back to article BT agrees to cream off less profit from landline-only customers

Former UK state monopoly BT has agreed to Ofcom's requests to hack more than a third off the price of monthly line rental for its one million landline-only punters across the UK. Even though wholesale costs of providing landlines had fallen, rental prices had risen, pointed out Ofcom, which said it was concerned that landline- …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suspect the fixed costs for providing a landline for phone and for phone and broadband are little different and this is an exercise in cross subsidy of pensioner only phones, the group of people with the largest disposable income. Penalising those in work yet again while those on gold plated pensions get more.

    "Disposable income growing faster for UK pensioners than workers"

    https://www.ft.com/content/1549789a-7c42-11e7-9108-edda0bcbc928

    1. Credas Silver badge

      No, it's an exercise in clawing back some of the unjustified price rises for line rental forced through by BT in recent years at a time when its costs of providing them have been falling. The only real mysteries are why Ofcom have allowed this kind of abuse of a dominant market position, and why broadband customers aren't being given similar relief.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >No, it's an exercise in clawing back some of the unjustified price rises

        Couldn't agree more about BT, if people want a phone line only they should go mobile only it's still cheaper unless of course they are in a mobile black spot.

        1. Solarflare

          You come across as a massive jeb-end. This is a big win for 82 year old Ethel who uses the phone every other day to talk to 78 year old Deidrie who lives a few streets away. Neither will own or want to own a mobile and just want to be able use their phone occasionally. Stop being an entitled fool.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Could not agree more.

            My 95 year old mother is half blind (only one half good eye). She has a landline phone with huge buttons. Perfect for her. She has an extension in her bedroom and the kitchen.

            She'd find pretty well all mobiles useless and she'd put it down and not be able to find it again. That would mean me spending a lot of time driving 40+ miles to her home just to find the phone.

            Sorry, Mobiles are not the solution for everyone.

            If BT reduce the price of her package (landline rental + all calls to other landlines) by the same £7/month then I'll be happy. If they include one mobile in it and keep the price the same then I'll be even happier.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Could not agree more.

              Sorry, Mobiles or touchscreen phones, are not the solution for everyone.

            2. Paul

              Re: Could not agree more.

              You can buy mobile phones that look exactly like desk phones.

              I bought one for my mum, and put a Three PAYG SIM in it. It's got a battery in it for backup. It paid for itself in a matter of months instead of bt line rental.

        2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

          if people want a phone line only they should go mobile

          I suspect the main reason most people want a landline is because they want an always available link to the emergency services.

      2. macjules Silver badge

        Totally agree. "We've been creaming off your income for years now, so now we're going to give a few pennies back as a way of saying Fuck you Sorry."

      3. AndrueC Silver badge
        Meh

        forced through by BT in recent years

        *cough*

        BT didn't force the prices through. Its retail arm chose to increase prices (most likely to subsidise its outrageous purchase of football rights) and the other CPs chose to follow - probably because they also thought it a jolly wheeze.

        BT Retail might be evil but the rest of them aren't saints either. They are all free to choose whatever markup they want. They have all chosen to increase their prices when the cost of the underlying service has been falling. Know your enemy ;)

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          IIRC

          A lot of BT revellers had little option but to offer similar pricing as the backhual Openreach prices also increase, coincidentally ;) with BTs price increases.

          The Wholesale price might still be £4 or so cheaper, which you can get with some suppliers, but this Ofcom rulling is still more than that!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: IIRC

            The number of phone sockets I see in comms rooms and other places hidden away makes me wonder how much money BT make from years of line rentals of lines not used for years. Same for an ISDN box with a green light but nothing plugged in to it...

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: IIRC

              I was babysitting an engineer in a data centre the other day, and so I was wandering around being nosey and looking at everyone else's racks and spotted a US Robotics 56k modem, plugged in and apparently operational...

          2. Vince

            Re: IIRC

            Sorry TechnicalBen, the cost of the wholesale line rental from Openreach has not increased.

            It's purely a Retail game - BT Consumer puts up pricing, everyone else does by whatever they do less a few pence and claim they're cheaper than BT etc etc.

            It's all ultimately subsidising the knock down pricing on broadband, but by putting it on landline rental, nobody can really do much about that and so everyone takes it up the rear.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: IIRC

            "A lot of BT revellers had little option but to offer similar pricing as the backhual Openreach prices also increase, coincidentally ;) with BTs price increases."

            Oh no they don't. The wholesale/OpenReach prices have been largely unchanged (or even decreasing) for years. But the big name retailers have been putting prices up, frequently in close alignment with each other.

            The graphic in this 2015 article is particularly informative, but the trend is largely unchanged since:

            https://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/6772-openreach-line-rental-charges-continue-to-diverge-from-retail-price

  2. djstardust Silver badge

    Don't worry ....

    There will be another price rise on the way soon. Not been one for a couple of months.

    Why can't telecoms providers just be nice and fair instead of cutting each other up with deals for new customers and price increases for the loyal ones?

    When the last price rise was announced I called them up and they refused to do anything about it or even price match a competitor. One week later they were on the telly offering new customers a better deal but were willing to lose an existing one. That plainly doesn't make sense.

    So much for BT moving Customer Service back to the UK .... I called last week 8 times randomly and got connected to India each time. I smell bullshit.

    1. Ralph the Wonder Llama

      Re: "Why can't telecoms providers just be nice and fair"

      lol - nice one Centurion ;)

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "Why can't telecoms providers just be nice and fair"

        Sometimes I lie awake at night, dreaming of being shat on (by BT).

    2. King Jack
      Holmes

      Re: Don't worry ....

      The practice seems to apply to energy suppliers too. They shit on existing customers and watch them leave only to temp new victims with reduced prices. I know switching is easy-ish but I loathe doing the same tap dance every couple of years. The truth is they are a cartel and fix prices amongst themselves.

    3. rmason Silver badge

      Re: Don't worry ....

      @djstardust

      agree with all you are saying *but*;

      If the whole shafting old customers and offering deals to new ones didn't work, they wouldn't do it.

      They *know* that the time/energy/hassle required puts all but a few off taking action. If the numbers showed anything else they'd stop.

      They know an extremely high proportion will do absolutely nothing.

  3. Oneman2Many

    I see that VM and Sky aren't cutting their landline only prices.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cheaper to have a landline ....

      We haven't used our landline for 2 years now. After realising this, I contacted VM and requested a move to a broadband-only contract (since VMs basic TV provision is shit too).

      Turned out that the "3 services from us" discount was the same as the cost of basic TV and landline in the bundled package. If we cancelled the landline, it would be (a) no cheaper and (b) another fucking 12 month (or is it 18 month) contract.

      So we just left things. One upside is we have a landline number to give anyone who insists on it. But it will be their loss - there's nothing plugged in. Which conveniently means we don't get any begging calls from VM trying to sucker us back into a contract.

      Ideally I'd like to have a choice in this. But VM are supplying 100Mb/s, while BT can't even manage 3Mb/s. Which I know, because my neighbour uses them.

      1. Haku

        Re: Cheaper to have a landline ....

        " One upside is we have a landline number to give anyone who insists on it. But it will be their loss - there's nothing plugged in. Which conveniently means we don't get any begging calls from VM trying to sucker us back into a contract."

        You have the perfect opportunity to do some sales company trolling, try to spread the number you don't use around to sales companies and setup an answering machine that answers the call with something like

        "Hello? oh wait, hold on I just dropped my glasses. [long pause] Nope, still can't see them, just a moment. [an even longer pause with the feint sounds of things banging and crashing and profusive swearing] Sorry, can you call back later? I've got to attend to this wound on my leg [open ended long pause]"

  4. Lee D Silver badge

    But still a "broadband-only" line costs just as much as a plain voice only, with its legally-required 999 status, etc.

    Hell, put it on a master plate with no BT connector whatsoever, if you have to, and force me to pay to change it if I later want a phone line on it. So that someone can't mistake it for a line they could use in an emergency if they plug a phone into it unwittingly.

    But having 1/3rd of the cost of even the cheapest line be a copper pair which should be much cheaper (and clearer!) without the voice-portion, is ludicrous.

    I had a go at PlusNet because their advert for business broadband basically excluded VAT, line-rental, and all kinds of things and made it appear dirt-cheap when actually it cost over 4 times what the advert said to run.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        It's still a BT line with an (unused) voice connection on it.

        Plus, A&A's basic home package on their copper-only deal (when I looked just now) comes out to £45+ a month.

        1. BenDwire
          Thumb Up

          I have this at home, and the line has been offloaded to Talk-Talk, but A&A deal with that, not me.

          I pay £35 for ADSL and get 13Mbps as I live so close to the exchange. Fibre (VDSL) does cost an extra £10 but I can't get that as my wires go directly to the exchange and there is no local cabinet. (These prices are for a monthly download allowance of 200GB)

          So, if I can have a broadband-only line for £10, why charge £11.99 to the pensioners? It's still not fair in my book, and unlike the first poster I don't begrudge the older generation anything. It won't be long before we all join their ranks ...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If you are keeping the BT line for voice why bother paying for an additional copper line from A&A? Your line with BT would still be voice only.

      3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        A&A do offer a 'copper only' deal. I'm considering switching to them or Zen as I'm currently still on Sky after they swallowed Be Internet..

        However, unless I'm missing something this works out somewhat more expensive. 7 quid discount for a line becoming 'voice only' - so 12 quid a month rental on the voice line, but then another ten for A&A to provide the broadband copper pair. Then there's a one off 60 quid installation cost.

        The only way it works out cheaper is to buy a DECT phone and run VOIP, which AA can do for you. Then of course there's the cost of either a SIP phone or SIP DECT base (unless a mobile with SIP software is used). So a payback period of ten months (60 quid install plus 50 quid for SIP phone or DECT base, divided by the future reduced rate of 12 quid). That's not counting VoIP costs, which appear not to be entirely straightforward, but look like it's another fifteen quid to port an existing number, and (possibly/probably) an ongoing VoIP maintenance charge of a few quid a month, plus then there's the comparison of call rates.. (including free calls with various providers' friends and families rates)

        Still, once that's all done it's (probably) saving 60-70 quid a year.

        1. BenDwire
          Pint

          I think you are missing something. The article is really about pensioners who don't want broadband, and have been cross-subsidising the rest of the customer base by paying more in line rental than can be justified.

          Broadband only customers like myself don't want a voice land-line, as only PPI scum** tend to call the house I might be in as opposed to my mobile. So A&A's £10 copper-only pair suits me perfectly.

          I don't bother with SIP/VOIP/DECT ar anything else. Mates ring my mobile that's always near me.

          I agree that I'm only saving less than £100 per year, but why not? It helps to pay the bar bills ...

          ** Other pond-life is available

          1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            Yes, but the commentator above is referring to keeping two lines, one for voice only..

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      e their advert for business broadband basically excluded VAT, line-rental, and all kinds of things

      I had that recently- also plusnet and a couple others . Domestic though.

      I'm pretty sure there was an article here on the reg a few months ago Where Ofcom had told these providers to stop fucking about with deceptive prices and make it plain wether or not the price includes line rental.

      Luckily becasue Line rental is usually 85% of the cost it s fairly easy to tell.

      IF Price >17.99 LineRentalIncluded = true

  5. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    I'm seriously considering going 'mobile' only. After all I don't do that much...

    ...bittorrent...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: I'm seriously considering going 'mobile' only. After all I don't do that much...

        I'd go mobile only in a heart beat as I'd guess monthly usage on the net is less than 10gb, 20 at most, and some nice contracts covering that data cap...

        However, some games now come in at 45gb download, and 5gb update... So that scuppers that idea. But I'm almost at that age where I'll only play nostalgia and stuff already on the hard disk (which I move to SSD when in use ;) ).

  6. Roland6 Silver badge

    Open to interpretation..

    "This will come in to effect from April 2018 for all landline-only customers who just take phone services from us and don’t have broadband (either with BT or someone else)."

    Need to look at the details as the announcement doesn't clarify what is "broadband", as potentially those using Alt-ISPs such as Gigaclear won't be entitled to the discount.

  7. Colin Bull 1
    Flame

    broken market, broken regulator

    This proves that the telecomms market place has been broken for the last year or so, aided and abetted by Ofcom. It has been obvious that the other major providers slavishly follow BT's line increases when the unbundling prices are orders of magnitude lower than line rental. Couple with the fact that broadband has more or les been thrown in for free recently. It is obvious BT have the majority of the market for the older consumer, making it a captive market. Ofcom have allowed BT to gouge this market with annual rises as costs have fallen.

    1. Mike Scott 1

      Re: broken market, broken regulator

      As well as gouge those on non-LLU exchanges.

      No options or opportunities to receive anything except full whack BT prices for their worst level of service.

  8. TonyJ Silver badge

    I ditched BT for Vodafone

    Moved to Vodafone Business Fibre.

    They charge no line rental.

    Between the actual cost savings compared to BT Infinity Business Fibre and losing BT's line rental I have more than halved what I was paying for a slightly better service (greater number of static IPs, for example).

    And I liked their pragmatic approach - when I told the sales guy I don't even have a phone plugged in, and it's used purely to service the broadband, he got it right away and didn't try to upsell anything.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: I ditched BT for Vodafone

      Moved to Vodafone Business Fibre.

      They charge no line rental.

      They don't bill it separately, true, however you're still paying for it somehow. You have to. Copper buried in the ground and street-side electronics fail now and again. The bulk of the OR line rental cost is paying for the vans, engineers, parts and spares and backroom staff needed to maintain the local loop.

      If you expect anyone to come and fix your line problems you have to pay for it. Either an eye watering bill at point of failure or else an ongoing less onerous payment.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: I ditched BT for Vodafone

        "...however you're still paying for it ..."

        Possibly true but here's the figures for comparison:

        BT Business Infinrity with 5 Static IP's (4 x usable): £56pm due to rise again shortly after I left them to as I recall £60-61pm

        Line rental £18.99pm

        So the monthly bill to BT was £75pm

        Vodafone Business Fibre + 9 Static IP's (8 usable so a doubling) £32.50pm (£25 + 7.50 for the IP's)

        You may be right that they're bundling it in but not showing it but at that kind of saving, I don't care much :)

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: I ditched BT for Vodafone

          You may be right that they're bundling it in but not showing it but at that kind of saving, I don't care much :)

          Yeah that's a pretty good deal. What are they like to work with? I use them for my personal mobile service and despise their customer support team with a passion.

          1. TonyJ Silver badge

            Re: I ditched BT for Vodafone

            "...Yeah that's a pretty good deal. What are they like to work with? I use them for my personal mobile service and despise their customer support team with a passion...."

            So far they've been great - UK based call centre and they know their stuff when I've had to call which to be fair hasn't been often.

            The first time was to query the welcome letter that they sent that had the wrong costs on (and a little font at the bottom saying that it didn't include any discounts you may have received - they explained that and agreed it's a crap letter), the second was request the IP address and login details to use my own router setup and the final was a billing query as it wasn't clear it was the first 6 weeks rather than 4.

            In every case I got straight through, spoke to someone helpful who knew what they were talking about and came away pleased.

            The service itself - it is not noticeable different from BT's to be fair.

            I think, in all honesty, you tend to get better service with a business account. It's not always the cheapest by a long stretch. When I swapped mobile providers three years ago, I wanted away from O2 as they'd gone from good to bad to absolutely terrible. Three were awful to deal with but generally gave decent deals and good performance and Vodafone were hideously expensive.

            EE got really bad reviews for anything consumer but hidden away were reports of them winning award after award for businesses. Best thing I did - fast, loads of shared data and the usual unlimited minutes yada yada but again - UK call centre staffed with people who know what they're doing and do it well.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I ditched BT for Vodafone

      Interesting info re Voda Business. I was an enforced customer of theirs some considerable time ago (deal via employer) and was very happy to get out. Hopefully they've improved.

      Back to voice-only landlines: the article seems to imply the price reductions are for *residential* services. Do they also apply to BT's "business" lines as well?

  9. nijam

    Next, an equivalent reduction for broadband-only customers who don't want a landline phone service.

    No? Thought not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, don't buy your land line straight from BT, get it from Freeola or Andrews & Arnold for a tenner and no 12 month contract.

    2. Daniel Hall
      Thumb Up

      That's a YES from me!

      As above!

      I dont want your million included minutes because **SHOCK HORROR** I have a mobile phone!

      I. Just. Want. Broadband.

      #nothingelse

      RIP common sense!

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: That's a YES from me!

        um , how are these " Freeola or Andrews & Arnold " people selling Land Lines for £10 per month if BT are monopolying them out at 17.99 pm?

        1. BenDwire
          Thumb Up

          Re: That's a YES from me!

          There is no voice service at all. I don't know how the sums are done, but I can vouch for it only costing £10. But you do have to pay for A&A's service, which costs more than most other players - but in my experience is worth it.

        2. Oor Nonny-Muss
          WTF?

          Re: That's a YES from me!

          Because the underlying service (WLR2) is under a tenner if you're a communications partner (like BT Retail or A&A or Freeola or Sky or VM or...)

          A&A & Freeola have taken the laudable decision not to add a markup of 70%+ the others - not so much

  10. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    About bloody time but don't forget that Ofcom wants all the major providers to stop listing line rental separately for those of us that do take a data service. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not..

  11. JimM

    Some elderly have home monitoring or fall alarms and that requires a landline.

  12. Gerry 3
    FAIL

    Avoid Freeola - they don't even support 1471.

    1. Eccles1

      Why would they? The service is marketed to support a broadband service, not calls. Can't see any problem with that. I can see anywhere on their site which makes me think they would allow 1471. They do allow caller ID though, so you could still see who called, including the last call, just like 1471.

  13. d3vy Silver badge

    Im sure that this will be helpful for the few people who have Phone only land lines... However what I want ofcom to turn their attention to is compulsory bundled services...

    I need broadband (£26 p/m) so we have to have a BT phone line.

    The BT Phone line has rental (£18 p/m)

    If it stopped there then I'd be happy, BUT..

    BT insist that if we have a phone line we also have to have a call package at £14 p/m.. We dont even have a phone connected to the line.

    So every year I go through the motions of phoning BT, threatening to leave and they eventually apply a discount equal to the price of the call package to my bill for 12 months as long as I sign up for another 12 month contract.

    I have to wonder how many others are just paying it and not realising?

    Also while I'm at it... BT seriously £14 a month for evening and weekend calls? My O2 sim costs me £13 a month and has unlimited any time any network minutes... so your call package is not offering anything close to value for money.

    I only started looking at the costs when I realised that we were only using one service (Broadband) and were paying close to £60 a month because of the bundled services. We are unfortunately stuck with BT though.

    Another thing that I started to notice on the bill was an additional charge of £1 per month FOR NOT USING THE PHONE. When I asked they advised me to just make one call a month! What a ridiculous system!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "what I want ofcom to turn their attention to is compulsory bundled services..."

      Which in a more honest world would be described as abuse of BT's significant market power.

      "[BT's] call package is not offering anything close to value for money."

      It's value for money for BT though, because (a) it's basically money for nothing for BT (b) it makes a fortune for BT on out-of-bundle calls (c) it makes it less and less feasible for an alternate calls provider to survive ie to make money. All of which suits BT fine.

      "We are unfortunately stuck with BT though."

      You may be stuck with BT Openreach or even BTwholesale, but in the absence of diktats from employers etc paying your phone and/or broadband bills, even in an Openreach-only area, you should be able to choose retailers other than BT - not just Sky or TalkTalk using their own kit, but also less well-known "boutique" voice and broadband providers from AAISP to Zen (and others in between) who operate over wires from BT and others, and provide services different from what BT offer. Which is of course irritating to BT. See "abuse of significant market power" above, and repeat until competitors are non-existent.

      "What a ridiculous system!"

      Can't argue with that. I believe in the bigger picture it's called "regulatory capture":

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture.

      Rather surprisingly the Wikipedia article mentions none of Oftel, Ofcon, or BT, so here's something with a UK focus albeit not specifically telecoms, from Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University Computing Dept

      https://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2017/06/16/regulatory-capture/

      "Strategically, why is British regulators so cosy with the industries they regulate, and what can be done about that? My starting point is that the appointment of regulators should no longer be in the gift of ministers. I propose that regulatory appointments be moved from the Cabinet Office to an independent commission, like the Judicial Appointments Commission, but with a statutory duty to hire the people most likely to challenge groupthink and keep the regulator effective. That is a political matter – a matter for all of us."

      Enjoy.

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