Elderly, disabled and less digitally-savvy consumers could be at higher risk of overpaying for their broadband and phones services, new research by Ofcom has found.
The telecoms regulator's latest Access and Inclusion report looked at factors including age, income and disabilities, and found that those considered to be more vulnerable often find it harder to choose from the large variety of services available.
This means that many people could suffer financial harm due to being mis-sold inappropriate products or being unable to find the best deals, and were more likely to be unable to afford key services or make hard decisions over what devices and services they could use.
"The most financially vulnerable people are less likely to have all of the main communications services – landline, mobile, broadband and pay TV," Ofcom stated. "Of the people in this group who do have a broadband connection, a smaller than average proportion has access to superfast broadband."
It was also revealed that only around one in five people have switched to a new communications service or provider in the last 12 months, though this increased to around one in four among consumers who have a bundled home phone, TV and broadband package.
One reason for this may be that more vulnerable people are less confident when it comes to switching. For example, Ofcom found 'dual-play' customers - those who have a bundled phone and broadband deal- aged over 55 are far more likely than the younger counterparts to understand the jargon used by providers (43 per cent compared with 15 per cent).
Broadband customers aged 65 and older were also found to be less confident than average about speaking to their current provider about deals, with 88 per cent of this group saying they are unsure about how to go about this.
Meanwhile, almost one in five dual play customers classed as financially vulnerable (19 per cent) said they did not know whether they were still under contract with their current supplier, compared with just 12 per cent of the most financially secure consumers.