BT telephone service customers should have received or are about to receive a letter detailing changes to the naming and pricing of the BT residential line rental and calls packages. This sees the basic line rental increase by 75p to £11.75 but the rebate for paperless billing increases from 50p to £1.25 offsetting the increase from 1st April 2008. For details on the paperfree billing option visit www.bt.com/paperfree.
The changes don't stop there, BT is set to reduce the cost of calling its support lines drastically. The six most commonly called chargeable numbers (mainly 0845/0870 numbers) will be switched to 0800 and 0808 numbers which are free to call as of 1st April 2008. The upshot of this is that from 1st April calls to BT Broadband technical support will be free, an 0845 number currently costs 0.5p per minute for an evening call plus a 6p set up fee, 0870 numbers cost 1.5p per minute at BT rates in the evening. These changes will mean the number of calls made to BT free of charge will increase from the current 92% to 99% in April.
“BT has been setting the pace with its pricing and today we’ve decided to go a step further. We’ve always had some of the lowest prices for such calls and now we’ve decided to make them free. We call on the rest of the industry to follow our lead. There really is no excuse for companies whose prices are either sky-high or verging on the ridiculous. We believe that customers are out of pocket to the tune of £70 million a year.”Gavin Patterson, BT managing director consumer
The question is what will other broadband providers do in response, some providers already offer their support line via 0800 numbers or encourage people to use online resources like ticketing systems (though if your broadband is down this is hard). Hopefully the days of support calls charged at anything ranging from 5p to £1 a minute are now over. The press release gave some figures for BT's competitors (evening rates are listed):
When you add up the costs a single 17 minute call to support could set you back anything between 96p and £30 for those that currently charge, so it is good to see a large provider such as BT moving to 0800/0808 numbers to reduce the costs to consumers.
Factoring in the cost of calling support is always a difficult one as you may go a whole year without needing to call, and then spend an hour over the course of a week sorting out a fault. Certainly people should factor in the potential costs when calling a provider, a 50p per month subscription saving is soon destroyed by a short call to many support lines. Our broadband provider listings do list both the sales and support telephone numbers and highlight whether it is a premium rate call, non-geographic call (e.g. 0870) or a free call. For those with landline call bundles finding a geographic number they can call can reduce the costs significantly and www.saynotto0870.com is a useful site for this.
While 0800 and 0808 calls are free from landlines people should check on the costs of using these numbers from their mobile phone and whether they are included in the bundle of free minutes if on a contract.
Update 22nd February 2008: Talk Talk support calls while an 0870 number are free from a TalkTalk landline.