A new scheme allows broadband and mobile providers to check on the benefit eligibility of their customers with the DWP, since apparently only 1.2% of those that are able to take discounted ‘social tariff’ offers do so.
The government reckons only 1.2% of those eligible are using the ‘social tariff’ scheme, which offers people on Universal Credit and other benefits discounted broadband and mobile deals, possibly as they haven’t heard about them.
In response the government is now trying to make a bit more of a noise about the discounts by introducing a new system which allows telcos to verify whether customers are in receipt of a relevant benefit and therefore eligible for extra financial support, once they have been given permission to contact the Department of Work and Pensions by the customer. The idea seems to be that they then get in touch with the customer and let them know about the discounts.
The scheme will go live next week and it seems VMO2 are in on the action early, announcing that they will use the system to verify eligible customers signing up to their Essential Broadband tariff, and waive early termination fees for those moving from existing tariffs.
“Times are tough and families across the country are feeling the pinch, so we’re making it easier for companies to reduce phone and broadband bills for struggling families,” said cost of Living Business Tsar David Buttress. “Some of the biggest network operators have already committed to take advantage of this new scheme and we want to see other providers follow their lead so that everyone eligible for a social tariff can access one. This is just one of the ways that we’re working with businesses to offer help through our Help for Households campaign, building on the comprehensive £37 billion package of support already being provided by Government.”
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey added: “It’s more important than ever that people get the financial support available to them, including cheaper broadband for benefit claimants, and this change makes these social tariffs even easier to access. I’d like to thank those providers leading the way in moving customers over to discount rates, and I encourage others to follow suit to help millions of households to cut bills.”
The government has already asked to telcos to do a bit more in terms of raising awareness of the schemes in a the shape of a letter to operators from Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries, which asked them to ‘outline plans for promoting low-cost social tariffs’ for people on benefits.’ Clearly it thinks making telcos check whether customers have discounts coming their way and then getting in touch one by one is the next logical step, though a government marketing campaign might also have helped.