Mobile and Internet ‘essential’ to UK consumers

UK consumers believe that they can’t do without the Internet and mobile phones, Ofcom research reveals.

The media regulator examined which communications services UK consumers consider ‘essential’ in their day to day lives and whether they are affordable, particularly for the most vulnerable in society. This forms part of Ofcom’s ongoing work to ensure consumers receive value for money from their communications services.

The study found that telephone services, in particular mobiles, and Internet access were most essential to UK consumers. Some 61 per cent of consumers rated voice services (mobile or landline) as essential, 59 per cent considered mobile voice or text services as essential, while 57 per cent regarded personal internet access as essential.

The research also revealed that certain services are considered essential by some, but less important by others, with age being a key factor. Landline telephone services are considered essential by people aged 75 and above (61 per cent), compared to just 12 per cent of 16-24 year olds. However, accessing the internet via a smartphone was considered essential to 53 per cent of 16-24 year olds, but to no one aged 75 and above.

Ofcom also examined the affordability of essential communications services. Among those consumers who said they were responsible for paying for them, 86 per cent said they never had difficulties meeting the costs.

This is consistent with previous Ofcom showing that consumers had benefitted from falling prices and an increase in choice and quality over the last 10 years.

The high take-up of essential communication services shows that, in most cases, cost is not a barrier to use. Some 95 per cent of households have at least one mobile phone, 84 per cent have a landline and 82 per cent an internet connection.

But for some consumers, particularly those in low income households, cost is a reason for not having a desired service. This applies particularly to broadband, with 7 per cent of consumers saying they would like to have broadband but don’t because of the cost.

Ofcom has a programme of work to help consumers who face debt or are excluded from using communications services because of cost. This includes:

* improving links between debt charities and communication providers to encourage them to be more responsive to the changing circumstances of consumers;
* improving awareness of the most affordable deals. Ofcom has already published a consumer guide on ‘;
* reporting annually on the prevalence of debt and cost as barriers to participation;
* improving switching processes and an examination of whether there are any particular barriers to switching for low income consumers.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “While it’s encouraging that the majority of people don’t experience difficulties paying for their communications services, it’s important that help is available for those who do. We’re working to ensure that all consumers can benefit from the communications services which are most important for modern life.”

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