BT today offered some New Year cheer to 14 million customers by becoming the first UK telephone company to make calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers free.
Customers have often complained that their calling packages did not include the 0870 and 0845 numbers which are frequently used by banks, insurance companies and even doctor’s surgeries. Calls to these numbers cost more than usual, with Sky and Virgin charging around 10p a minute for a daytime 0870 call.
BT say they have always charged much cheaper rates, but has now decided to go even further.
In a move costing BT tens of millions, the company has decided to give customers what they want by including 0870 and 0845 numbers in call packages. (BT is excluding calls for dial up internet access)
An Anytime customer will now get their calls to these numbers for free – as well as all their calls to UK landlines and great rates on mobile calls – for just £4.85 a month, which works out at less than the cost of a second class stamp a day.
A customer who is on the Evening and Weekend package will get their 0870 and 0845 calls for free, as well as their UK landline calls, after 6pm every day and all weekend.
No UK phone company has ever included these call types in their packages before, because 0845 and 0870 numbers generate large revenues for the banks, utility firms and other organisations that use them.
However, customers resented the high charges for 0870 and 0845 numbers, especially as the organisations using them were seen to be making a profit from them. Campaigners even set up a web site to let customers know other numbers to call the same companies, called saynoto0870.
The Government recently announced a review of doctors and NHS departments using 084 numbers, because customers complained they should not be charged more to call for medical help.
John Petter, managing director of BT’s Consumer business, said: “We know that the public is frustrated by having to pay higher charges for these numbers, even though BT’s rates were cheaper than our rivals, so we worked out a way to go further and include calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers in our call packages.
“These numbers are widely used by banks, utilities and even NHS Direct, and our customers spend 30 minutes a month on average calling these numbers. We hope we have taken a sting out of the price of these calls, but also removed one of those irritations that customers believed was an unfair anomaly.
“All of our 14m calls customers have free calls included in their package and now all 14m 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.”