Ofcom’s initial findings on affordability of communications services

Ofcom’s initial findings on affordability of communications services

Since Covid-19 pandemic began, Ofcom has collected new information on the affordability of communications services. A report has been published with initial findings.

  • 81% of UK households did not report an affordability problem.
  • On average 19% reported at least one affordability issue with their communications services in the last month (4.7 million households).
  • 6% of households have an affordability issue with fixed broadband, 5% with mobile and 10% with Pay TV. 11% of all households needed to make changes to a package/tariff to make it more affordable. Other issues included reducing spend on other items such as food and clothes (5%), cancelling a service (4%), missing a payment (2%) or changing payment method (2%).
  • Households with somebody currently unemployed and looking for work (38%), young people aged 18-24 (29%), or a resident with an impacting/limiting condition (29%) more likely to experience affordability issues.
  • Data from providers indicates that the proportion of customers in arrears was stable January – September (2% in fixed and 3% in mobile). The proportion of customers in arrears by two or more payments increased by more than half for both fixed services and mobile services in the period to June but declined thereafter.
  • The proportion of customers disconnected for not paying their bills decreased March-May (by more than three-quarters to 0.02% of fixed customers and more than a third to 0.14% of mobile customers). It then increased substantially June-September in both fixed and mobile services (to around 0.3% of customers for each).
  • There is a wide range of relatively low-price internet tariffs, including superfast broadband for in-contract customers for under £25 a month and mobile SIM-only contracts with capped data allowances for under £10 a month. However, some financially vulnerable customers still struggle to stay connected. A few providers currently offer cheaper tariffs to customers based on eligibility criteria, but take-up is currently low.

Ofcom will publish further evidence by the first half of 2021 and set out its assessment of the affordability of communications services, alongside any further necessary steps.

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