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More than five million Brits unable to pay essential bills since Covid pandemic started

Calls have been made for phone networks to cancel mid-contract price hikes
Calls have been made for phone networks to cancel mid-contract price hikes

More than five million Brits have been unable to pay their essential bills since the Covid pandemic began.

A new survey conducted by YouGov also showed that more than one in three Brits (38%) admitted that a small increase in household or utility bills would cause them to worry financially.

9% of those surveyed were unable to pay essential bills.

Phone contracts were another major worry, with one in eight people fearing a mobile phone disconnection due to arrears, and two in five believing their phones had become more essential to them during the Covid pandemic.

Mobiles have become more important to people during the pandemic

The YouGov research also revealed that more than 40 million Brits will be impacted by mid-contract price rises across major networks this year.

National debt charity and helpline Money Advice Plus has seen a 20% rise in calls over the last few months and urged phone networks to keep their prices down.

CEO Karen Perrier said: “Household debt is increasing daily – calls into our national services have increased by 20% over the past few months, with an alarming amount of people struggling to afford essentials like food, heating, or even their phone bills.

“That’s why it feels especially wrong to profit from price hikes this year. A few pounds out of a household budget can have a devastating effect.

More people have phoned the Money advice helpline

“We’ve seen how essential phones and broadband have been for people during the pandemic – they’ve kept people connected during lockdown but have also been integral to the likes of home-schooling, collecting benefits, and accessing support.

“It’s vital that we ensure that people can afford to stay connected and we would really encourage the networks to think again about the impact of their actions and the transparency of their contracts.

“Most people are unaware that their costs can go up and that there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.

“As an organisation, we’ve existed for 150 years and we’ve never known a worse situation – with the potential of more hardship to come. That means everyone needs to play their part to take the pressure off the most vulnerable.”


The survey was commissioned by Tesco Mobile, who also called on the phone industry to reverse price rises.

CEO Tom Denyard said: “Beyond being misleading, our research has shown that mid-contract price rises in our industry will have a financial impact on those who have already been hit hard.

“There could not be a worse time for networks to implement their biggest price rises. For a family of mobile users, the increased costs mean less items in the weekly shopping basket or additional pressure to pay a bill that was higher than expected.

“Telecoms companies have never played a more important role in people’s lives.

“During one of the most uncertain financial times on record, and at a time of physical isolation, this is not a time to be making a phone harder for someone to afford. That’s why we are calling on other networks to reverse price rises this year.”

Tesco Mobile is the only network to offer a tariff promise – guaranteeing no mid-contract price rises for its customers.

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