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VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Data giants need to do more

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Data giants must do more to keep vulnerable households connected

We have never been more dependent on a decent internet connection.

Not just to binge-watch box sets, but also to work, shop, pay bills, keep in touch with family and friends – and most importantly, as the Daily Mail’s Computers for Kids campaign highlights – to make sure kids be able to study at home.

Good broadband is no longer a luxury – it is just as fundamental to everyone as water and electricity.

Lockdown essential: good broadband is no longer a luxury just for those who can afford it - it should be as fundamental as water and power

Lockdown essential: good broadband is no longer a luxury just for those who can afford it – it should be as fundamental as water and power

So it’s welcome news that many major providers are starting to provide additional assistance to families in emergency situations.

But as we report here, much more needs to be done to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable households have the online access that many take for granted – and it shouldn’t be that complicated to get this help.

Meanwhile, as our overflowing mailbag will attest, providers also have to work harder when it comes to basic customer service.

A reader, Sarah, wrote to us desperately last week after her 89-year-old grandfather was without the Internet for nearly a month. He is deaf and the Internet is the only way he can communicate with his family, she says.

Despite being identified as a priority customer, Virgin Media repeatedly failed to resolve the issue. And his story is far from unique.

Even reporting a complaint can be a headache in itself.

Research for Money Mail last year found that a quarter of broadband customers were unhappy with the service they received, with 7 percent on hold for more than an hour.

And then there is the issue of skyrocketing bills. Research by comparison site uSwitch shows that some companies do not make it clear when contracts have expired, causing dozens of households to pay too much.

Since these companies should specialize in communications, they would do well to brush up on their own skills.

Checks, please!

Mel Stride, chairman of the Treasury committee, warned last week that NS&I would have to work hard to win back customers who have fled the state-backed bank over desperate interest rate cuts and diabolical customer service.

A good place to start would be to get back to plans to do away with Premium Bond price controls.

There’s no question that receiving prize money straight into your bank account has its benefits – and as time goes on, more and more customers are likely to switch to it.

But why the rush to ditch checks altogether when so many loyal savers still prefer them?

Customers deserve a choice.

Voucher resolved

After nearly a year of periodic lockdowns, I was surprised to find that some major retailers, including Boots and Sainsbury’s, still don’t allow customers to use gift cards when shopping online.

Money Mail reader Lynn Insley says, “I’m foreclosure. The Boots gift card was bought to prevent me from going to a lipstick and vitamin tablet store.

‘I have a card that cannot be used. I would expect a health company to understand that point. ‘There is an easy solution, right?

Praise to LV =

Proof that insurers can sometimes do well.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Money Mail reader Patricia Thomas called auto insurance company LV = to add a friend’s name to her policy in case she needed help getting to the hospital.

A lady named Jess handled the case quickly and even helped Patricia save a little money now that she wouldn’t be driving that much.

A few days later Patricia returned home to find a gift box with a note that said, “Dear Patricia, I was so taken back to our call on Monday 14. Your courage and state of mind were inspiring.

You sound like the kind of person who won’t give up in tough times. You are not alone and I wish you the best. Please accept this little gift to help you relax when the going gets tough. ‘

Patricia says, ‘I can’t find the words to adequately express what such kindness from a stranger means to me. Maybe you can thank Jess and LV through your column. ‘

As I’ve written before in this column, little gestures like these really make a difference in tough times. Well done LV =.