BT could be forced to stop charging for unused landlines

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The government has dealt another blow to BT’s business model with an announcement that it and other telcos could be banned from charging customers for unwanted landlines when they sign up for broadband services.

Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey has reportedly asked BT, Virgin, Sky, and TalkTalk to attend a meeting in Whitehall over the next few weeks to discuss the situation. He described charging customers for unused landlines as an “analogue billing system in a digital world”.

“People should pay for what they use,” Vaizey is reported as saying in the Telegraph. “If the companies come up with a different pricing structure, that is fine, as long as they can see what they are paying for. Some people want to get rid of their landline entirely and [just]pay for their broadband.”

The government says that 20 per cent of landlines are unused, even though all customers are obliged to pay a monthly charge. However, the situation is actually far worse than that and has a strong generational element: only two per cent of teenagers use landlines, according to a recent pan-European survey.

It is also known that BT sees landlines as direct sales channels into customers’ homes and offices. (A BT sales executive once told UCInsight that this reporter’s landline was theirs to use as they wished, rather than his private phone number.)

The move has been welcomed by MP Grant Shapps, head of the British Infrastructure Group, which recently published a report, ‘Broadbad’, calling for the breakup of BT and Openreach for the good of the UK’s economy and digital progress.

Shapps said, “We have a long way to go to get true transparency in the cost of internet connections, but it’s good to see the government pushing in the right direction.”

A detailed UCInsight report on the UK’s failing broadband network is available here.

Also see:

BT and Openreach escape breakup.
BT outage affects millions of customers.

About Author

Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton is a widely respected business and technology journalist, author, and magazine editor. In recent years he has been Editor of Computing (where he remains Consulting Editor); co-founder and Managing Editor of Professional Outsourcing – a magazine he developed from scratch and grew to be the leading magazine in its field; Editor of CBR in its most successful year; and co-founder and launch Editor of Sourcingfocus.com. Today, he is co-Director of EastwoodMiddleton Publishing, and founder, designer, and Editor in Chief of Strategist magazine (UK), the boardroom magazine that provides strategic insight for business leaders, and of its mobile-first digital edition at www.iamtheStrategist.com. He is also co-founding Editor of Child Internet Safety magazine, and a contributing Editor of Diginomica.com. Over the years Chris has also written for, among many others, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and Computer Weekly. He is the author of several successful books on digital media, and a commissioning editor of more than 50 books.