UK telecoms industry agrees plan to help struggling customers | Telecommunications industry

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The UK’s biggest mobile and broadband companies have agreed a plan to help customers struggling to pay their bills amid the cost of living crisis, including measures to enable to switch to cheaper offers without paying a penalty.

The package was agreed at a Downing Street summit co-chaired by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Cost of Living Affairs Czar David Buttress and attended by top executives from the biggest companies telecommunications companies in the country, including BT, Virgin Media O2, Vodafone, Three, Sky and TalkTalk.

The companies, which introduced anti-inflationary increases in household phone and internet bills earlier this year, have agreed a five-point plan of formal commitments to support customers struggling with the surge in the inflation, energy costs and tax hikes.

The commitments, which take effect immediately, notably allow customers struggling with bills to switch to cheaper plans without fees or penalties. Early termination charges can run into the hundreds of pounds if multiple telecommunications services are cancelled.

Other measures include allowing people struggling with bills to switch to manageable repayment plans, and launching and promoting more social tariffs across the sector.

While some companies such as BT have offered social tariffs to vulnerable customers for several years, others, such as Sky and Vodafone, have only recently made these packages available to customers.

“Families across the country are facing heightened anxiety about paying bills,” said Dorries, who wrote to telecom bosses in April asking for better social rate promotion. “The industry is listening and has signed new pledges offering customers struggling with the cost of living help to stay connected.”

According to attendees, leaders suggested the government could also help by reducing VAT on telecom bills to 5%, as has happened in other industry sectors during the coronavirus pandemic.

Other industry-wide commitments include agreeing to treat those struggling with bills with “compassion and understanding” and ensuring the most vulnerable are not cut off.

The government has previously said that while around five million households on benefits are eligible for discounted offers, less than 100,000 have taken them up.

“The telecommunications industry knows that people are facing real challenges with the cost of living crisis,” said Andrew Glover, president of the Association of Internet Service Providers. “Our members are committed to doing what they can to help their customers through this time and, together with the government, we will work to raise awareness of the support available.”

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