If you’re struggling to pay your phone or broadband bill during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, you should speak to your provider as soon as possible to see how they can help.
As the pandemic continues and renewed lockdown measures see people spending more time at home, they are more dependent than ever on their home phones, mobile or broadband services.
We expect providers to take extra measures to make sure customers in debt are treated fairly. Providers have already put in place measures to support customers during this challenging period, and we’ve called on them (PDF, 152.4 KB) to make sure they continue to offer support to customers who might be struggling to pay their bills.
Our vulnerability guide sets out the measures that providers can adopt to help make sure they treat vulnerable people fairly and give them the help, support and services they need.
Examples of how they can do this include:
- using a range of communication channels when contacting customers about their debt before taking any follow-up action, including enforcement or debt recovery;
- allowing customers some time to get help, support and advice on how to manage their debts without the threat of enforcement action or disconnection during the same period;
- considering offering payment holidays or deferrals; freezing additional fees and charges where customers are experiencing problem debt, particularly while they are seeking debt help and advice;
- offering advice on tariffs, for example switching to a cheaper tariff or social tariff;
- discuss and agree a realistic and reasonable payment plan which is flexible and repayable over a period of time – this should be based on the customer’s ability to pay and providers should help the customer understand any additional costs involved; and
- preventing customers from being disconnected, and treating disconnection only as a last resort.
During the first lockdown we asked providers to go further in some areas by putting in place additional support for customers. These measures include:
- engage proactively with consumers who are struggling to pay their bills;
- where a customer is actively engaging with and seeking support, providers should not impose any service restrictions and should waive any late payment penalty charges or early termination charge.
- where a customer is actively engaging with and seeking support, providers should also limit debt collection activity and remove the threat of disconnection; and
- providers should only begin debt collection activities after giving customers enough time to get help, and should only disconnect consumers as a last resort and after a sufficient period of time. We suggested a sufficient period of time could, for example, be after a period of three months.
We recently wrote to providers asking them to revisit the support they have available against our vulnerability guide and the additional measures set out above. We feel these combined measures will help to ensure fair treatment of consumers who might be vulnerable during this latest period of lockdown and further restrictions.