Virgin Media have launched their discounted broadband plan for low income households for just £12.50 a month. Using the government’s newly-created “social tariff” system, it is now possible for many to save up to 70% off monthly broadband costs.
Virgin Media actually call this the “Essential Broadband” plan. If you’re not sure if you qualify for the Essential plan, even if you claim Universal Credit or any of the other type of benefit, then we’ve created this helpful guide to give you more information.
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What is a broadband social tariff?
Let’s start with the basics.
In 2021 Ofcom announced that all major internet providers in the UK must start to offer a cheaper plan for struggling households on lower incomes. Specifically, for broadband, the main requirement is that your household must be in receipt of certain benefits in order to qualify.
Unlike with the water social tariff, which is offered to those on low incomes generally of £16,000 a year or less, the broadband social tariff system is slightly different. To qualify, you need to be in receipt of certain benefits like Universal Credit, Pension Credit, PIP, JSA, and so on. The broadband social tariff system does not take into account your household income, only the benefits you receive.
What makes it confusing is that each internet provider has different eligibility requirements to get the social tariff – read the ‘eligibility’ section below for information on Virgin Media specifically.
Can I actually get Virgin Media where I live?
The first thing to check is if you can actually get Virgin Media to your home address.
They claim to cover 55% of the UK population, check Virgin Media broadband coverage here via the postcode checker.
If you cannot get Virgin Media then don’t worry – there are plenty of other national broadband providers who will gladly have you as a customer on their own social tariff plans: view all broadband providers who accept social tariff here.
Is this for existing Virgin Media customers only?
No. Virgin Media says that they will accept new customers to the Essential plan, as well as existing customers.
If you are an existing Virgin Media customer, then you can ask to be switched to the Essential plan. Of course, you will need to prove your eligibility first.
How much can I save with Virgin Media Essential?
The Virgin Media “Essential Broadband” plan costs £12.50 a month. This means it is one of the cheapest broadband social tariffs as of right now – in fact, only Vodafone broadband is cheaper, at £12 a month.
The Essential plan is only available to certain households who qualify. The nearest equivalent package from Virgin Media, for customers who pay full price, is their “Broadband + Phone” package, which costs £26 a month.
It isn’t a direct comparison, because the speeds are a little different, but it’s near enough. Meaning that those on social tariff are saving over -50% off the usual monthly price – or to put it another way, over the course of a year, the Essential plan can save you around £168.
Do I qualify for the Virgin Media Essential plan?
Different internet providers have different requirements and there is no “one size fits all” sadly.
Virgin Media simply ask that the main bill payer / account holder is in receipt of Universal Credit.
If you do not receive Universal Credit but are in receipt of other benefits – such as Pension Credit, PIP, JSA, ESA, and so on – then it isn’t clear if Virgin Media will accept your application. We’ve contacted them to ask for more information.
But the best bet is to talk to them via Livechat or phone, and ask if you qualify. You will, of course, be required to show proof of receipt of any benefits.
Please update us in the comments below of how you get on!
How do I apply for the social tariff from Virgin Media?
Here is how to sign up to the Virgin Media Essential Broadband plan right now:
- For new customers, click here to open the Essential signup page.
- Next, you’ll need to use Livechat on the Virgin Media website. Scroll down to the bottom until you see this:
- Provide the Livechat assistant with your proof of eligibility.
- For existing customers only, fill out this form instead.
Inevitably, this means it may take from between a few minutes to a few days to verify your eligibility status.
Virgin Media told us that they verify Universal Credit payments by screenshot. In other words, you will need to send a screenshot of your Universal Credit ‘payments’ page to Virgin Media directly – take a screenshot with your mobile phone or camera and send it to them.
Note that Virgin Media ask that the screenshot show your name, address, assessment period and payment date (the payment date needs to be within the last 30 days).
Review: Is Virgin Media Essential plan any good?
The main features of the Essential plan from Virgin Media are:
- 15Mbps average download speed
- 30 day contract length, cancel any time
- Prices will never change
- Free/included Wi-Fi hub
How does this compare to other provider’s offers? Well, it’s certainly one of the cheapest plans out there. And unlike with Sky who lock you in for 18 months, there is no contract. You only need to give 30 days notice and then you can leave, without termination or exit fees.
The only slight negative is that the average download speeds are somewhat slower than most other providers. But you get what you pay for, and at £12.50 a month (with NO line rental either) that is incredibly good value. If you’re in a Virgin Media area, then it’s definitely worth a look.
What kind of download speeds can I get with Virgin Media Essential?
The average download speed as advertised by Virgin Media for the Essentials package, is 15Mbps.
The average upload speed is 2Mbps.
For most households, these will be more than sufficient. You can stream in 4K and play online games, though for those households who want to stream multiple devices in 4K you may want to consider a plan with higher speeds.
A good alternative is Hyperoptic, who offer 25Mbps average speed on the social tariff system called “Fair Fibre”.
What happens at the end of the contract?
As the “contract” is only 30 days, on a rolling basis, you can cancel or change to another provider at any time. You only need to give Virgin Media 30 days’ notice.
I am not eligible for this discount, what other options are there?
If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, then don’t panic. There are other options available, and often these can work out just as cheap as the Essential plan. Our top tip is to check for discount codes – you can currently, for example, get 3 months free broadband with Virgin Media when using the promo code found here.