The number of families struggling to manage their telecoms bills has doubled over the last year – from 15% to 29% of customers nationwide – the highest level the regulator has recorded.
8 million UK households are facing problems paying their mobile, broadband, pay-TV and streaming bills, prompting the media regulator to call on the biggest telecoms companies to reconsider the inflation-busting price rises planned for the spring.
Ofcom found in its annual affordability survey that one in seven families have cut back spending in other areas, such as on food and clothing, to afford their communication services, while 9% have cancelled a service.
Ofcom called on telecoms providers to scrap the formula used for annual price rises in April. The mechanism – used in some form by many providers including BT, TalkTalk, Shell Energy and Vodafone – increases bills by the rate of inflation in January as measured using the consumer prices index, plus 3.9%.
“The cost of living crisis is putting unprecedented strain in household budgets,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director. “This includes a much stronger emphasis on offering and promoting social tariffs, as well as thinking carefully about whether significant price rises can be justified at a time when the finances of their customers are under such pressure.”
“Restricting the services of someone who is particularly reliant on them, to push them into paying outstanding bills, should be avoided or limited,” said Ofcom. “Disconnection should only ever be used as a last resort.”