The Times - UK (2022-01-24)

(Antfer) #1

20 Monday January 24 2022 | the times


News


Britain’s biggest consumer group has
urged households to help limit the im-
pact of rising bills by haggling with their
telecoms and TV providers.
Which? said households could make
significant savings if they “make a nui-
sance of themselves” by threatening to
move to a different supplier.
As the cost of living soars, its research
suggested that people could make an
average annual savings of nearly £
by haggling — and those willing to
switch could save £200.
The consumer group asked more


Haggle over broadband and TV, customers told


Andrew Ellson
Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Nadeem Badshah


than 5,000 customers whose contracts
had ended on either their mobile,
broadband or TV packages whether
they had haggled or switched. The half
who had haggled reported average
annual savings of £85 on broadband,
£128 on TV and broadband packages
and £35 on mobile bills.
The fifth of people who switched to a
different provider reported saving an
average £35 a year on broadband, £
on TV and broadband packages and
£40 on mobile bills. However, those
who left Virgin Media reported saving
more than £200 a year
The survey found one in five people
did nothing when their contract ended.
The group said these people were most

at risk of overpaying on their bills. Lisa
Barber, Which? home products and
services editor, said: “With the cost of
living soaring, it’s even more important
to cut costs where you can.
“If you are happy with your current
TV, broadband and mobile providers,
don’t be afraid to haggle when your
contract ends as it is easier than you
might think and you could save a lot of
money. If you are not happy with your
provider or are looking to avoid a costly
price hike, or your service is just not
good enough, shop around and
consider switching.”
Meanwhile, Ofcom, the communica-
tions regulator, has advised that those
struggling to pay for their phone or

broadband service should speak to
their provider as soon as possible.A
social tariff is among the options they
can offer, which are generally available
to customers who receive certain gov-
ernment benefits.
Last week BT announced that the
majority of customers would see their
bills increase by more than 9 per cent
from the end of March. The telecoms
company said the increase in broad-
band and phone costs was due to a
“dramatic increase” in data usage over
the past few years.
Affected customers will pay an extra
£3.50 a month on average from 31
March. However, households on cer-
tain packages, as well as those claiming

benefits, will be exempt. Nick Lane,
BT’s managing director for consumer
customer services, wrote in a blog post:
“Price rises are never popular, but are
sometimes a necessary part of business
if we’re to keep up with the rising costs
we face.”
Lane added that factors including
working from home, online education
and television streaming services had
culminated in more demands on BT’s
network and greater running expenses.
“Unlike most things we buy, like food,
electricity or fuel, you don’t pay more
for using more as our data plans are un-
limited, but we need to keep investing in
our networks so they can handle this
huge increase in demand,” he said.

Lone parents, pensioners and families
caring for disabled relatives are likely to
be the hardest hit by the expected rises
in energy bills, research shows.
The New Economics Foundation, a
left-leaning think tank, found that the
burden of increases will disproportion-
ately fall on poorer households with
greater caring responsibilities.
The research found that single-
parent families would have their dis-
posable income eroded by 2.2 per cent
when gas and electricity bills rise in
April, whereas the drop for the average
family would be 1.4 per cent.
The drop in disposable income is
expected to be 2 per cent for pensioners
and 1.7 per cent for families with a dis-
abled member.
International gas prices have soared
due to a cold European winter last year
having depleted gas stocks, as well as
increased demand from Asian eco-
nomies such as China for liquefied nat-
ural gas. The Institute for Fiscal Studies
estimates that overall UK energy bills
will rise by £14 billion year on year.
The foundation’s report estimated
that whereas the poorest 10 per cent of
families would on average lose 5 per
cent of their disposable income, the
wealthiest 10 per cent would lose less
than 1 per cent.
As well as having less in the way of
disposable income to begin with to


Energy bills pain worst for


lone parents and pensioners


George Greenwood cushion the blow, the worst off are also
more likely to occupy draughty,
energy-inefficient properties that
exacerbate the burden of increases in
fuel costs, the report said.
Dominic Caddick, assistant resear-
cher at the foundation, said: “Everyone
deserves to live in a warm, comfortable
home. Soaring gas prices are hitting
households unequally.
“The government needs to respond
quickly by boosting benefits in the short
term. Then they should plan for longer-
term measures like upgrading the
nation’s homes to make them more
energy efficient, and reforming our
social security system so families are
able to weather economic shocks like
these in the years to come.”
The government has been urged to
consider giving those most at risk from
fuel price increases a one-off payment
of £500 to help with the price rises.
Dr Aveek Bhattacharya, chief econo-
mist of the Social Market Foundation, a
cross-party think tank, suggested in a
blog post last week that adopting a US-
style direct cash-relief plan would avoid
overcomplicated solutions to rising
energy prices.
He said: “An emergency cash pay-
ment would have the benefit of being a
clear one-off intervention, whereas
other proposals would risk committing
the government to costly ongoing sub-
sidies that it would find politically diffi-
cult to end.”


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