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

Published: 25 September 2019
Consultation closes: 20 November 2019
Status: Closed (statement published)

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.

Update 29 September 2022 – additional measures to ensure customers in debt or struggling to pay are treated fairly

In March 2022, we consulted on a proposal to amend the guide with additional good practice measures to ensure customers in debt or struggling to pay are treated fairly, particularly relating to engagement with customers and emphasising provider support; strengthening links to the free debt advice sector; measures taken by providers to effect payment; and social tariffs.

We received responses from providers, consumer bodies, debt advice organisations and other organisations and carefully considered these before amending our guide. We published a statement (PDF, 609.4 KB) following this consultation, as well as stakeholder responses.

We have also updated the guide to reflect changes to the General Conditions that have occurred since its original publication.

Supporting documents


Contact information

Vulnerability Project Team
Competition & Consumer Enforcement Team
Riverside House
2A Southwark Bridge Road
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