Ofcom calls for COVID-19 billing support extension

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has called for broadband providers, phone providers and mobile companies to offer continued support to customers struggling to pay their bills due to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that: “The pandemic has changed how we live, with people more dependent than ever on home phones, mobile or broadband services.”

Several providers have offered assistance to customers suffering financial difficulties during the pandemic. This includes BT, which is understood to have relaxed demands for non-payment terms from the usual 30 days to 90 days, and TalkTalk which said it was offering alternative payment options and said that customers shouldn’t fear disconnection if they struggle to pay their bills.

With lockdown gradually lifting across the UK, Ofcom has urged providers to continue such support for customers who “might face financial difficulty and therefore be less able to pay their telecoms bills”, the regulator added “We expect providers to work with customers who find themselves in this situation and explain how they can help them.”

Addressing customers who may be struggling to pay their bills, Ofcom said to “contact your provider as soon as possible if you’re already in financial difficulty or if you think you’re going to struggle to pay your bills. Your provider can talk you through the options they have in place to help you manage your situation”.

The regulator has outlined several steps that it requests providers take: “prioritising support for customers who might be struggling to pay their telecoms bills, offering advice on managing telecoms debt and strengthening their work with consumer bodies and other organisations who could help these customers; offering options to struggling customers, such as a payment plan, a cheaper tariff, or a delay on their payment; making sure customers still get the level of telecoms service they’re used to if they’ve asked for support, avoiding penalty charges such as late payment fees; and avoiding disconnection for these customers and treating it only as a last resort.”

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