With more people than ever relying on home broadband during the pandemic, one in six Welsh consumers trying to carry out everyday tasks such as banking and managing their utilities online have had difficulty, according to Which?’s annual Consumers in Wales Report.
The consumer champion carried out extensive research with more than 1,000 people in Wales during December 2020 to uncover and understand the key issues for consumers today.
For many people, the coronavirus pandemic has meant learning how to manage aspects of their life online. Three in 10 (30%) Welsh respondents said the crisis had pushed them to learn to do new admin tasks such as banking and utility management online.
Worryingly, one in six (17%) Welsh consumers doing administrative tasks online said they found it difficult, highlighting that digital inclusion requires both reliable internet access and the skills to use it.
One in six (17%) also told Which? they wanted to switch back to completing such tasks offline as soon as possible, but they may be unable to do so if the pandemic leads to a loss of supply of physical services, such as bank branches. Welsh consumers have seen 251 bank branch closures since 2015, which is nearly half (45%) of all branches in Wales.
Dependence on home broadband has inevitably increased as more people rely on it for communicating with friends and family, entertainment and working from home.
A quarter (27%) of all Welsh consumers reported that they regularly use their home broadband for working from home, but four in 10 (41%) told Which? they sometimes or often have problems with their internet.
This may be related to the availability of faster and more reliable broadband speeds in Wales, which lags behind the rest of the UK in the proportion of premises that can receive ultrafast or better broadband.
According to Ofcom, only a third (34%) of connected households in Wales are able to access ultrafast broadband, which is far less than the proportion in the other UK nations. These connections can deliver download speeds of 300Mbps or more, as well as being more reliable than older broadband connections. Meanwhile, there remain 18,000 premises in Wales that cannot access decent broadband.
In comparison, almost six in 10 (57%) of connected households in Northern Ireland and half (50%) of connected households in Scotland can receive ultrafast broadband.
However, a greater problem may be the slow adoption of higher-quality connections by consumers.
Even when more premises in Wales are able to access gigabit-capable broadband, getting people to actually take it up could be a challenge. Only a third (32%) of Welsh consumers intend to switch to these services as they either don’t understand how they are different or believe they will bring sufficient benefit.
Four in 10 (42%) Welsh consumers told Which? they were unclear how gigabit-capable broadband is different to their current connection, while nearly two-thirds (64%) said that their current broadband met their needs.
The consumer champion is calling for more to be done to encourage demand for gigabit-capable connections to ensure the benefits of gigabit-capable broadband are fully realised by consumers.
Recent Which? analysis has shown that people who currently have the slowest speeds are least likely to intend to take up gigabit-capable broadband. This implies that without intervention, there will be greater inequality of internet speed and quality.
For that reason, the government asked Which? to chair the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group to propose ways to stimulate demand among consumers and businesses for gigabit-capable broadband.
Which? will be hosting an event, attended by regulators and consumer bodies, on Monday 8th March, where these findings from the Consumers in Wales Report will provide invaluable insight into the concerns and attitudes of Welsh consumers and the key issues that need to be addressed.
Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which?, said:
“This year has highlighted the importance of fast and reliable broadband connections, but our research shows that some Welsh consumers have struggled with the shift to managing aspects of their life online.
“Wales lags behind the UK for more reliable and faster broadband, with many home workers enduring slow and inconsistent internet speeds when they most need a decent connection.
“With consumers relying more than ever on the internet, improving connectivity will play an important role as we rebuild and recover from the pandemic.”
Notes for editor
 The Which? Report ‘Consumers in Wales 2021’ is available at https://about-which.s3.amazonaws.com/about-us/media/documents/6041149d87321-Consumers_in_Wales_2021_Which.pdf
 Yonder, on behalf of Which? conducted a survey of more than 1,000 consumers in Wales from 4th-18th December 2020, with quotas and response weighting used to obtain a nationally representative sample for each nation according to their known age and gender profiles.
 Respondents were asked: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about using your home broadband for administrative tasks (e.g. banking, utility management) during the coronavirus?
“The crisis has pushed me to learn to do new administrative tasks online”
“I have found some of the administrative tasks I have had to do online difficult to do”
“I want to switch to completing such tasks offline as soon as possible”
 Ofcom data taken from Connected Nations 2020: Wales report and Which? analysis of Ofcom Connected Nations data as at May 2020, downloaded from www.ofcom.org.uk/research-and-data/multi-sector-research/infrastructure-research. Percentages are of all connected residential premises. Ofcom defines a ‘decent’ broadband connection as a speed of at least 10Mbit/s download speed and 1Mbit/s upload speed.
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