17 May 2024 | Posted In Money advice news

Ofcom, the regulator for communications services, has published research that looks at the experiences of telecoms customers and the information from their telecoms provider on debt support.

The research explored whether customers had experienced telecoms debt in 2023 (i.e. having missed one or more payment to their telecoms provider between January and November) and where they looked or would look (if they did not have any recent telecoms debt experience) for information about support.

In addition, in line with the measures in Ofcom’s treating vulnerable customers fairly guide, the research looked at whether these customers could find information about support from their provider and in those cases where they contacted providers, which communication channel they used.

The consumer research found that over nine in ten (94%) account holders of landline, fixed broadband and/or mobile services had not missed a telecoms payment since the start of 2023, while 93% of the sample had not looked for any telecoms debt support information during the same period. Five percent of the sample were account holders for landline and/or fixed broadband and/or a mobile service and claimed to have missed one or more telecoms payment since the start of 2023.

While only indicative, around half (53%) of those who claimed to have experienced debt in 2023 recalled receiving information from their provider indicating that they offer support to customers who are unable or struggling to pay their bill.

Telecoms customers who looked for information about debt support were most likely to have looked to their provider for this information, with websites, phone calls and written information playing an important role:

  • Just over 4 in 5 of those who had looked for information about debt support5 had turned to their provider (83%).
  • Of those who turned to their provider for debt support information, visiting their provider’s website and contacting their provider by phone or in writing (e.g. via email or letter) were the most popular sources.
  • The research found that those who had looked for support information through their provider, were able to find it from the sources they looked at.

Among those with no claimed experience of telecoms debt in 2023, provider websites, phone calls and written information could also play an important role as potential sources of information should they find themselves struggling or unable to pay:

  • When asking respondents who had not missed a payment in 2023 where they would think to look for information about debt support if they were unable or struggling to pay, the most popular sources for advice were their providers (48%), friends and family (32%) and a charity/organisation that gives free debt advice (22%).
  • When asked specifically about debt support information available through their provider, the most popular sources were provider websites (53%) and direct contact with their provider by phone or in writing (51%), whilst around one in five would turn to provider apps (17%) and online accounts (18%).

Following on from this research Ofcom will continue to monitor how providers are supporting customers who find them themselves in debt or struggling to pay, alongside the other areas we identified in our vulnerability guide.

Read more here.