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Telecoms must identify vulnerable customers before Consumer Duty deadline, as 1 million disconnect broadband due to affordability

Citizens Advice today announced that 1 million people have disconnected their broadband in the last year due to affordability – which comes amid increasing calls over the past year for telecom providers to provide better social tariffs.

From July, changes to Consumer Duty legislation will put more onus on providers to proactively identify their vulnerable customers and apply social tariffs. Data and business consultancy Sagacity specializes in helping companies across telco, energy, and water identify vulnerable customers. CEO and co-founder Anita Dougall warns that broadband providers must get on the front foot about having a clear strategy for how they are going to identify vulnerable customers going forwards. She shares insights on how the latest technology and third-party data can help providers build a better picture of their customers’ financial situations.

“The fact that one million people have disconnected their broadband in the last year because they couldn’t afford it a very worrying sign of the times. Broadband is no longer a ‘nice to have’; it’s an essential. There are a couple of elements at play here though: firstly, broadband providers haven’t always offered low-cost social tariffs. Unlike the water industry where customers are locked in and social tariffs are offered, broadband customers have always been able to switch providers if they can find a cheaper deal and they aren’t locked into an expensive contract.

“Secondly, financially vulnerable people aren’t always forthcoming in asking for help, so providers need to proactively identify them, which poses a serious data challenge. Companies often don’t have the expertise to compile and analyse the data they need, and they don’t always have access to external data that can highlight if someone is financially vulnerable, such as benefits, pensions and affordability information.

“Ultimately, though, identifying financially vulnerable customers and putting them onto an affordable tariff is possible, as long as providers get their data in order and seek outside help where needed. People rely on broadband to work and educate their children, and with Consumer Duty coming into play in July, it’s vital that providers get on the front foot about their strategies for identifying those who might be financially struggling.”

Lisa Baker is Group Editor for the Need to See IT Publishing Group. Lisa writes about HR, Technology, Health, the Environment and Business.
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