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Telecom chiefs summoned to Downing Street to discuss cost of living crisis

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Nadine Dorries arriving at Downing Street on Tuesday - REUTERS/John Sibley
Nadine Dorries arriving at Downing Street on Tuesday - REUTERS/John Sibley

Senior telecoms executives have been summoned to Downing Street to discuss the cost of living crisis after millions of households faced inflation-busting price increases for broadband services.

In a meeting hosted by Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, next Monday, industry leaders will be asked for suggestions on how to help struggling customers with rising bills.

Senior figures from BT, Vodafone, Virgin Media O2, Three, TalkTalk, Sky and others have been invited to the discussion at No 10, the Daily Telegraph understands.

It comes after some of the companies, including BT, Vodafone and O2, recently imposed above-inflation price increases on customers.

Ms Dorries wrote to broadband providers in April, urging them to get a larger number of low-income families on to so-called social tariffs.

While an estimated five million households in receipt of benefits are eligible to receive these cut-price deals, only 55,000 have taken them up, she said.

A DCMS spokesperson said: "We are looking at bringing together the UK's telecoms leaders to explore how the industry can work together with the government to support consumers through the global rise in the cost of living."

However, one industry source was dismissive, saying: “All of this will probably result in a press release so the Government can say ‘we are doing stuff on cost of living’ while not actually changing much.”

Those set to attend the meeting include Ahmed Essam, chief executive of Vodafone UK, Tristia Harrison, chief executive of TalkTalk and Clive Selley, chief executive of BT’s infrastructure business, Openreach, according to a list seen by the Telegraph.

Ofcom, the communications regulator, will also be represented.

Companies have been criticised for hitting customers with inflation-busting broadband price rises.

O2 added 3.9pc to February’s retail price index (RPI) inflation rate of 7.8pc, taking the total price increase to 11.7pc for customers who have joined since last March last year.

Meanwhile, BT and Vodafone are among those to have added 3.9pc to December’s consumer prices index (CPI) measure of inflation, which stood at 5.4pc, resulting in a price rise of 9.3pc.

It means a Vodafone customer who signed up after February 2 last year will see their £40 monthly bill rise by £3.72.

Price comparison service Uswitch.com branded the increases “excessive”, noting that many customers would not be able to switch away from their current provider without incurring penalty fees for ending their contracts early.

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