Treating vulnerable customers fairly: a guide for phone, broadband and pay-TV providers

  • Start: 25 September 2019
  • Status: Statement published
  • End: 20 November 2019

This guide suggests measures providers could adopt to help make sure they treat vulnerable people fairly and give them the help, support and services they need. Many providers have already made progress in making sure they treat vulnerable customers fairly, but there is still room to do more.

One of Ofcom’s priorities is to make sure broadband, phone and TV customers, especially vulnerable customers, are treated fairly.  We want vulnerable people to receive a high level of customer care to help them to manage their communications services effectively, and to help them get the right deal for their needs at a fair price. So, we put in place rules – specifically General Conditions C5.1-5.5, which came into force in October 2018 – requiring providers to have policies and procedures in place to make sure vulnerable customers are treated fairly.

Many people already find dealing with essential service providers (for example, energy, water and telecoms companies) a stressful experience. For example, 37% of people who have experienced a mental health problem exhibit significant levels of anxiety when dealing with essential service providers.  If a provider delivers poor service or creates unnecessary difficulties for vulnerable customers, this could make their situation worse.

Anybody can face circumstances that lead to them becoming vulnerable - temporarily or permanently. This might include physical or mental health problems, specific characteristics such as age or literacy skills, or changes in personal circumstances such as bereavement, job loss or changes in household income. The Covid-19 pandemic and the steps taken to protect public health in response have increased the potential for customers’ circumstances to change suddenly, making them more vulnerable.

Main documents

Supporting documents

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Responder name Type
BT (PDF File, 241.7 KB) Organisation
Campaign to Retain Payphones (PDF File, 102.9 KB) Organisation
Citizens Advice (PDF File, 84.4 KB) Organisation
Citizens Advice Scotland (PDF File, 534.1 KB) Organisation
Communications Consumer Panel and ACOD (PDF File, 212.1 KB) Organisation
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