Citizens Advice warns telecoms firms on vulnerability of rural citizens

Scottish body urges broadband providers to offer increased support to those in rural areas

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People living in rural areas should be treated as vulnerable by phone, broadband and pay-TV providers, according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

With Ofcom holding a consultation to inform new guidance on the treatment of vulnerable consumers, a submission from CAS argues that the poor nature of coverage in parts of Scotland means consumers in rural areas should be given extra support.

CAS said all frontline staff at telecommunication companies should be trained in dealing with vulnerable consumers, and specialist staff should be available as appropriate when vulnerable people need particular assistance.

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It also called for consumers to get easy access to their accounts, with a choice of different ways to access them, with the organisation warning it had encountered cases where customers were unable to access their financial details by phone, and so accrued debts.

The submission from CAS also says debt recovery policies should not cause detriment and providers should consider vulnerability when pursuing debts.

CAS spokesperson 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.”


Sam Trendall

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