News Column

Internet Offline households lose average of pounds 440 a year

July 2, 2014

Rebecca Smithers

Millions of households without internet access pay an average of pounds 440 more a year for essential goods and services such as energy, telecommunications and banking, research reveals.

The financial penalty of continuing to access key services offline, as companies attempt to shift away from paper billing, represents 4.4% of average household income, rising to 5.4% for the poorest 10% in society, including older and vulnerable people.

Householders who cannot take advantage of lower energy and telecoms tariffs for switching to online-only services miss out on a potential annual saving of pounds 139, the Centre for Economics and Business Research found. The lower pricing associated with online accounts is also often not available to those who manage their household bills by post or phone, pay by cash or cheque or have a prepayment tariff or meter arrangement with their utility provider.

The research was carried out for campaign group Keep Me Posted, which is seeking to safeguard consumers' right not to be forced to receive only online bills and statements.

Internet access has almost doubled over the past decade, with the number of users increasing from 46% of the UK population in 2003 to 83% in 2013. However, there are still seven million people in the UK who have never used the internet, including five million people who are over 65 or vulnerable.

Judith Donovan, chair of Keep Me Posted, said: "Much progress has been made in ensuring that as many of us as possible can access the internet . . . However, the digital divide remains a big problem." Rebecca Smithers

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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