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BT Landline Only UK Phone Customers to See £7 Price Cut on Sunday

Thursday, March 29th, 2018 (9:37 am) - Score 2,516
telephone united kingdom communications

Ofcom has confirmed that UK consumers who take a landline-only phone service from BT will, from Sunday, pay £7 a month less for their line rental (i.e. £11.99 inc. VAT instead of £18.99). As part of the agreement BT will also cap line rental and call charges, to increase by no more than inflation, for 3 years.

Telephone line rental prices have risen sharply over the past few years (partly to help balance against the rising cost of service provision in other areas [broadband] and lost revenues from voice calls), while the underlying wholesale cost has actually fallen. A review by Ofcom noted that consumers who bundle broadband, phone and / or other services tend to benefit from big discounts but those who only take a landline were suffering.

The identified issue is often “felt most acutely” by elderly and vulnerable people who tend to shun bundles and stick with the same provider / standalone line rental product for years. The UK is home to a total of 1.5 million landline-only customers and two thirds of those are with BT. In response Ofcom and BT last year reached an agreement to reduce the monthly rental by £7 for related customers (full details).

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s Competition Group Director, said:

“We had serious concerns about soaring bills for loyal landline customers. This was hurting people who rely on their landline, many of whom are elderly.

We’re pleased that BT has cut prices, which means these customers get a fairer deal, and they’ll be protected from price rises in the coming years.”

The change is now about to be introduced and as a result BT has just written to nearly 900,000 of its customers who buy only a landline service. More than 700,000 of these don’t have to do anything to benefit from this price cut but there are a few things to note.

The discount is only intended to apply to BT landline customers who don’t buy fixed line broadband from any provider, which means that those who access the internet on their mobile or via satellite broadband will still be eligible (Ofcom doesn’t mention fixed wireless broadband but we will check (assumption is that this will be like satellite and mobile)).

On top of that BT has also written to 190,000 of its landline customers who have chosen to receive paperless bills, asking them to confirm that they don’t have broadband (it’s quite tedious for BT as a retail ISP to know if other providers have a working broadband connection on the line). Customers who confirm this will be eligible for the price cut. We suspect that a few may try to game the system and it’s unclear how BT would respond to that, aside from adjusting the price the moment they found out.

A further 200,000 customers on BT’s ‘Home Phone Saver’ package could also qualify. They can choose to stay on their current package, or move to the standard product being discounted, depending on which is the best deal for them.

The agreement also requires BT to help those who buy a telephone service from one provider and broadband from another, albeit only by explaining that they could get a better deal if they purchased such services as part of a bundle.

A BT spokesperson said:

“We welcome the fact that up to 900,000 of our customers who don’t have broadband will receive a substantial reduction in the price of their line rental from 1 April 2018.

We listened to our landline-only customers and made a voluntary agreement with Ofcom to reduce the price of line rental for them by £7 a month, or £84 a year, which means they will only pay £11.99 a month for standard line rental.

This will come in to effect shortly for all landline-only customers who just take phone services from us and don’t have broadband (either with BT or someone else). The vast majority of customers won’t have to do anything to receive the discount, and we have written to a group of customers to clarify if they qualify for the reduced rate. New customers and any customers who switch to BT solely for a phone line and calls can also take advantage of the £11.99 price.

We already offer low income customers on certain benefits a special tariff called ‘BT Basic’ and also offer Home Phone Saver that provides a great value option for customers who want a traditional phone service, with Anytime calls and other benefits. We have promised that the price of Home Phone Saver will not go up before 2021.”

Finally, the regulator still hopes that other operators will follow BT’s lead, although they aren’t currently required to do so. The good news is that the Post Office, which serves the second largest share of the landline-only market after BT, recently confirmed to Ofcom that it will be offering a new price of £11.50 from May 2018. Meanwhile Virgin Media has already frozen the price of line rental for its elderly and disabled phone-only users (here).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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23 Responses
  1. Wasn’t the whole point of the price cut to stop BT loading the real cost of their own broadband on to the line rental thereby pushing the cost up for companies offering competing products?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      This has precisely nothing to do with broadband as it applies to voice-only customers (and it doesn’t apply if broadband is taken from another company either).

    • @Steve BT it seems has been offering their broadband services at below cost and offsetting that loss by raising the line rental each year. If this is the case then they are using their dominance in the fixed lines market place on to unfairly subsidise their offerings in the much more competitive broadband market.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Other operators, like the Post Office, offer voice only services. Isn’t this meant to be decided by competition?

  2. Avatar joe pineapples

    “As part of the agreement BT will also cap line rental and call charges, to increase by no more than inflation, for 3 years.”

    Does this part also include those with a BT line + Broadband?.

  3. Avatar Robin

    As they are taking £7 out for not having broadband does that mean that with broadband only line rental it would only cost that £7?

    • Avatar Chris P

      Line rental is line rental. It’s for the line, not for broadband or phone calls, just line rental. Often it’s bundled with a calls or broadband package, and more recently companies have increased line rental charges while lowering broadband charges in order to game the price comparison sites.

  4. Avatar Gerarda

    This seems a fair move to stop landline only customers subsiding broadband ones albeit somewhat tardy.

  5. Avatar Chris P

    I always thought high line rental was to encourage some of the older gen to have basic B.B is it was often included or not much more.

    Maybe Ofcom should have mandated line rental included unlimited FTTC limited to adsl 8mbs speeds.

  6. Avatar Skyrocket

    What about those who has FTTC 40/10 or 80/20 with line only – will the line only become £7 not £18.99?

    • Avatar CarlT

      No. The article makes this clear.

      ‘The discount is only intended to apply to BT landline customers who don’t buy fixed line broadband from any provider’

  7. Avatar Kits

    Those who have line and FTTC who do not make calls can shop around and place the line with any company. I pay £13 line rental have since I moved my phone over from BT in 2016, but I do not do a bundled phone and FTTC I do them both seperate this way I am free to move one or the other if I wish to save money that way. Never had the need to change since price is good I sometimes change to new product when the price for BB dropped started new contract worth it though.

  8. Avatar Rich

    Supposedly BT’s interpretation of this means they won’t give you the discount if you have DOCSIS cable broadband from Virgin Media.

    I realise that’s a small segment, but there are those who will do this to keep their BT number etc, even though they would be better off with VoIP in many cases.

    This just seems stupid.

  9. Avatar Meadmodj

    I am assuming this is simply a first step to address an immediate problem and remain unclear whether this was previously caused by Openreach’s or BT’s commercial approach.

    As FTTC continues to grow (including Gfast) then it is the D side pair that is actually earning its keep. Over time the E side pairs are increasingly likely to become free and less valuable reducing their significance to phone only and ADSL costs.

    For the D side pair the comparison should be:

    Cost of the D Side Pair on its own vs
    D Side Pair + cabinet the link cable + FTTC cabinet + proportional cost of Fibre

    Hopefully this is where the discussion has been.

    Were FTTP is being installed the demand for “phone only” may actually increase if customers do not wish to depend on VOIP or Mobile services.

    The line rental charges for Broadband in my view are purely historic and should now be irrelevant for the customer or business. Charges should simply be for phone or broadband or both with clear information regarding whether it is a fixed line or VOIP variants.

    Varying BT pricing depending on completely unrelated 3rd party services such as VM appears ludicrous.

    Fixed phone lines have been in decline because of the excessive line rental charges and I welcome the differentiation. As long as BT retains the resilience and separation of the PSTN in the event of widespread broadband/data failure then it remains a valuable asset to have.

  10. Avatar Meadmodj

    Sorry yes I agree that mobiles have had the major influence. I was just trying to highlight that I think the line rental cost is the last straw when considering whether to keep the landline. I do understand BT has to provide the PSTN functionality but the cost should be lower than it is. I certainly would not like to see a situation where we move to a total dependency on broadband only and mobile mast data if there was a serious power outage or emergency.

  11. Avatar Meadmodj

    It would appear that I am living in the past and we will have moved from the PSTN to VoIP technology progressively by 2025 anyway. BT is under enormous commercial pressure and I cannot currently see how they will still be able offer a landline telephone powered by the exchange at a competitive price.

  12. Avatar Meadmodj

    Looks like they don’t intend to.

  13. Avatar MintTea

    Any update on whether this covers people who only have access to wireless broadband?

    • Avatar Matt

      This only refers to fixed-line broadband.

    • Avatar MintTea

      I checked with BT and they said that because I have a broadband connection into the house (via a wireless network) then this means I’m not eligible for the discount. The discount is only for people who have a phone line “for emergencies” and have no other form of connectivity in the property.

      Is this correct?

  14. Avatar A Jarvis

    Not exactly great for B4RN Customers that may have kept their BT line for just calls, given they’ll be charged £18.99 for BT line rental when B4RN has nothing to do with BT (like VM), not £11.99 for lines-only-voice-only service.

    Allowing BTRetail unfettered access to Openreach third-party data (as a BTWholesale broadband customer why can’t I opt out allowing BTRetail access to my broadband data?) to set line rental charges.

    Ofcom is allowing BTGroup to share data between Openreach, BTWholesale and BTRetail, the whole point of Ofcom’s regulatory changes to make Openreach a separate entity, was to prevent such abusive data being shared within BTGroup (to set prices) in order to prevent market abuse.

    Ofcom are endorsing BTRetail to effectively target those BTRetail Customers with third-party broadband products with their own BTRetail Broadband products, using the knowledge of third-party broadband data sourced from ‘separate’ Openreach.

    Doesn’t seem right to me.

    This is one hell of cosy deal between Ofcom and BT, needs the CMA to get involved.

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