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Telecommunications providers should treat vulnerable consumers fairly

Citizens Advice Scotland has called for phone, broadband and pay-TV providers to recognise that vulnerable consumers need extra support in accessing these services.

In a response to a consultation by Ofcom which is seeking to provide guidance to providers on treatment of vulnerable consumers, CAS calls for an inclusive approach which widens the definition of vulnerability to include rurality, and which recognises that consumers can be vulnerable at different times in their lives.

Some of the key asks in the CAS submission include that:

  • Consumers in rural and remote areas should be considered by providers to be vulnerable, due to the poor nature of coverage there.
  • All frontline staff should be trained in dealing with vulnerable consumers, and specialist staff should be available as appropriate when vulnerable people need particular assistance.
  • Consumers should have easy access to their accounts, with a choice of different ways to access them. The Scottish CAB network is aware of cases where customers were unable to access their financial details by phone, and so accrued debts.
  • Debt recovery policies should not cause detriment and providers should consider vulnerability when pursuing debts.

Publishing the response today, CAS spokesperson for Strong Communities, Gillian Fyfe, said,

“The Citizens Advice network sees hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland every year, and we are very aware that many people have difficulty accessing phone, broadband or TV services due to different types of vulnerability.

“Some people are unable to afford these services. For others, they lack the physical ability or skills to use the technology. Others find their geographical location limits the type of telecommunications options they have. This latter category includes many people in remote rural areas in Scotland.   

“These are all types of vulnerability and should be recognised as such by providers, with special efforts made to help enable these consumers to access reliable services.

“We also urge providers to give their customers easy access to manage their accounts, which can help prevent debt problems. This should include providing a choice of platform, both online and non-digital, to ensure that all customers can engage in the way that suits them.”

The full CAS consultation response can be read here.


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