Virgin Media O2 has today doubled down on plans to ensure low-income households are aware of the support available to help them manage their bills this festive season and beyond through communications set to reach millions of households.
From December, more than 5 million Virgin Media broadband, TV and landline customers will receive information in their monthly bills about Essential Broadband and Essential Broadband Plus, the operator’s social tariffs which offer cut price broadband and entertainment to those receiving a range of benefits. The move, which is a first in the industry, is designed to help eligible customers, or their friends and family, be more aware of the support available, with this new measure coming on top of existing information about social tariffs which is already sent to customers when their contract is ending.
Virgin Media O2 is also working closely with local authority partners, including Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Slough Borough Council, Bradford Council and Telford and Wrekin Council, to leverage their local knowledge and help dial up the information on cost-of-living support available through their various community channels and networks. It is anticipated that this will help boost awareness of social tariffs amongst groups in greater need of additional support.
Expanding the reach of the National Databank to highstreets across the UK
Alongside these national awareness raising measures, from today, all company owned O2 stores will start to become National Digital Inclusion Hubs – offering those who need it easy access to 25GB of free O2 data, texts and calls per month. Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation, which founded the National Databank, are also supporting people experiencing and at risk of homelessness this winter by expanding the initiative to charities, Crisis and Change Please – Driving for Change. It means the National Databank will be available at more than 1,600 locations across the UK. People can find their nearest Hub here.
As well as highlighting the existing support on offer, the business has also committed to going further to support customers by launching a dedicated mobile social tariff next year, which will complement the wide range of cheap mobile offers already available by the operator and across the telecoms industry.
Rob Orr, Chief Operations Officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “Having pioneered one of the first broadband social tariffs back in 2020, we know the difference that affordable connectivity can make to people’s lives and we’ve continued to step up to provide support.
“To go further once again, we’re boosting our awareness raising efforts to spread the word about the support measures we’ve put in place. Whether that’s through information on customers’ monthly bills or our collaboration with local authorities across the UK, millions more people will be regularly reminded about our Essential Broadband packages which offer cut-price broadband and entertainment for those facing financial difficulty.
“While we have regularly increased the support on offer, we won’t solve digital exclusion alone, which is why we’re reiterating our call on Government to update its 9-year-old digital inclusion strategy and cut VAT on social tariffs to further help those who need it.”
Virgin Media O2 urges Government to update digital inclusion strategy and cut VAT on social tariffs.
Virgin Media O2 is calling on Government to update its almost decade old Digital Inclusion Strategy to meet the needs of present day. While the telecoms industry provided hundreds of millions of pounds worth of support measures to date, Virgin Media O2 argues that fully addressing issues around affordability, access and usage of digital services will require a Government-led, cross-industry approach.
Alongside calling for the Government to cut VAT on social tariffs from 20% to no more than 5%, in line with other essential items, the telecoms company wants to see:
The telecoms company has committed to passing on any social tariff VAT cut to consumers in full to help generate extra savings for households that need them most.
Cutting price and expanding eligibility of social tariffs
Since becoming one of the first operators to offer a social tariff in 2020, Virgin Media O2 has continued to invest to widen availability and offer even greater value and choice. Last year the business cut the price of Essential Broadband – originally £15 a month – by 16% to £12.50 per month, making it one of the cheapest packages in the market. It also offers a ‘Plus’ tier with 50Mbps speeds for £20 and the option to add Stream, an entertainment product, for an upfront, one-off fee of just £20.
Virgin Media O2 dramatically expanded the number of people eligible for its social tariffs earlier this year after working with the Department for Work and Pensions to implement a new eligibility checker tool. This meant that 9 million people are now eligible to sign up for cut-price broadband, with those receiving Universal Credit, Pension Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, and Income-based Employment Support Allowance all able to apply.
This year alone, Virgin Media O2 has seen an increased uptake of more than 285% in eligible households taking the company’s Essential Broadband services.