Our National Hubs recently focused on the affordability of communications services and consumer debt - click here to find out more

22 March 2021

In January/February 2021, our National Hubs focused on the affordability of communications services and on meeting the needs of communications consumers in debt. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated social inequalities and widened the digital divide, forcing many consumers, citizens and micro-businesses to make difficult financial decisions to remain digitally connected.

In 2020, prior to the pandemic, we published research on the experiences of communications consumers from low-income households. We found that many consumers were prioritising communications payments above essentials such as food and other utilities. Our research recommendations called for providers to better support consumers, where they were not already doing so.

To better understand how affordability of communications services and consumer debt is affecting consumers, citizens and micro-businesses, we sought views from a range of consumer-representative organisations across the UK Nations. We focused on the impacts of affordability of communications services and debt on communications consumers and how the communications sector could help. 

Highlighted below are key messages that emerged from participants at our Hubs across the UK Nations.

  • Digital connectivity needs to be affordable and available to all consumers who want to participate digitally – recognising that it has become an intrinsic part of everyday life.
  • Many consumers, citizens and micro-businesses find it difficult to afford communications services and would benefit from a guaranteed, low-cost service.
  • Availability of initiatives that could make communications services more affordable to UK consumers, citizens and micro-businesses should be promoted more widely.
  • Communications services should be designed inclusively, eliminating unfair premiums experienced by some consumers.
  • Data should be shared securely and ethically across sectors to further understand the needs of financially vulnerable consumers.
  • Policies and practices in the communications sector should be improved on a continuous basis, to better support financially vulnerable consumers.
  • Alongside the need for affordable communications, digital skills must also be improved.

A full summary of our discussions and those who took part can be found here.

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