If you’re on universal credit, pension credit or similar benefits, you may be able to slash your broadband bill by switching to a social tariff. Find out which providers offer social tariffs and how to check if you are eligible.
Broadband prices have rocketed in the last year, with even the cost of the best broadband deals rising.
Worryingly, Citizens Advice found that up to one million customers cancelled their broadband package between May 2022 and May 2023 amid the cost of living crisis. What many people didn’t realise is that they could have kept their connection and paid less for their broadband on a social tariff.
With millions missing out on savings of around £200 a year, in this guide we take you through what are social tariffs, if you are eligible, and how to find the cheapest social tariffs.
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What are social tariffs for broadband?
Social tariffs are a way of getting broadband at a lower price if you are on government benefits such as universal credit, pension credit or equivalent benefits. Regulator Ofcom says they are available to an estimated 4.3 million households, but four million households are missing out.
While social tariffs are cheaper than standard broadband packages, short-lived promo deals may have cheaper headline prices as they come with sign-up incentives for new customers, such as shopping vouchers or bill credit.
However, more than half of low-income households are unaware of social broadband tariffs, according to Ofcom, with just 5% of eligible households signed up. This means millions are missing out on average savings of around £200 a year.
Am I eligible?
If you’re worried about going through a complicated application process to see if you’re eligible for social tariffs for broadband, don’t worry. Broadband providers can now run instant online checks to see if you qualify, based on the five means-tested benefits.
Eligibility criteria varies by firm (see table below), but most broadband providers require you to receive one of the following means-tested benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
Typically, those who receive Guarantee Credit, which is a supplement to Pension Credit, also qualify for this.
What social tariffs for broadband are there?
We’ve compiled a list of the social tariffs offered by broadband providers and their eligibility criteria (all for new and existing customers unless stated). Not all broadband providers are nationwide, so you’ll also need to live in an area that supplier covers.
Broadband providers offering social tariffs
|Provider and tariff||Monthly cost and speed||Eligibility||How to apply|
|BT Home Essentials||- £15 for 36Mb - £20 for 67Mb - One-off £9.99 fee||- Employment and support allowance (income-based) - Guarantee credit element of pension credit - Income support - Jobseeker's allowance (income-based) - Universal credit||Apply online at BT or in store. You'll need to provide your National Insurance number. BT also offers a landline only package for people on benefits for £10/month,|
|Country Connect Social Tariff (no line)||£15 for 50Mb||- Employment and support allowance (income-based) - Guarantee credit element of pension credit - Income support - Jobseeker's allowance (income-based) - Universal credit||Call 01633530519. You'll need to provide your National Insurance number|
|G Network Essential Fibre (London only) (no line)||£15 for 50Mb||- Employment and support allowance (income-based) - Guarantee credit element of pension credit - Income support - Jobseeker's allowance (income-based) - Universal credit||Call 08081963661 or email essentialf[email protected]. You'll need to provide evidence of your benefits|
|Hyperoptic Fair Fibre||- £15 for 50Mb - £25 for 150Mb||- Attendance allowance - Care leavers support - Employment and support allowance (income-based) - Housing benefit - Income support - Jobseeker's allowance (income-based) - Pension credit - Personal independence payment - Universal credit||Call 02033183209 or email [email protected]. You'll need to provide evidence of your benefits|
|KCOM Full Fibre Flex (East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire only)||- £14.99 for 30Mb||- Attendance allowance - Care leavers - Employment and support allowance (income-based) - Housing benefit - Income support - Jobseeker's allowance - Pension credit - Personal independence payment - Universal credit (and out of work)||Apply online (enter your postcode then click the 'Flex options available' link). You'll need to provide evidence of your benefits|
|Now Broadband Basics (existing Now broadband customers only)||- £20 for 36Mb||- Pension credit - Universal credit||Call 0333 759 5056. You'll need to provide evidence of your benefits|
|Shell Essentials Broadband||- £15 for 11Mb - £20 for 38mb||- Employment and Support Allowance - Jobseeker's Allowance - Income Support - Pension Credit - Universal Credit||For new customers, you'll need to call on 0330175 9942. If you're an existing customer, call and quote "upgrade" when prompted at 03300949181|
|Sky Broadband Basics (existing Sky broadband customers only)||- £20 for 36Mb||- Pension credit - Universal credit||Call 03337593881. You'll need to provide your National Insurance number. Note the tariff only lasts for 18 months, so diarise to call and cancel before you end up on Sky's normal deal.|
|Virgin Media Essential (no line)||- £12.50 for 15Mb - £20 for 54Mb||- Universal credit and in area Virgin covers (55% of country)||Existing customers: Fill in online form New customers: Apply online You'll need to provide a screenshot of your online universal credit account|
|Vodafone Essentials Broadband||- £12 for 38Mb - £20 for 73mb||- Disability allowance - Employment and support allowance - Jobseekers allowance - Personal independence payment - Universal credit - Pension credit||Complete this online form.|
Should I get a social tariff for broadband?
Social tariffs for broadband are designed to be affordable and help people who are struggling avoid losing the internet. If you want to save money on your broadband bill, you won’t find many deals that are cheaper than these.
What a lot of people think is that with low costs comes poor-quality broadband speed. However, these social tariffs also come with many advantages.
Advantages of social tariffs for broadband
However, not all social tariffs for broadband come with the above benefits. There are some shortcomings as well.
Disadvantages of social tariffs for broadband
Alternatively, you can use SIM only deals for your mobile phone.
Ultimately, try to get a broadband deal that works best for you. Think about what you need to use the internet connection for, how many people will share it, and how good the speed is.
How do I apply for a social tariff?
You need to first check if your current broadband provider offers any social tariffs (see the table above). You can apply for most tariffs online, or call your broadband provider and ask to switch.
If your broadband provider doesn’t offer you any social tariffs, you can switch to one that does. Read our guide to learn how to switch your broadband provider without paying a penalty fee.
However, be aware that many social tariffs don’t appear on broadband switching sites or even if you enter your postcode on a provider’s website. There are usually dedicated social tariff webpages, or you need to contact providers through email or phone.
When you sign up, you need to provide evidence of your eligibility, which can include a photo of your benefits statement. Keep in mind that only the person receiving the benefits can apply for social tariffs.
Can I get free broadband?
There is one offer which is not a social tariff but allows you free broadband. TalkTalk, in collaboration with Jobcentre Plus, is offering six months of free 35Mb broadband for jobseekers. This normally costs £23 a month.
To qualify, you should not have broadband and need to be a jobseeker on universal credit. You can leave after six months as there is no contract.
What happens if I stop receiving benefits?
Regular checks will be carried out by broadband providers (typically at the end of each contract term) to see if you still qualify for social tariffs.
If you are no longer eligible, the broadband provider will move you to one of their standard services. This is the easiest option as it is hassle-free and won’t stop your broadband service. However, keep in mind that this may not be the cheapest option.
If you’re unable to afford the broadband service you have been put on, make sure to contact your broadband provider as soon as possible.
What if I can't get a social tariff?
What to do if you're struggling to pay your broadband bill
Always speak to your broadband provider if you think you won’t be able to pay your monthly broadband bill. Many broadband providers have schemes in place to help customers with financial struggles.
Some of these support schemes include changing your bill date and setting up an affordable repayment plan. Some broadband providers might also move you to a different tariff or lower your spending cap.
Ofcom has demanded that broadband providers should do everything they can to keep customers’ broadband running.
The regulator said, “Providers should only commence debt collection activities after a sufficient period of time (for example, at least three months) to allow consumers to get help and only disconnect consumers as a last resort.
“We have called on providers to revisit their debt and disconnection practices, to ensure sufficient support is offered to customers who may be struggling to pay their bills.”
Find out what help is available if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills.