Big Issue vendors are to be given free sim cards and data vouchers to help them cope with the worsening cost-of-living crisis.
Virgin Media O2 announced it will be working with the Big Issue Group to support all the magazine’s vendors.
Last year, O2 gave more than 200 Big vendors free data plans, enabling them to take contactless payments, providing vital support at a time when half of magazine sales are via contactless.
This year the company will be offering monthly data to the magazine’s entire network of vendors.
On average, vendors who use contactless make 35% more than those who do not.
Stevie Paterson, from Edinburgh, one of the Big Issue vendors given O2 data last year, said: “The O2 sim was really important to me. It meant I could set myself up on Zettle to accept contactless payments – now, it’s how I sell about half my magazines.”
Big Issue vendor Darren Brown, from Middlesbrough, who was also part of last year’s data rollout, said: “I’ve never been a technology person, but they showed me how to use it and access the internet.
“If a customer is looking for somewhere, I help them with the maps on my phone, and I’ve even had my supermarket shopping delivered.”
Russell Blackman, Big Issue’s managing director of commercial, said: “We are delighted to be continuing our invaluable work with Virgin Media O2, following its successful launch last year.
“By extending this opportunity out to all Big Issue vendors, it will enable and empower them to boost their sales through cashless payments at this vital time of year, as well as being able to access essential online services.
“As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, support for those who might otherwise struggle to connect is vital.”
Gareth Turpin, chief commercial officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “This year we wanted our Christmas campaign to not only help raise awareness of the support available via the National Databank, but to get data into the hands of those facing an unconnected Christmas.
“As part of this, we’re proud to be partnering with the Big Issue for the second year in a row to offer all vendors access to free mobile data each month.
“We know from the success of last year that this connectivity is crucial to facilitating mobile payments in an increasingly cashless society as well as helping vendors to stay connected to loved ones and get access to key services.”