BT cuts 0870 charges
'Rip-off' numbers go free
By Chris Williams
Posted in Telecoms, 8th January 2009 13:07 GMT
BT has today cut the cost of calling 0845 and 0870 to zero for many of its customers, following a consumer campaign against companies profiting from premium rate lines.
Subscribers to BT's Anytime package will get free 0845 and 0870 calls at all times, while Evening and Weekend customers' calls will be free after 6pm Monday-Friday, and all weekend.
BT said the changes would cost it "tens of millions" of pounds, but had decided "to give customers what they want".
The perceived unfairness of premium rate 0845 and 0870 numbers has been a target for consumer groups. The campaigning website Saynoto0870.com has led opposition by publishing lists of cheaper geographical numbers for organisations that use 0845 and 0870.
BT consumer MD John Petter said: "All of our 14 million calls customers have free calls included in their package and now all 14 million have free calls to 0870 and 0845 at times that fit with their calling plan, which is something not offered by any of our competitors."
Virgin Media had no comment to make today.
Use of 0845 and 0870 by government bodies has attracted special criticism from campaigners. In response, the Department of Health is currently reviewing whether services such as NHS Direct should be allowed to effectively charge people to call.
BT scraps charges on 0870 and 0845 numbers for calls to banks and GPs
By Sean Poulter
Last updated at 1:44 AM on 09th January 2009
BT is making some calls to controversial premium rate 0870 and 0845 numbers - used by banks, Government departments and the NHS - free of charge.
Customers were angry that the two numbers were excluded from the monthly telephone packages that offer free unlimited calls in return for a monthly subscription.
The telecoms giant yesterday boasted the move would deliver annual savings of £24million to help 14million customers.
However, only 1.4million signed to BT Anytime will be able to make free calls to these numbers at any time of day or night.
Another 4.3million will get free evening and weekend calls, while 8.3million will get them free at the weekends only.
The change is part of a wide-ranging BT campaign to stop rivals such as Sky and Virgin from grabbing customers.
The telecoms giant, which currently charges up to 5.8p a minute for calling the numbers from a landline, will stop the fees from January 16.