MILLIONS of vulnerable customers with Sky, Plusnet and EE will be automatically switched to cheaper deals saving them £70 a year.
The telecoms providers have agreed to move vulnerable out of contract customers onto cheaper deals.
Exactly which deal they'll be moved to depends on the provider: see the box for more on this.
A vulnerable person is defined by someone who has notified their provider that they need special assistance.
This could include, but isn't limited to, someone with a disability or mental health problem, someone who has experienced a change in circumstance, such as a job loss or a bereavement, or someone over a certain age.
What deals will Sky, Plusnet, and EE offer customers?
HERE'S how each of the providers have promised to help vulnerable customers:
- EE: Will give customers a one-off price reduction that will match the price of its best deal, including those available to new users
- Plusnet: Customers who don't respond will automatically be moved to the best deal, including those available to new users
- Sky: Customers will get an annual price review, which will see them moved to the cheapest out of contract deal
Virgin Media, for example, has specifically extended its definition of vulnerable to automatically include those who are aged 65-plus and who haven't switched or changed their package for at least three years.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom says this will benefit around 1million vulnerable out-of-contract customers by an average of around £70 each a year.
But separate research has found some customers could be paying hundreds more than they need to each year, which means savings could be even bigger.
The problem is that when a broadband customer's initial discount comes to an end this usually leads to a default price rise and they're prevented from switching to the cheapest deals reserved for new customers.
This is known as the "loyalty penalty".
Ofcom reckons around 40 per cent of broadband customers (8.7million) are out of contract. On average, these customers pay around £4.70 a month more than their provider’s average price for their service.
The shake-up only covers broadband though. Ofcom says separate rules published in February already require broadband, home phone and pay TV providers to tell customers:
- when their contract is up;
- what they've been paying until now, and what they'll pay when their contract is up;
- any notice period for leaving their provider; and
- their provider’s best deals, including any prices only available to new customers.
more on broadband bills
These alerts - sent by text, email or letter - must be received between ten and 40 days before your contract comes to an end.
Jane Rumble, Ofcom's director of consumer policy, said: "We’re pleased providers have done the right thing by cutting vulnerable customers’ bills."
Separately, where households are struggling with telecoms bills due to coronavirus, Ofcom has told firms to continue to offer help including cheaper tariffs, for example, where they are in debt and on a high out-of-contract tariff.