A charity has accused internet providers of “pricing out” customers after its survey found as many as one million people in the UK may have cut off their broadband due to the cost-of-living crisis.
Citizens Advice warned those on universal credit were six times more likely to have stopped their broadband in the last 12 months, compared with those who had not received the benefit.
The charity also called for better promotion of social tariffs.
Separate Ofcom figures revealed that just 5% of those households eligible for discounted social tariffs were using them – meaning more than 4 million UK households were missing out on savings of up to £200 a year.
It comes after Citizens Advice, a network of charities helping people with legal, debt and consumer advice, warned that mobile and broadband prices could rise by up to 17% this year.
The charity said its survey showed broadband – an increasingly essential service with many job applications, utility bills and local council services moving online – was becoming out of reach for greater numbers of households.
“People are being priced out of internet access at a worrying rate,” said Dame Clare Moriarty, its chief executive,
“Social tariffs should be the industry’s safety net, but firms’ current approach to providing and promoting them clearly isn’t working.”
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She added: “The people losing out as a result are the most likely to disconnect.
“The internet is now an essential part of our lives – vital to managing bills, accessing benefits and staying in touch with loved ones.
“As providers continue to drag their feet in making social tariffs a success, it’s clear that Ofcom needs to hold firms’ feet to the fire.”
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A government spokesperson said it had worked with Ofcom and the industry to introduce a range of “high-quality, low-cost broadband social tariffs” into the market.
“Available in 99% of the UK, these offers start from £10 per month and are currently available from 19 providers.
“As well as this, our broadband eligibility checker simplifies the verification process and improves access to social tariffs for benefit claimants, with major providers Sky and Virgin Media already signed up and others encouraged to follow suit.”
It added that staff at Jobcentre regularly signposted benefit claimants with relevant information on social broadband tariffs.
Citizens Advice’s study was carried out by Walnut Unlimited, which surveyed 6,000 UK adults online including a total of 1,215 people in receipt of universal credit between 9 January and 8 February.
The charity said the figures were then weighted to be nationally representative.