Ofcom has told telecoms and broadband providers that they must do more to give support to the 1.1 million UK households that are struggling to pay for their phone and broadband packages.
Amid a worrying cost of living crisis, around one in 10 of the lowest-income homes are finding it difficult to afford services and amenities that are a vital part of modern life.
The cost of broadband, in particular, has become an issue as several companies have hiked prices well above the current rate of inflation, which stands at 5.5% and is set to increase further.
To ease the pressure, Ofcom’s Lindsey Fussell said that the regulator is setting out “clear expectations” for operators so that they provide adequate support and treat customers fairly.
The proposals include the need to offer help to those struggling to pay bills and an emphasis on using different communication channels to ensure that everyone is contacted.
“Many households’ budgets are being seriously squeezed. So it’s crucial that people who are struggling to afford their bills get the support they need,” Fussell noted.
Ofcom wants this support to include clearer signposts for cheaper deals, payment deferrals and other “social tariffs”, which could help families save approximately £144 every year on broadband.
Research by price comparison site Uswitch found that two-thirds of customers are unaware that there are broadband packages available for financially vulnerable customers.
Ofcom is also advising against disconnections or restrictions of services as a means of forcing customers to pay outstanding bills.
The regulator said that providers should follow the new best practices and that it will be keeping a “close eye” on them to this end.