Three loopholes that could see you miss out on cheap broadband tariffs cutting bills by £256 a year | The Sun

MILLIONS of hard-up households are eligible for cheap broadband tariffs – but many are missing out.

Estimates suggest that 4.3million households could slash their annual bill by £256 with a social tariff.

The average broadband bill costs £33.35 or £400 a year, according to the price comparison website MoneySuperMarket – so it's worth checking if you can save with one of these cheaper contracts.

The Sun has long been campaigning for providers to introduce – and better promote – social tariffs to help the most hard-up households.

We even launched a tool with cost of living champions Nous last year to help highlight how much customers can save with social broadband tariffs. 

Ofcom recently slammed some providers for "hiding" social tariffs from eligible customers.

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But many households on low incomes are falling through gaps in the scheme when they do come to apply, leaving them stuck on more expensive deals.

Some customers who do know about the cheap tariffs have called up their providers to be told the tariff doesn't exist or that they must pay an exit fee, Benefits and Work reports.

That's despite most companies offering the cheaper deals saying they don't impose a penalty on customers leaving a contract early if they are moving to a social tariff with the same firm.

One customer told the website, which helps people claim the benefits they are entitled to, how one provider's customer service agents repeatedly said that they'd have to pay an exit fee to switch to the social tariff.

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Another complained that Vodafone said the same after they queried about moving to its own social broadband tariff.

A Vodafone spokesperson said: "We're sorry that a customer received incorrect information about switching to social broadband.

"We want all eligible customers to know that they can switch without a set-up fee, leave for free, and they are also protected from price rises."

Sara Williams, debt expert and founder of Debt Camel said: "The uptake of social tariffs is very disappointing.

"Customers shouldn't have to wait until the end of their current contract to avoid an exit fee just so they can switch to a deal they're entitled to."

Another major stumbling block is those on certain benefits discovering they're not entitled to social tariffs.

Each broadband provider can set its own eligibility requirements – and they can vary between firms.

For example, almost all providers allow claimants on Universal Credit to get the cheaper tariff.

But those on some legacy benefits based on income and contributions often find themselves ineligible.

One customer told Benefits and Work: "My employment and support allowance [ESA[ is legacy contribution based (after nearly 10 years, still!).

"So I can't get the tariff.  Even though I haven't 'contributed' since 2014."

Sara said: "Ofcom needs to make the process simpler so that all firms use the same eligibility to reduce these inequalities."

Another major loophole which could leave a claimant ineligible for cheap social broadband is the issue of who pays the bill.

For example, if you're eligible for a cheap tariff because of the benefits you claim, you won't be able to sign up if another member of your household pays the bill or line rental.

One claimant told Benefits and Work: "I wanted to sign up for BT's social tariff broadband, but it is only available with line rental included.

"I live with my parents and the phone line is theirs, I have a separate broadband contract (my parents don't use the internet).  So I can't take up this service."

Ofcom has a list on its website of all the providers that offer the tariffs too.

To make it even easier, we've listed all the social tariffs available right now below.

Which providers offer social tariffs?


BT offers customers on selected benefits a low-cost 12-month contract costing £15 a month.

Average broadband speeds for the tariff are rated at 36Mb. You can check to see if your home is BT-ready by using the firm's postcode checker on its website.

You'll need to be in receipt of the following benefits to be eligible:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension credit (guarantee credit)
  • Employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Jobseeker's allowance
  • Income support

Customers can also get faster speeds with the BT Home Essentials 2 tariff which costs £20 a month.

Check if you're eligible on BT's website.


Now's Broadband Basics package is open to all those who receive Universal Credit and pension credit.

You can grab a 36Mbps contract for £20 a month on a 30-day rolling basis.

If you're interested in the package you'll need to ring Now on 0333 759 5056.


Like Now, those receiving Universal Credit and pension credit are eligible for Sky's social broadband tariff – dubbed Broadband Basics.

It'll set you back £20 a month over an 18-month term and it'll give you speeds up to 36Mbps.

To check if you're eligible and to apply for the tariff you'll need to call Sky on 0333 759 3898.

Virgin Media

Virgin's social broadband package costs just £12.50 a month on a 30-day rolling basis.

Anyone receiving one of the following state benefits can get the service:

  • Income-based employment support allowance (I-ESA)
  • Income-based jobseekers allowance (I-JSA)
  • Income support
  • Pension credit
  • Universal Credit

If you want to subscribe to an Essential broadband package, you will need to provide your full name, postcode and date of birth, and confirm your consent to Virgin Media to perform an eligibility check.

Visit the Virgin Media website and sign up through the live chat function.


Vodafone's Essentials Broadband costs just £12 a month and comes with 38Mbps download speeds.

Anyone receiving one of the following state benefits can get the service:

  • Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA)
  • Universal Credit
  • Employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Disability living allowance (DLA)
  • Personal independence payment (PIP)

Existing Vodafone customers that have been identified as financially vulnerable can also get the service.

Visit the Vodafone UK website to sign up for Vodafone Essentials Broadband.

Alternatively, you can visit a Vodafone store or call the customer service team on 0333 304 0191.


Customers living in several of the UK's biggest cities including London, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow are able to take advantage of Hyperoptic's Fair Fibre plans.

The firm offers four social broadband tariffs priced between £15 and £28 a month and covering speeds between 50Mbs and 150Mbs.

The contracts are also set up on a 30-day rolling basis which means you can cancel the contract with more flexibility than other longer tariffs.

To be eligible you'll need to be in receipt of at least one of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension credit (guarantee credit)
  • Employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Jobseeker's allowance
  • Income support
  • Personal independence payments (PIP)
  • Care leavers support

You can apply over the phone by calling 0333 920 9747 or emailing [email protected].

Do any other firms offer social tariffs?

A number of other smaller regions firms offer social broadband tariffs.

You'll have to check directly to see if your region is eligible.

The total amount you'll save will also vary depending on which provider you switch to.

4th Utility Social Tariff

  • £13.99 a month
  • 30 Mbit/s speed

Community Fibre Essential

  • £12.50 a month
  • 20 Mbit/s speed

Connect Fibre Basic Essentials

  • £20 a month
  • 50 Mbit/s speed

Country Connect Social Tariff

  • £15 a month
  • 50 Mbit/s speed

G. Network Essential Fibre Broadband

  • £15 a month
  • 50 Mbit/s speed

Grayshott Gigabit Connect

  • £19 a month
  • 100 Mbit/s speed

Hey! Broadband Everyday Fibre

  • £17 a month
  • 100 Mbit/s speed


  • £14.99 a month
  • 30 Mbit/s speed

Lightning Fibre Social Tariff

  • £15 a month
  • 50 Mbits/s speed

Lothian Broadband Social Tariff

  • £19.99 a month
  • 100 Mbits/s speed

Run Fibre Social Tariff

  • £20 a month
  • 100 Mbit/s speed

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Wildanet Helping Hand Social Tariff

  • £20 a month
  • 30-100 Mbits/s speed

WightFibre Essential Broadband

  • £16.50 a month
  • 100 Mbit/s speed

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