Virgin Media O2 boosts support for benefit claimants in Cost-of-Living Crisis with more savings, speed and streaming

  • Price cut to existing social broadband tariff will benefit customers immediately
  • New superfast ‘Plus’ tariff with option to add discounted Stream TV service launching next month
  • Expanded eligibility criteria will allow more people to benefit as operator doubles-down on call for VAT cuts to social tariffs
  • Moves welcomed by Government Cost of Living Business Tsar and Age UK

London, 11 October 2022: Virgin Media O2 has today boosted its support for those hit hardest by the cost-of-living crisis with a price cut to its existing social tariff and plans to launch a new triple speed social broadband tier with an optional discounted entertainment offer.

The price of basic Essential Broadband, which is specifically targeted at those receiving Universal Credit, with speeds of 15Mbps will drop by 16% to £12.50 per month for all new and existing customers, making it one of the cheapest packages in the market. A new, faster tier called ‘Essential Broadband Plus’ will also launch next month that will deliver speeds of 50Mbps for just £20 per month. All Essential Broadband products come with no fixed-term contract and no activation fees.

The price cut and new speed option build on a range of existing support measures and comes amid a cost-of-living crisis which is most adversely impacting low-income households. Research from Ofcom, published last month, found 8 million UK households are having difficulty affording communications services.

Charities have raised concern in recent months that a lack of internet access is holding people back from essential day-to-day activities – from shopping and entertainment to job searching and access to a range of online services.

The company is also giving Essential Broadband Plus customers the option to add Virgin Media O2’s latest entertainment product, called Stream, for an upfront, one-off fee of just £20 – a 42% saving on the normal £35 charge – with no long-term contract or ongoing charges for the basic package. Stream simply plugs into any TV and seamlessly combines live TV, on-demand apps, popular streaming subscriptions and must-watch movies all in one place with personalisation and flexibility at its core.

Any customer taking Stream can get 10% credit back on the subscriptions they add to the service via their Virgin Media bill, giving customers a more affordable way to subscribe to major streaming services.

Working with Government to make sign-ups easier and prices cheaper

In August, after the Government launched a new tool designed to make it easier for customers to confirm their eligibility for social broadband tariffs, Virgin Media O2 confirmed it was the first provider working to implement the automated checks with integration expected in the coming months. This project, once complete, will also enable Virgin Media O2 to expand the range of benefits in scope for its social tariffs to include Pension Credit amongst others for the first time, allowing more people to access these services.

The provider has also taken proactive steps to publicise the support on offer by including information about Essential Broadband on its website, social media channels and in the communications it sends to customers every year related to their contract.

Along with consumer bodies, including Which?, the business is also calling for a cut in VAT on social tariffs, from 20% to no more than 5%, which is in line with other utilities such as gas and electricity. Virgin Media O2 has committed to directly pass on any VAT cut in a price reduction to all its Essential Broadband plans, which will mean a further price drop to just £10.93 for 15Mbps and £17.50 for 50Mbps packages, helping to generate extra savings for households that need them most each month.

Jeff Dodds, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Media O2 said: “We have a long history of stepping up in tough times and now is no different. Connectivity remains an essential part of our lives, so we are boosting the support we provide to those who need it most in the cost-of-living crisis. We’re taking steps to increase awareness of our social broadband plans, while making it easier to sign up, and are calling on the Government to cut VAT on social tariffs which we will directly pass on, helping those struggling most to save even more.

“Through continued network investment, and a range of products at different price points and speeds, we consistently provide incredible value to customers and will keep playing our part in this challenging climate.”

David Buttress, the Government’s Cost of Living Business Tsar, said: “It is good to see Virgin Media O2 taking clear action to support their customers through the cost of living crisis. By cutting the price of its Essential Broadband social tariff and introducing a new Essential Broadband Plus tariff, it is increasing flexibility, value and choice and giving support to those who need it most, while DWP’s recently launched service is making it easier and faster for eligible customers to access this cheaper broadband.”

Abigail Wood, CEO of Age UK London, said: “Age UK London has been campaigning for all broadband social tariffs to be accessible for older people by adding pension credit to their eligibility criteria, so today’s announcement is great news. Data poverty is a contributing factor to digital exclusion and with the increasing cost of living it’s good to see measures to ensure everyone on a low income, whatever their age, can access to most affordable internet tariffs.”

Building on a range of existing measures and actions

Virgin Media was the one of the first providers to create a broadband social tariff in 2020 and has consistently provided support to vulnerable customers and those struggling to afford connectivity. This has included a fixed price landline service called Talk Protected, tailored support and services to customers with additional needs and help with bill payments for those struggling. It also became the biggest ‘zero-rater’ of support services in the UK after it expanded the list of websites that customers can access without using any mobile data to include fuel poverty, debt advice and financial support organisations earlier in the year.

As part of an ongoing commitment to tackling data poverty, Virgin Media O2 also pioneered the UK’s first ever National Databank, in partnership with charity, Good Things Foundation, to provide free mobile data to people who need it.

Virgin Media O2 is donating more than 61 million GB of free O2 data to the National Databank to help people most affected by the cost of living crisis to stay connected. The National Databank is like a foodbank but for free mobile data, texts, and calls, which can be accessed through more than 600 of Good Things Foundation’s community partners across the UK.

Outside of targeted measures for those receiving benefits or needing financial support, Virgin Media O2 continues to provide its customers with fantastic value. The company delivers the fastest widely available broadband speeds in the market, as well as a range of flexible and customisable mobile packages, and is the only mobile network operator not to have reintroduced EU roaming charges.

Combining Virgin Media broadband and O2 mobile services through the operator’s Volt bundles gives customers added extras and benefits, such as speed and data boosts and access to O2 Priority. The loyalty scheme is frequently updated with new offers and savings which have totalled more than £210m since the app launched in 2011.

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