Offline households 'pay more for services'

HOUSEHOLDS without internet access pay an average of £440 more a year for goods and services, says a study.

Its findings are particularly relevant for rural households because isolated communities are among those most likely to lack internet access.

The study was conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research on behalf of the Keep Me Posted campaign.

The campaign is calling on service providers to give their customers the choice of receiving their bills and statements on paper at no extra charge.

The additional amount of £440 per year paid for goods and services is equivalent to 4.4% of average household income, the study found.

This equates to 5.4 per cent of the average household income for older people aged 65 plus and the most vulnerable people in society.

Households that cannot take advantage of lower energy and telecoms tariffs for switching to online-only services miss out on a potential annual saving of £139.

Some 7 million people in the UK have never used the internet, with the vast majority (72%) being the poorest 10% in society.

Almost half (48%) of those 65 years of age and over have never used the internet, said campaign chairwoman Judith Donovan.

"Much progress has been made in ensuring that as many of us as possible can access the internet and the economic and social benefits it undoubtedly offers.

However, the digital divide remains a big problem.

"A significant number of people have never, and probably will never, access the internet. Yet, this is where the impact on household budgets is the greatest.

"For example, the elderly and most disadvantaged in our society are typically out of pocket by a round 5% of their household income.

"It is clear that, whatever your household income, there is cost for those who manage their affairs 'offline', be that through choice or circumstance."

Lower prices associated with online accounts, for example, are often unavailable to those who manage their household bills 'offline'.

The same restrictions commonly apply to customers who choose to pay by cash or cheque and those who have a pre payment tariff or meter arrangement with their utility provider.

The CEBR study shows that the biggest average saving from buying a product online was found to be communications services.

Savings of around 30%, or £88 on average are available for communication services when bought online, the CEBR said.


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