/ Technology

BT’s Caller Display: would you pay to know who’s calling?

What's your number? written on chalk board

BT has announced a range of price rises for its home phone and broadband customers. The telecoms provider is also going to introduce charges for some of its free services, including Caller Display…

From 4 January 2014, BT’s broadband will increase by up to 6.5%, and its line rental will go up by 3.5% from £15.45 to £15.99 a month (unless you pay it all upfront at an unchanged £141 for the year). There’s another catch in BT’s latest price rise. Customers who want Caller Line Identification (CLI), which you can use to identify who’s calling you, will have to pay.

BT to charge for Caller Display

Previously free, BT Privacy at Home with Caller Display will cost £1.75 a month or £21 per year in the New Year.

There is a way to continue using BT’s Caller Display free-of-charge for a year. However, you’ll have to sign another 12 month contract for BT’s line rental, which is going up in price. And if you want to escape mid-contract? Well, BT’s also hiking some of its early termination charges by as much as 30%.

Of course, BT isn’t the only fixed-line provider to charge for Caller Display – Virgin Media charges £2.25 per month, for example. Though it is free if you’re with Sky or TalkTalk.

Caller Display helps in reporting nuisance calls

So, do you think you should have to pay extra for Caller Display? Knowing the phone number of who’s calling you is key to reporting nuisance calls to the regulators. This is something you can do via our complaints tool, which we launched as part of our Calling Time on Nuisance Calls & Texts campaign. It’s also something Which? Convo commenter BigMart does:

‘I had a live cold caller this morning […] Caller Display gave me their number and I shall report it to TPS.’

Robert also finds Caller Display essential:

‘I find caller display 100% effective – if a number is unavailable/withheld, the caller doesn’t get answered and any decent legit caller will leave a message on the answerphone.’

Sandie recommends Caller Display in the fight against nuisance calls as well:

‘If you are with BT why not ask for Caller Display, which is free, and if you don’t have one already, a phone which will display numbers. They don’t have to be expensive either. Then you will know if a friend is calling and which tone of voice to use! Personally I couldn’t live without Caller Display, but it surprises me how many people don’t have it set up.’

We all take it for granted that numbers are displayed on mobile phones. Should it be different with a landline – especially if you’ve bought a handset with Caller Display, such as BT’s call-blocking BT6500 handset? Do you think home phone companies should be allowed to charge extra for Caller Display?

Graeme says:
15 October 2013

The best thing to do is to send an email to the Select Committee Chairman to express your annoyance. They are conducting an enquiry into nuisance calls and have yet to report. If a dozen people write to him I think he would sit up and listen. He is at john.whittingdale.mp@parliament.uk
I have sent the the email below.
You can modify as you see fit.

Subject Nuisance calls

Dear Mr Whittingdale
I am writing to you as I understand you are involved with the select committee that is investigating nuisance/spam telephones calls.

I am concerned to hear that BT will to be charging £21 per year for their privacy at home option. I have had to purchase devices to block nuisance calls for my mother and mother in law, both 88 years old, to give them some peace from these calls. In 11 month my mother’s device has blocked over 410 calls. Recently she has been receiving, on average, 4 unsolicited calls per day. These devices rely on the caller ID being available which is now going to cost them an additional £21 per year on top of the increased rental charges from BT.

In addition to this people buying the BT6500 reasonably assumed that they would not have to pay any additional running costs. The phone costs £45, so an unexpected annual bill of £21 per year to use it, is a proportionally huge additional cost. BT must have known about these plans for some time but still carried on selling their phone in this way – in fact they have just launched a big button version for their older customers.
Argos and Amazon are the biggest sales channels for cordless phone. In their adverts for the BT6500 phone neither seems to mention the Caller Display service so anyone buying a BT6500 from them cannot reasonably expect to be charged for Caller Display. They may both be committing an offence with their adverts (ie when buying the BT nuisance call blocking range of phones the cost of a Caller Display service is an implied contract term that isn’t made explicit to the consumer).
BT have around 10 million residential lines – assuming that half of these have caller-display turned on this could generate a £100m annual bill for consumers.
The service is already there, the infrastructure is in place and the development is already paid for – what is the justification for the additional cost? They will argue that they have been subsidising their customer to the extent of £100m a year since 2005. This doesn’t wash since Sky and TalkTalk provide it free.
I believe in their written evidence to the Select Committee they said that they provide customers with products and services to block nuisance calls including :-
‘BT Privacy at Home’, a service that includes free Caller Display and registration with the Telephone Preference Service’.
They must have known that the price rises were in the system these price increases were due when they said this, so they were not being clear with the Select Committee.
I see this as BT profiteering from people’s misery. They are already making money from these calls.
Could you please let me know what action you may be able to take to prevent these charges from going ahead?

I recently discovered that BT prevents the caller’s number from being displayed if it is a non-UK number. I have tested this not only with calls from abroad but also with a non-UK number calling from within the UK (e.g. a non-UK mobile phone roaming in the UK). Although non-BT networks (e.g. UK mobile networks) display a non-UK caller’s number, BT (including any company using BT’s infrastructure) hides the number from the called party. This unreasonable concealment of caller ID data should be outlawed, as it makes it more difficult for consumers to identify nuisance callers before answering a call.

Graeme says:
27 March 2014

I believe it is OFCOM that allow companies and anyone to withhold their number not BT. BT do prevent numbers from abroad being displayed but this was originally done to protect people from spoofed numbers as BT at the time had some twisted idea that Johnny foreigner would spoof your aunties number so they decided it would be safer to withhold it!!!!!!!!!! go figure,
I believe they have now been convinced that this is causing more problems that it resolved and are currently in the process of changing all the exchanges to allow the numbers through. Should be completed by the end of this year.

This was in the news yesterday:


Thanks NFH, I sent a Tweet to a couple of the MP’s on the Select Committee on this subject and they were supposed to ask Warren Buckley (BT witness) for an explanation. I think it was Alun Cairns and Philip Davies. In the BBC article, BT are still plugging their nuisance calls phone. Trying to empower us to spend money on their products.

Turn This Subject on it’s Head

BT & others appear to be monetising something that should be a LEGAL requirement. In other words businesses and private individuals should be required by law to display their telephone number as this takes away anonymity or viewed the other way provides transparency. One always has the choice to answer a call or not but by enforcing Caller ID it is then possible to take action against persistent nuisance callers and other more serious offenders. Personally I use the following methods, the landline is always on Answer Phone (recording) and on the mobile I do not answer a number that is not in my address book ( unless expecting an unknown number). So in general I do not answer any unknown callers. I suggest others do the same and perhaps in time we will have a less intrusive and in some cases a safer life.

Are we paying to finance BT’s bid for sport? If so it should be stopped immediately. It certainly seems so. BT are a con job, sky high prices, poor customer services and lack of lines for new customers in our village!

Tony Chapple says:
27 March 2014

Caller id actually increased to £42 a year from 4 Jan i.e.£3.50 a month and I think I was already paying £3 per month so don’t know where the £1.75 per month being quoted comes from!! Even the lead article quotes £1.75 per month……………..where can I get it at this price???

Graeme says:
27 March 2014

I would call BT or go on line and look at what you are paying for. BT privacy at Home package, which includes caller display, cost £1.75/month.
Go here http://home.bt.com/ and log in and you will see what you are paying for.

Tony says:
28 March 2014

Have now been on to BT and am told there is no refund and I have been paying for caller id for 15 years! But don’t know how long it had been available free up to 4.1.2014. They have now agreed to provide it free of charge for a year!

You can’t trust any of these people……………..it was only through some comments in the press and in Which that I picked it up now!! Have also paid line rental for a year in advance to save £50 but rental paid in advance on last bill and caller id charge means they owe me about £44 but BT does not refund this but holds it against future bills which will cover 6 months or a bit more as I only have £7 per month call package to pay. They are as bad as the Energy companies!

“Have also paid line rental for a year in advance to save £50” and that would be why they offered you caller id for free as its part of the current deal if you pay your line rental in advance.

PeterM says:
29 March 2014

Maybe they didn’t market “BT Privacy” very well in 2005, but depending on what your calls package is, perhaps one way to “repay” their policies is to switch to someone else!

Phil says:
28 March 2014

Given current technology I find it difficult to believe that BT couldn’t prevent these nuisance calls if they wished to. But why should they when they can exploit the situation by increasing their revenue selling nuisance-call prevention products, and doubtless in some cases receiving revenue from the call makers?

I also note that if you order any additional phone or internet product from BT, such as Caller Display, you have to agree to an extension of your contract for at least a year, with no alternative option. This traps customers into BT and is anti-competitive.

PeterM says:
29 March 2014

While I can accept there may be some products (such as a change of broadband package), which would extend your contract, but I truly doubt ordering just Caller Display, would extend your contract.

When I was last with BT (a few years ago, now) it was possible to switch network services on or off, and there was no year-long commitment. Now I know they were doing some deal for people who previously had BT Privacy for free, which was a 12 month special, but the obvious solution for people who are unhappy is to mark their diary (or add a reminder on their mobile) to SWITCH to some other service before they are locked in for YET ANOTHER YEAR.

I use Primus for my line rental at 5.99 but don’t have any included calls, don’t have Caller Display or even 1471. Make most of my calls from my mobile (2000 minutes to landlines and mobiles), though I use the landline for 0800s, and via 1899.com when I call friends in USA (15 minute calls cost 15p + 6p connection, so a total of 21p!!)

E Hever says:
20 June 2014

When I receive calls from Ireland, the message on caller display shows ‘International Call’ rather than the caller ID. This is apparently as Ireland have not signed some agreement. When I mention this to the telecom provider in Ireland ‘Eircom’ they know nothing of this. Meanwhile BT blocks all numbers from Ireland. Do we need a telecomunicayion peace process?
Really BT, you are unbelievable and so arrogant!

my friend who is 88 years old as been with you for over 40 years she has a bt phone line and pay quarterley,her total phone calls are less than 15 pounds a quarter why should she pay full rental,vat and the rest you charge,i think this is a rip off let me know please so we can decide what to do thank you gary

Is your friend eligible for BT Basic line rental which is £5.10 per month and comes with caller display

PeterM says:
23 February 2015

Look at your figures – that’s still 15/ quarter (as mentioned by Gary).

I think the problem is that few people consider the fact their line is (usually) operational 24 x 7 every week of the year. 5 pounds is for maintenance and repair Gary, so that the exchange will get new batteries from time to time, the phone line (at least from the cabinet back to the exchange) can be upgraded every 20-30 years (perhaps the next step will be fibre instead of copper).

5 pounds a month is below the wholesale charge (agreed by OFCOM) for Openreach to charge the other services like TalkTalk, Sky, etc. They pay 8+VAT.

I know it may not seem fair, if someone who is of pensioner age hardly uses the phone, but it’s a fee to ensure it is *available* for those important calls – perhaps a 999 for Medical, Fire service, or Police assistance.

PeterM says:
23 February 2015

Apologies – I misread Gary’s comment – now see it was 15 pounds of call charges. The lower cost rate from BT used to be for “low usage”. If someone goes onto BT Basic don’t the call charges increase (up to the point where the monthly cost is the same as full line rental) ?

I think the friend would be better off paying for “anytime” package of calls if regularly spending 15 pounds a month on Calls… unless part of the reason for the cost is that they are calls to mobiles, when some other option may be better.

Denys Owen says:
21 February 2015

At nearly 89 I’m not the brightest when it comes to making sense of BT’s “offer”.

I do not wish to PAY for Caller ID but can find no way of telling BT this, and without having to enter into another 12 months contract. Any suggestions?

PeterM says:
23 February 2015

So my question for you, is do you want Caller ID, or would you give it up as there’s a charge for it?

There are few options now that BT won’t offer it free forever.

Plus.Net charges 99p a month for it, while The Post Office includes it for free.

I use both for Broadband, but my Plus.Net service is on a phone line rented via Primus Saver (before they renamed themselves Fuel Broadband)

Caro says:
29 May 2015

I used to work in software development in the Telecomms industry so know that charging for caller id is a big rip off. In order to switch it on or off to any given telephone number is just a single field (just a one bit field – there are 8 bits in a byte) in one of the “messages” which set up telephone calls which would take all of 30 seconds to activate/deactivate so there is virtually zero cost involved in providing this service.
How they can justify £1.75 a month for this is beyond me.

On my December 2015 BT bill I noticed a charge of 68p for BT Privacy Caller Display (BTPCD), this had previously been provided FREE. Result of enquiry to BT was that this feature had been included FREE with a 12 month line rental contract which expired mid December 2015. I said I had paid a 12 month Line Rental Saver (LRS) which did not expire until September 2016. Yes, agreed the BT man, most people who pay for LRS automatically think they are getting PCD free for 12 months. It is a 12 month line rental contract, not LRS which has FREE BTPCD!! Well, I said, do you notify customers when BTPCD ceases to be provided FREE? No, said the BT man. You would not have been notified. After the 12 month FREE PCD period we do not cancel the service unless the customer requests us to do so. The service then becomes a chargeable service at £1.75 a month. Your 68p charge is for a few days past the end of your 12 month line rental contract!! I will refund this and provide BTPCD FREE again as you have notified us that you would like this FREE for an extra 12 months.

I was so astonished by the complexity and convolution of this exchange that I mentioned it to 5 friends. After investigation of their bills, ALL 5 found they had been paying for features that they thought had been FREE and 2 found they had been unknowingly charged for BT Sports.

If all 5 friends were unaware until prompted to check their bills, how many BT customers are in the same boat I wonder?

keith says:
1 May 2016

Better off finding a cheaper provider bt are expensive