BT today challenged other companies to follow its lead as it pledged to scrap charges for calling its consumer service and helpdesk numbers. This is the first time that any telecoms company has made these calls free irrespective of which landline the call originates from.
Whilst making its own numbers free, BT also highlighted the rates charged by other companies and called for them to scrap their charges as well. Some companies charge for every incoming call and BT estimates the rest of the industry is making around £70 million every year from these charges. Some calls can even be as expensive as 50p a minute, making the cost of an hour’s call £30.
Ninety two per cent of calls into BT are already free but customers still make more than seven million chargeable calls every year, mainly to technical helpdesks.
Gavin Patterson, BT managing director consumer, said: “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.”
The giveaway follows BT’s recent decision to extend free weekend calls to all of its 14 million customers and to slash the prices of its inclusive packages by up to 25 per cent. BT is also offering customers free evening calls if they sign a 12 month contract.
Patterson added: “Our recent price changes have proved very popular. More than 150,000 customers have signed up to receive free evening calls in the first fortnight alone. All 14 million BT households can also enjoy weekend calls for free. Today’s announcement is another bonus for our customers. The decision will cost BT millions of pounds but we firmly believe it’s the right thing to do.”
BT currently operates dozens of consumer service and helpdesk numbers. Ninety two per cent of calls into BT are already free of charge and BT pledged today to increase that to 99 per cent by April 1. Most chargeable numbers currently begin with 0845 or 0870. These will be changed to begin with a free 0800 or 0808 prefix.
BT’s six most used numbers will be changed by April 1, which is when the price of BT’s inclusive calling plans are set to be slashed by up to 25 per cent. The other numbers – which between them add up to less than one per cent of incoming calls – will be changed over the coming months. Many of these relate to old services and products that are being phased out. BT’s main 150 and 151 numbers will stay the same and will continue to be free of charge.
BT currently charges 2p per minute for calls to 0845 numbers during the day and 0.5p per minute in the evening. 0870 numbers are charged at 6p per minute during the day and 1.5p per minute in the evening. A set up fee of 6p also applies to these calls at present.
O2 Scoops Network Rail Contract
O2 today announced that it has won a contract with Network Rail, which owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure, to provide voice, BlackBerry and other mobile data services. The deal is O2’s largest corporate customer win and one of the UK’s largest ever port of numbers with 23,000 connections transferring to O2. The win overturns industry-wide perceptions that large corporates see the risk of changing suppliers as too daunting.
Network Rail was looking for a step change in the delivery of its mobile services and saw O2 as a great cultural fit, providing fresh thinking and the opportunity for true partnership. Key to O2’s selection were its dynamism, best of breed solutions and differentiating brand.
Working closely with Network Rail, O2 will be developing and streamlining mobile solutions to help Network Rail maintain, renew and enhance the railway. O2 will help Network Rail identify areas of the business that will benefit from mobile technology to enhance efficiency and flexibility for the workforce and put in place systems to achieve both bottom-line and customer benefits.
As this relationship evolves, O2 will work closely with Network Rail to develop bespoke solutions which will set a new benchmark for mobile services in the rail industry as a whole.
Ben Dowd, Business Sales Director, O2 UK, said of the deal: “This is an incredible win for O2 and provides us with another great example of how we are changing the face of the mobile marketplace. We genuinely believe that customer and employee satisfaction are intrinsically linked to business success and together with Network Rail, we believe we can help the company achieve its objectives“.
Network Rail’s Director of Information Management, Catherine Doran, said: “We are delighted to enter into this relationship with O2. We are keen to embrace new ways of communicating with our people and suppliers and changing the way we work by using new technology. O2 has demonstrated the same passion and drive to help us achieve these bold targets, by showing great innovation, good customer service and commercial capability.”