31 March 2017
In an effort to learn if the communications market is delivering for vulnerable consumers, Ofcom has looked at a range of consumer research on the availability, take-up and affordability of communications services for these consumers, including telecoms, broadcasting and post. The report found internet access among disabled people has increased, from 65% in 2014 to 79% in 2016, however, one in five disabled consumers are not online, and therefore face exclusion issues as a result.
Other findings of concern to the Panel were that 14% of young people (age 16-34), and 18% of consumers who have a long term disability or illness, have experienced difficulty in paying, or have been in debt, for a communication service. Ofcom is proposing that the requirements for providers to have fair debt management policies are extended to mobile and broadband services.
The report confirmed the Panel's concerns that older people as a whole are much less likely to shop around or switch to save money or get a better deal. In addition, as we have highlighted above, less than 10% of eligible consumers are taking up low-income telecoms and broadband tariffs.
The report also confirmed that visually and hearing-impaired consumers are poorly served by on-demand services where subtitles, audio description and sign language are provided far less often than on linear television. Our upcoming research, which will be released later this spring, highlights some of the gaps in provision, technical complexities and deficiencies in access service provision and will make a series of recommendations in this regard.
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