BT to make most calls to helplines free by 1 April

BT to make most calls to helplines free by 1 April

Calls on other companies to follow its lead

BT is to stop charging for most calls to its consumer service and helpdesk numbers and has challenged other companies to do the same.

The telecoms giant said the call charges are often as much as 50 pence a minute, and the total cost to consumers is an estimated £70m a year. BT, which operates dozens of these helplines, said companies can't justify the charges; especially if someone has to stay on the phone for up to an hour for technical advice.

So from 1 April it pledged to make 99 per cent of these calls free, irrespective of which landline the call originates from.

BT consumer managing director Gavin Patterson said: “BT has decided to make these calls free. We call on the rest of the industry to follow our lead. There is no excuse for companies whose prices are sky high or verging on the ridiculous.”

Most chargeable numbers begin with 0845 or 0870. BT will change these to begin with a free 0800 or 0808 prefix. BT’s six most-used numbers will be changed by 1 April, 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 account for less than one per cent of incoming calls, will be changed in 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.