Money Wellness
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calendar icon13 Dec 2023

Use of social tariffs doubles in a year – could you be entitled to cheap broadband and mobile phone contracts?

More than 380,000 households have signed up for social tariffs in the 12 months to September, according to industry regulator, Ofcom.

However, only half (55%) of the people eligible for them are aware of their existence with around 8.3% of those they’re designed to help claiming them.

Also known as ‘essential’ or ‘basic’ broadband’, social tariffs are cheaper broadband and phone packages available for people claiming universal credit, pension credit and some other benefits.

BT has the largest share of broadband customers taking a social tariff (72%), followed by Sky (13%), Virgin Media (6%), Vodaphone (4%), KCOM (1%) and Shell Energy (0.3%).

TalkTalk is the only major broadband provider not to offer a social tariff.

What are social tariffs?

Social tariffs are cheaper broadband and phone packages for people claiming universal credit, pension credit and some other benefits. Some providers call them ‘essential’ or ‘basic’ broadband.

They’re delivered in the same way as normal packages, just at a lower price.

How social tariffs can benefit you:

  • Social tariffs are cheaper than regular packages – they currently range from £10 to £23
  • Social tariffs offer fast, unlimited broadband at speeds over 30 Mbit/s – fast enough for you to keep in touch with friends and family, stream HD films or shop online
  • They cost next to nothing – or very little - to set up. Your provider will tell you the cost before you sign up
  • They’ll cost you nothing to switch to (if your provider offers social tariff) and you can move across at any time
  • The price won’t go up mid-contract like most standard contracts, so you won’t pay any more than you agree at the start of the contract
  • It’ll cost you nothing to leave – social tariff contracts don’t have early exit penalties

Who is eligible for social tariffs?

If you or someone in your household claims universal credit, you could switch to any of the tariffs available.

All major providers also include people on pension credit, employment and support allowance, jobseekers allowance and income support.

Some providers might also include additional benefits, like personal independence payment and attendance allowance.

The person receiving the benefit needs to be the main person on the contract.

How do you apply for a social tariff?

According to Ofgem, first check if your current provider offers a social tariff. You can apply for most tariffs online, or call your provider and ask to switch.

If your provider doesn’t offer a social tariff, you can switch to one that does. Your provider might let you leave your current contract without paying a penalty fee.

Visit Ofgem for a list of all the providers offering social tariffs.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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