Internet firms offered DWP benefit-checking service in bid to cut household broadband bills
Government claims that only 1.2% of eligible recipients have so far taken advantage of social tariff
Internet service providers are to be offered the chance to use a new checking service powered by benefit data from the Department for Work and Pensions to help ensure citizens are taking advantage of discounts for which they are eligible.
Government is calling on all ISPs and mobile network providers to offer social tariffs, which provide discounted communications services for qualifying customers – typically those who are in receipt of Universal Credit or other state benefits. The reductions can add up to more than £100 a year, according to the government.
A number of leading broadband firms – including BT, Virgin, Now and Sky – already offer such discounted rates. Government claims that residents in 99% of the UK can now take advantage of a social tariff from at least one provider, but that only 1.2% of eligible citizens have thus far the claimed the reduction in connectivity bills to which they are entitled.
To help increase this percentage – and remove complexity for ISPs yet to offer a social tariff – a service to be launched next week will allow communications firms to connect directly with DWP systems to check customers’ eligibility for discounts. These checks will require the consent of the individual in question, and the government said that “DWP will minimise the information provided, sharing nothing other than confirmation that the person is entitled to a qualifying benefit at the time of contact”.
Virgin Media O2 has already indicated it will use the DWP service to verify claims for its social tariff offer, and has also indicated it will waive early-termination fees for customers changing or cancelling services.
Digital secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Social tariffs are vital for families struggling with bills, keeping them connected even in tough times. Our discussion with broadband companies led to the range of social tariffs on the market today and we’ve secured a raft of new cost-of-living commitments from them to ensure help is available for anyone that needs it. I urge anyone concerned about falling behind on payments to contact their supplier to see what support is available.”
Government said that the social tariffs agreed with ISPs are one of a number of deals it has brokered with firms to offer savings to citizens impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. Other government-backed initiatives include “a curated set of back-to-school deals from Amazon” and an offer providing £3 entry tickets to London Zoo or Whipsnade.
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