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Mobile and broadband firms meet ministers to help people facing cost of living difficulties  

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The UK’s biggest broadband and mobile operators have today met with the government to follow up on commitments agreed in the summer to support customers with the cost of living.

Digital minister Julia Lopez called together leaders from the telecoms sector – including BT, Virgin Media, O2, Sky, Vodafone, TalkTalk, Three Mobile, Hyperoptic and Ofcom – at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for an update on work to boost awareness of social tariffs.

Minister Lopez urged the sector to commit to raising awareness of these affordable deals available for people in receipt of Universal Credit, which could save them up to £180 per year when compared to the average tariff.

An Ofcom report in September found that only 31 per cent of eligible groups were aware that social tariffs were available, despite them being available in 99 per cent of the UK to reach those who need the support most.

The meeting took place on the day the government launched a UK-wide public awareness campaign as part of its Help for Households programme. The campaign aims to help people through the cost of living this winter and will help increase awareness and uptake of the cut-price broadband and mobile deals available to help those struggling with bills.

As well as agreeing to make vital steps to make sure eligible customers know about social tariffs starting from as little as £10, the industry agreed to share insight into the barriers beyond consumer awareness that are preventing households from taking up social tariffs.

The Minister also reminded broadband and mobile companies to be mindful of the impact price rises have on households struggling with the global rise in the cost of living.

In a move welcomed by the government, attendee Hyperoptic also marked the occasion by announcing that they will be dropping the price of their fastest speed social tariff from £25 to just £20.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez, said: “Helping families manage the cost of living is a priority for this winter and beyond. It is vital to find out what more we and the telecoms industry can do to support families worried about their bills.

“Everyone should have access to affordable mobile and broadband services. Today we agreed that more has to be done to raise awareness of social tariffs and stressed the impact price increases have on people and families up and down the country.”

Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression Mims Davies said: “We have already made it easier for vulnerable families receiving certain benefits to access cheaper broadband rates through our automatic verification system. I do welcome today’s discussion which further shows our commitment to working innovatively with industry to keep low-income families connected and able to progress as a result of this support.

“Social tariffs are just one of the ways we are assisting households at this challenging time, with millions already receiving £1,200 in direct payments and more on the way next year. I encourage anyone who thinks they might be entitled to further support to check their eligibility via our online benefits calculator.”

The move follows a roundtable in June where the Government and operators agreed a raft of new commitments to support people with rising costs, including more manageable payments and switching to a cheaper deal free-of-charge.

Following this, the Department for Work and Pensions also launched a new service to verify – with customers’ permission – whether they are in receipt of a relevant benefit and therefore eligible for extra financial support such as a social tariff. The new system will simplify the process by removing the need for customers to prove their entitlement to broadband providers as regularly as every month.

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