Network operators make commitment to protect vulnerable customers

15/03/2024

Companies in charge of maintaining the UK’s internet and phone infrastructure have agreed to new measures to protect vulnerable customers as their landlines are upgraded to a new digital network.Seven network operators – including Openreach, CityFibre, and Sky – have signed up to new protections which will ensure people who rely on personal alarms to call for help are not left without a working device during the migration.

Nearly 2 million people use these vital alarms in the UK.The new measures agreed today include a commitment from network operators to take steps to ensure their customers’ lifesaving buttons continue to work and functioning alternatives are in place before any migration takes place.It means the Technology Secretary has now secured agreement from the majority of the telecoms sector – from operators in charge of maintaining the network infrastructure all the way to internet and phone providers, including VMO2 and BT, who agreed to similar mitigations in December 2023.

The charter follows ongoing and active collaboration from telecoms operators, and is a positive step to make sure safety continues to be at the heart of the nationwide switchover – providing reassurance to vulnerable households.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “The safety of vulnerable customers comes before anything else and that’s why I called on the industry to listen to concerns and take action to make sure the right protections are in place.“I welcome more telecoms companies joining forces to make this a priority, meaning we now have agreement from those responsible for our telecoms infrastructure and those providing mobile and broadband services.“

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said: “When a person needs urgent medical attention, they must have confidence that their call for help will be responded to as quickly as possible.“The recent incidents that left some people disconnected are unacceptable and must not happen again. The Technology Secretary and I are united in pressuring all those responsible to implement mitigations that meet the needs of the most at risk.“

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