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EE UK Calls for BT Phonebook Charge to be Cut from Line Rental

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 (11:27 am) - Score 1,744

Mobile operator and ISP EE has called on the UK communications regulator, Ofcom, to remove the “unjustified and discriminatory” charge for BT’s Phonebook, which gets passed on to consumers via the price they pay for standard fixed phone line rental.

Like many providers EE are obliged to fund the phonebook, which BT can also sell advertising space through (note: this helps to keep its cost low), and so they’ve commissioned an ICM survey of 2,000 online respondents in order to find out precisely how many people actually make use of it.

Unsurprisingly the results found that 72% of people usually search for phone numbers online and only 17% use the BT Phonebook. Similarly 75% of people who have a Phonebook don’t even know where they keep it and 88% said they wouldn’t pay anything to have it.

EE Statement to Ofcom (Fixed Market Access Review)

The context of this is that EE continues to believe that Openreach’s ability to pass on charges for the Phonebook under the current Charge Control regime is unjustified and discriminatory. The policy wrongly ignores the fact that the BT Phonebook is a commercial business and inappropriately charges us for a service that TalkTalk, [Sky Broadband] and [Virgin Media] customers benefit from. It also incentivises needless paper waste.

As you know, the mechanics of the current regime are that every WLR customer has to pay for the BT Phonebook through their line rental charge. This cost is currently unavoidable , whether a customer requires a phone book or not, as Openreach bundle it within the wholesale line rental charge. Under the current charge controls, we understand that the amount included for directories in the annual WLR wholesale rental charges for 2013/14 is £2.23 for each WLR customer.

This is significant – for an operator with around 700,000 WLR customers, such as EE, this is an approximate cost of £1.4m per year. Removal of these costs (and replacement of them with the much lower costs of supplying Phonebooks only to those customers who actually still require them) will obviously allow re-investment by WLR providers, helping to promote competition within the industry.

In fairness £2.23 per customer per year isn’t going to make a huge difference when most people are currently paying upwards of around £180 per year for the service, although EE are right to look at the issue of whether or not it wouldn’t be better offered as an optional extra or perhaps scrapped entirely.

On the other hand it’s important to remember that several million people still do not have Internet access and their positions will obviously not be reflected by an online survey of 2,000 people. Meanwhile Internet users are far less likely to see the need for such a book because we already have access to a vastly superior digital index.

Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar BT Investor says:

    Actually yeah £2.23 per year is exceptional value for money. I doubt any consumer begrudges this cost being passed on to them. EE UK should spend time sorting out their terrible mobile networks which is currently vying with Vodafone to become the UK’s worst, and not waste time political posturing.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      “I doubt any consumer begrudges this cost being passed on to them”

      I haven’t even seen a phonebook in about a decade (I guess we don’t get one as we don’t have a landline?).

      They’re pointless anyway because most people (?) request their details be omitted from it anyway. Landlines attract enough junk calls as it is.

      I’d say it was time to move on and scrap it altogether.

  2. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Its a fair enough point I believe. I look up everything on line , the only time the book is of use (if I can find it) is during a power cut.

    1. Avatar MrWhite says:

      Why, do you use it as some sort of candle?

  3. Avatar Captain Cretin says:

    I do have a landline, and I havent seen a phone book in a few years (of course my daughter might have eaten it while I was not looking – she is into chewing anything made of cardboard or paper right now (but wont eat her dinner!!).

    1. Avatar zemadeiran says:

      Try using the phone book around the back of your daughters head, this should be enough of an incentive to make her eat her broccoli…

    2. Avatar zemadeiran says:

      I would also like to add that of course I am jesting as I would never condone hitting children about the head with the BT phonebook.

      A much better idea would be to use said phonebook instead of rizzlas in order to roll many many almighty spliffs full of the gange 🙂

      I do reside near Ladbroke Grove and unlike Clinton, have in fact inhaled on several occasions. I grew up in Brixton and can assure you that in no way did my upbringing predispose me to such actions…

  4. Avatar Greg says:

    While the Phone Book might be a rather outdated method of looking up telephone
    numbers for those of us with internet … to those that say it ought to be scrapped,
    don’t forget there is still a perhaps not insignifigant number of older folks that still
    rely on the traditional paper directory and do not have, and perhaps even do not
    want internet access, or anything more hi-tech than a bog standard CRT telly.

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