more serious considerations when it comes to other areas, such as heating their homes in winter, getting to work or buying food to live.

Lest we forget that broadband and mobile are also extremely important services that can help you to save money and solve other problems (shopping, insurance, finding jobs etc.), thus it could easily be argued that such services more than pay for themselves in respect to the value they return.

In short, we’re not really sure what more the Government hopes to extract from mobile and broadband providers. Perhaps we might see a move toward greater promotion of social tariffs, or maybe they’ll finally clamp-down on mid-contract price hikes. Who knows. Ofcom has previously threatened mandatory social tariffs for all ISPs too, but they’d do better to first tackle the issue of awareness.

We can only hope that the meeting ends up being more than just another PR opportunity for the Government to make it look like they’re doing something, albeit without actually making any major changes.

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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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52 Responses
  1. Down with VAT says:

    Why not reduce the rate of VAT charged on broadband to 5%? It’s hardly a luxury service these days.

    1. Phil says:

      We wish! But no chance!

    2. awelshman says:

      an easier way to reduce costs is to turn off some of the apps that use mobile data , i have a friend that every month he ran out of data ,i looked at his phone and said do you used these apps and he said no ,well turn them off and only leave on the apps you do use …the result was for the first time in years he still had data left at the end of the month and didn’t have to pay for more

    3. Taxation is theft says:

      Make it zero. The govt could do that if they actually wanted to solve the issue. They could also cut VAT on everything and income and capital gains…

      The problem is that the govt, the opposition, and all politicians do not want to solve issues and just want to seem like they are solving the issue

  2. Sp@ffed it all away says:

    The clown Johnson and his omnishambolic circus fiddles whilst ‘Rome’ burns… blaming everyone else for their inaction on the serious problems and attempting to distract with entirely unworkable and horrifically expensive wedge issue policies.

    1. JmJohnson says:

      Yes… because BoJo is 100% responsible for COVID and the oil/gas issue.
      These are the causes of this inflation and unfortunately they are global aka out of his control.

    2. Jake4 says:

      It’s no one in the UK’s fault that inflation is happening since it’s due to Russian Gas and Fuel exports. The only solution that can prevent inflation any further (or even reverse it) is to somehow get Putin out (dead or alive), or just declare WW3 and hope they don’t use nukes

    3. John says:

      There is oil in the UK, they could’ve started drilling long ago

      Also it makes no sense to criticize a virus when it was the lockdown response that caused the issue. Turns out that catering to people who believe chinese propaganda has negative consequences

    4. Sp@ffed it all away says:

      @JmJohnson: False argument… didn’t claim the clown was responsible for the external factors, rather that he and his circus are not taking domestic actions which can mitigate their impact.

      Rather preferring to point his chubby little fingers and distract with wedge issue nonsense.

      @Jake4: Inflation was already out of control with essentially nothing being done by the clown before Putin’s war.

      The disease which is turning Putin’s brain to swiss cheese will deal with him for us, it’s his war, not Russia’s so will end when he’s gone.

    5. Sp@ffed it all away says:

      @John:

      UK oil and gas has been extracted for decades, there’s not enough possible production to meet demand, plus any additional production would be sold at market rates…

      You don’t believe the Johnson administration would nationalise production and sell what’s extracted to consumers at below market rates do you? He wouldn’t upset his backbenchers, chums, cronies, donors and party members with such a ‘socialist’ move…

    6. John says:

      @Spaffed awarding oil licenses is not nationalizing, although wouldn’t be surprised if they did nationalize considering we are being ruled by the leftist consocialist party complete with more taxes, private asset seizures and socialist money handouts

    7. Sp@ffed it all away says:

      @John: Awarding licenses for production which would be sold at market rates… i.e. solving nothing.

      “we are being ruled by the leftist consocialist party complete with more taxes, private asset seizures and socialist money handouts”

      HA! Thanks for that.. best laugh all day! The only of that wingnuttery rant which us true is “more taxes”…

      The Johnson administration are a smash and grab operation, never before in British history has so much public money been funnelled into the hands of the few hand of Johnson’s chums, cronies and donors.

      It’s Putinesque kleptocracy, not “consocialist”.

    8. John says:

      @Spaffed none of that was a lie, look up asset seizures in March and April. Even Abramovich was forced to sell Chelsea at a loss because of the govt. Also look up “furlough money” where govt literally gave money for people to not work

    9. Remoaner Pride says:

      @Sp@ffed it all away

      Not using “An Engineer” today then? Seething openreach remoaner.

    10. Buggerlugz says:

      Totally. If there isn’t any cream for them to skim from the top of the milk bottle they are not interested. But then again, if you could claim back your weekly family shopping on your expenses you’d not care less either, would you?

  3. Harry says:

    Easier solution: Raise bennies to accommodate this? Extra £40 a month should cover it, no problem.

    1. Matthew Morgan says:

      Unlimited data is £16 to £20 per month (cheaper with cashback). £40 is way over what is required.

    2. libertarian says:

      I think you are in the wrong country Hugo Chavez

    3. "Hugo Chavez and Dominion stole it" cry the Trumpcultist lunatics says:

      @libertarian:

      Hugo Chavez is dead dear… You’re not one of those Trumpcultist lunatics who belives he’s still alive and “stole” the 2020 US election are you?

    4. james smith says:

      harry ref ‘Easier solution: Raise bennies to accommodate this? Extra £40 a month should cover it, no problem.’ will you be paying tax to help fund this, by any chance??? Or why not allow people to keep more of their earnings from getting jobs so that they can pay them selves, saveing tax payers money

  4. zxcvbnm says:

    Oddly broadband costs are one of the few things that have fallen in price even as they make a big deal of price rises. I’m paying less for my home broadband/calls package than I was for Dial up 20 years ago.

  5. Simon says:

    I’m strongly against any discounted “social tariffs” for lazy benefit spongers.

    There are 1.5 Million unfilled jobs out there. Why won’t they work?

    1. Matt says:

      And for those that don’t work because they’re genuinely physically or mentally unable? The social tariffs should cover anyone receiving UC and all pensioners IMO. In most cases its the barebones of service (Slow) but internet access is pretty much required to do anything now.

      Are there people who take the mick? always. Tarnishing people on a social tariff as “lazy benefit spongers” helps no one. I don’t see why people have an issue with Social tariffs – some providers have no requirements for joining one. If you have issue that its a super cheap service, why not sign up and use the 10mbit service they’d receive for the price?

    2. Bent says:

      Including people like myself on legacy benefits like esa

    3. Arthur says:

      Social tariffs are available for people on universal credit (most of whom are in low-paid jobs) and pension credit (poorer retired people). No need for hostility towards those people.

    4. Simon says:

      @Matt,@Bent “physically or mentally unable to work”

      OK, in my book this is called being disabled. That’s a completely different category to the deliberate “layabouts” types you *knew* were being referenced to here.

      Deliberate layabouts sabotage their own interviews and make themselves totally unemployable (on purpose) from the view of a prospective employer, knowing fine well by default they will be put back the benefits-bonanza gravy train. Including free housing and £200 every time they walk round the block past the GO sign. Buying Alcohol and Cigs with my taxes.

      Without being the slightest bit rude or judgemental, if you can interact on here, you could easily WFH (work from home) doing something in IT or customer services (if you wanted to)

      I get a lot of satisfaction from working. It’s disappointing to think you might be missing out on the same. Never before has there been so many tech jobs unfilled and British law says these companies absolutely cannot discriminate against disabled people… so the taking is all yours.

    5. james smith says:

      **Simon** absolutely, if you give lazy scroungers every thing for nothing how do you incentivisize them to get jobs?

    6. Pete says:

      I’m one of those you talk about not working, my reason bowel cancer and having 75% of my large intestine out, now I would love to work only trouble is I’m regularly on the toilet and some days can add up to about an hour, now imagine I’m working with you on a two man job, are you happy to pick up the slack whilst I have my fourth dump of the day. Nice one I’m being paid to poop at work.. still happy to work with me mate…

    7. Poop Fixer says:

      @ Pete the Pooper
      Maybe you’d like to poop on 1 or 2 on here given the nonsense they post

    8. Ell says:

      I was out of work for a year in 2018 as I lost my job, despite applying for jobs frequently, I had to use universal credit to pay for food, bus fares to job interviews and pay the rent in the supported accommodation I was living in and I was restricted by the supported accommodation to only work a maximum of 16hrs a week otherwise I had 2 weeks to find another place to live.

      Now with very limited funds available, that was not a option I can take.

      So labelling everyone who claims benefits as lazy benefit cheats is bang out of order when it’s a minority.

      I would rather have not claimed benefits but I had no choice unless I wanted to be homeless and beg on the streets.

      Back then no operator offered this kind support so its good its now available, as to yourself I very much doubt you last 5 mins in the shoes of someone who struggles with the cost of livingv and is relying on benefits as t it ey are unable to work.

    9. Bennies says:

      Me too Simon. The benny thieves are everywhere. They don’t work, they don’t want to work. They can, but they don’t. They instead prefer to get everything for free or heavily discounted. Meanwhile those of us who work 40+ a week don’t even get the money off our council tax bills because we work.

      Honestly if you earn < £30,000 in the UK you're better off claiming benefits. I won't do it because I have never claimed them and I hope I never will. But how is it we have generations that don't work. How is it that sometimes mum and dad don't work, they have kids and the kids don't work ? They're not all born with disabilities. Most are just untrustworthy.

      I can only assume those that defend throwing money at people who can work but chose not to are also on benefits themselves and don't like their money being challenged. It's time we voted to crack down on this rubbish. Not have the gov ask if there's any way we can make broadband free for all. Socialist nonsense.

      Inb4 muh I'm disabled. This isn't about you. This is about people who can but chose not to work. No I won't feel bad for them.

    10. Hugo says:

      @Simon

      This is true they can not – but what most of them do (in my experience anyway) are have an interview and then say no – the law only says that if you fit the criteria you are guaranteed and interview, I’ve not even fitted criteria sometimes.

      So now I went out and got a WFH job – it’s minimum but so are my outgoings.

      Everyone wins (and yes I still work enough hours to pay some tax and I claim nothing but PIP for spine problems due to an accident on the railways years ago)

      So I agree with you on some and disagree on others – which is cool beans!

    11. Buggerlugz says:

      Probably because you’re not as well off if you actually work. No incentive when wages are so low and inflation is so high (in real terms 14%).

  6. Me says:

    Yeah, the operators can lay off staff to pay the huge increases in taxes they now have to pay… this government could not be anymore clueless incompetent and arrogant if it tried. And the rest are worse!

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Look, as long as the MP’s get their dividend payments from the telco’s they’re not bothered who loses they’re jobs.

  7. Arthur says:

    It would be worth doing an article on the social tariffs that companies offer (see below). Millions of low-paid households are eligible for them (basically anyone on pension or universal credit) but hardly anybody takes them up. Millions of people are thus missing out on savings.

    https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/social-tariffs

    1. Simon says:

      What is low-paid then?

      NOBODY can claim to be “low-paid” when you CHOOSE to work just 16 hours. That’s a choice.
      The reason people work 16 hours is this is the magic figure for maximum benefit pay-outs.

      You cannot work part time then complain to groups of full time people saying “I’m low paid, so give me some of your money”

      (part time 16hrs + Benefits) is much more profitable than (full time 40hrs + nothing)

      For employers, nowadays it is cheaper to hire 2 people part time (no Employer NI)
      than hire 1 full time and pay the Employers NI.

      There are some very well calculated decisions behind all these peoples “choices”.

    2. Claire says:

      Simon… I am low paid and I CHOOSE to work 16 hours a week. Before you turn into a keyboard warrior, I am disabled, claim PIP, claim UC with the LCWRA applied. I CHOOSE to work 16 hours because I can’t bear the thought of being sat at home constantly.

      I don’t have to work because of my disability, but I still CHOOSE to work and in fact I get less money (and more pain) by working 16 hours than what I would if I didn’t work at all. Don’t just assume everyone is the same you cretin!!!

    3. Bennies says:

      blah blah blah.

      more benefit thieves. Honestly working people in this country are treated like scum. The benefit thieves get everything. New windows, new boilers, heat pumps, cheaper broadband. Meanwhile us mugs that work get nothing. Not even this magical help off our council tax bills because work.

      Stop calling people a cretin. You can work more but you don’t. More benefit thieves.

    4. Hugo says:

      “The reason people work 16 hours is this is the magic figure for maximum benefit pay-outs.

      Is it now? last time I worked 16 hours a week I earned well over the threshold and go t no benefits (and rightly so). But I think you need to refresh your knowledge on the taper rate pal – and then stop talking poop

      Google that – UC taper rate – please I beg of you 🙂

  8. Guy Cashmore says:

    Bit late really, BT have already hit us with a 9.3% increase a couple of months ago.

  9. Martin says:

    If I were the Telco bosses, I would dig out some speeches by Mrs Thatcher about “sound money” and ask Boris when he is going to stop carrying on and start governing. Telcos don’t control the money supply.

  10. james smith says:

    simon ref low pay and 16 hours. Here in Stratford-cv37, most of the legal min jobs won’t offer more than 16 hours p-w

  11. Tech3475 says:

    Personally, the biggest concern I have are mid-contract price rises, particularly cpi based ones on 2 year contracts.

    I wouldn’t dare touch a package right now with a contractual price rise with no escape e.g. 30 days notice.

    1. Willy Wonka says:

      yep I bet if ofcom were to introduce a rule that people could quit contracts part way through if the price increases would put a stop to the Telco’s doing that. They do it for broadband but why not for phones?

      Of course there’s no point in asking. It’s the UK. They’re probably standing on their heads reciting monty python stories all day long.

    2. Yousif says:

      Actually you can leave a contract if there is a price rise it’s the right to cancel notice it’s just that the providers don’t publish it. Also now with eecc if a provider changes any terms of a contract you can now cancel and people who are switch to broadband telco you can cancel the telco part of the contract.

    3. tech3475 says:

      @Yousif

      From what I’ve read, if it’s linked to RPI and in the contract it negates the rule.

      “But, if your broadband provider has warned you about rises in their terms and conditions and they are in line with RPI, you won’t be able to leave if you’re still locked into a contract. If you do want to leave, you’ll have to pay an exit fee.”
      Source: Which?

  12. Sunil Sood says:

    I’ve said it before and will repeat it not now but they should ban firms being able to impose automatic inflation linked price rises during a contracts minimum period, or at least give customers the right to cancel in those circumstances.

  13. NotEverybodyClaimsUC_PipESAExistsToo says:

    FYI: There are other benefits in existance which people claim apart from Universal Credit, ESA Employment Support Allowance, PIP Personal Independence Payments., Etc. It really bugs me when such limited help maybe offered to those only in receipt of UC when in actual fact there are many other individuals still in receipt of legacy benefits or disability benefits. CVD19 is a prime example of how those on UC had a £20 uplift to their claims and those people on ESA/PIP got nothing, zero additional support throughout the pandemic.
    Maybe, it would be a good idea to be mindful of the fact that not all people claiming benefits get Universal Credit, targeted support should be inclusive of those people who do claim ESA/PIP, etc.

    1. Hugo says:

      ” It really bugs me when such limited help maybe offered to those only in receipt of UC when in actual fact there are many other individuals still in receipt of legacy benefits or disability benefits. CVD19 is a prime example of how those on UC had a £20 uplift to their claims and those people on ESA/PIP got nothing, zero additional support throughout the pandemic.”

      Really bugs me knowing some people on ESA who are deemed unfit for work and get £300+ a month extra on top and they are having to spend money so they don’t keep over the £6000 limit – buying fag booze cars and out drinking most nights.

      And I have no legs but the DWP insist I must find a job or I risk being sanctioned. Seems anyone can say they suffer from depression and anxiety these days and because it’s classed as hidden and very very hard to diagnose DWP people dare not challenge it so it’s accepted. I am sorry I can’t hide where my legs used to be!

      So whinge on Pal, whinge on!

    2. NotEverybodyClaimsUC_PipESAExistsToo says:

      Hi @Hugo, You totally missed the point i was trying to make, your frustration is almost palpable to me, albeit aimed at the wrong forum for this topic imho. Im not here to argue the merits or elligability criteria of Person A vs Person B over the benefits system or the binary/arbitory choices desision makers arrive at when accessing claims, nor am I in anyway trying to call out the obvious injustices in such a system but rather, i was simply pointing out the fact that when it comes to THIS POLICY visa ve Social Tarrifs et al that there should be continuity which “includes” legacy benefits, not just UC. There are quite a number of assumtions you make in your reply which for the sake of this thread I’ll resit my impulse to provide a counter argument but instead maybe you should open your eyes and realise not everybody who are provided support via a form of benefit are the stereotypical people as ofter described in the Media as the a typical benefit claiming, obease, Cigarette smoking, Alcoholic, cheating scum, which was kind of how you generalised they were in your reply. Compassion / Empathy goes a very long when trying to better understand others situations or predicaments.
      Enjoy the rest of your day..

  14. james smith says:

    **Pete** I sypyathise 100% with people such as your good self and hope that your operation takes place soon. Nobody should lump you in with people that game the system to claim bucket loads of tax payers money while they knowingly shirk work.
    Where I live cadnet are changeing all the gas pipes, been going on for about 2 years. You’d think that as it is a big job that is to repeat the same procedures over.
    No such thing as getting unemployed people trained up and involved. It can’t take that long to get them the safety papers. You just teach them the parts of the job they need to know as and when.

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