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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?

GEOFF says:
4 October 2013

As you can see from my email, I subscribe to BT, chiefly because I can use their zone services. However, I shall think twice when the prices go up. Like other folks, I have a caller-display phone, and find it useful for dealing with nuisance calls, particularly those from the sub-continent. they are ignored and go over to answerphone. they usually ring off before the message finishes, and, if the call is from an expatriate friend, they leave a message. My phone also has the facility of blocking unwanted UK calls.

Alan G says:
4 October 2013

Does anyone know whether this is purely a BT Retail price rise or is it driven by BT Wholesale applying or increasing their network charges? If it’s the latter we will presumably see many more Communications Providers increasing their charges too? If it’s only BT Retail adding the charges then it does seem a strange move.

Peter Morgan says:
5 October 2013

Most firms that charge, charge around 2.00-2.50 per month. I suspect they may be only slightly tempted to increase the charge but they know that consumers will vote with their cash and switch if they feel unhappy about this. While BT is charging, it is charging less, so could look attractive. Similarly Sky and TalkTalk.

Some might even scrap using landline if they are able to get 4G service for the internet at a reasonable cost. I know Three charges only 15 pounds for their One Plan SIM only deal, with 2000 minutes and unlimited data each month (and you can tether a laptop or tablet to your mobile, which is not allowed on all contracts/ PAYG deals). It’s looking attractive as a competitor, especially as Three has pledged not to charge more for 4G (whereas those networks offering it at present started with higher fees and a limit of say 8 GB of data month – I can use that much on Three in as little as 5 days). Obviously, with a mobile, you see the number of the caller, so no paying extra for “Caller Display” !

You said Caller Display is free with TalkTalk, which it certainly is – as I write. However, whenever BT increases its prices – or starts charging for something, TalkTalk (and probably most other providers) follow suit within a few months. Like most, I am fed up with nuisance calls. Although my phone isn’t smart enough to ring differently if the number is withheld or unknown, I have been able to set it to ring differently if the number is in my personal phone book. So, if I’m busy and it’s a ‘normal’ ring, I let the answerphone take the message.

The technology for Caller Display has been around for many years, so it must have paid for itself by now. Other countries (eg. France and the USA) can even display info from outside their own country – all BT can do is wimp out with ‘We do not have the caller’s number to return the call’.

It would be very easy, if they got their act together, to be able to block entire countries using Caller display. I will never have any reason to accept calls from India (whose country code is 0091) – the facility is there block ALL calls from any specific country. Telecom companies – get your a**e in gear and implement it PDQ!

stephen says:
5 October 2013

I find it difficult to understand how BT can justify charging for caller display as being able to see the number calling before answering is important in screening unwanted calls. Putting up rental is bad enough but creating a charge for caller display can not be justified. I suggest changing to a supplier where this service remains free, perhaps Which could publish a list.

Peter Morgan says:
10 October 2013

Think they have in the article… options are probably limited to Sky, TalkTalk and possibly Virgin Media.

I cannot get Virgin and would probably not want either of the other two… but that’s me.

Since joining BT I have been trying to get the caller display to work, they fob me off, it worked perfectly (automatic and free) with Talk Talk, 1571 also automatic and free with TT, I would NOT have switched if I had been able to get the TV I wanted with TT

In this day and age all this should be free to all. When will the masses wake up and stand up and fight against this. And what do the so called government do??? Moan about it to the public, yet do nothing about it behind closed doors. All I need is the internet and my mobile even the mobile I can do without. I’m so fed up with all this take take take and all we do is moan moan moan.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Andy Cooke says:
5 October 2013

Unbelievable! When there is a strong campaign backed by a public voice, for BT to put up its caller ID charges is scandalous. Phone companies should be doing everything they can to empower their customers to be able to identify nuisance calls and so assist in providing information with which to report companies abusing the TPS system, which is far from effective. To compound the situation the 1571 service is going up too! A disgrace. I for one will be looking around for a cheaper alternative ASAP.

alan says:
5 October 2013

I contacted B T to say I did not want to pay extra for an old friends and family service, been with
B T for ever, just to carry on as before.
was sent letter stating I had a new 12 month contract which I didn’t want.
I phoned within the7 days to cancel my new contract as I don’t want to be tied for 12 months after heated discussion I thought my old plan was back in action .
another letter arrives ,thanking me for asking to change my B T service with a 12 month contract,
another call to B T heated again , tried to explain I did not want a new contract as I would probably be trying to bundle a package together perhaps with other providers.
I think this is where all the problems are B T are trying to ring fence customers to stop them leaving tying them down with new contracts.
B T are reviewing my conversations with call centre, but insist I have to have a new contract.
I am waiting for a reply from B T

One of BT’s little tricks is to make sure that the various services and contracts you have all overlap so that they cannot be cancelled (or renewed) at the same time.

Of course, our friendly BT is the same friendly BT that recently killed off BT Vault, their free-to-everyone cloud storage product and replaced it with BT Cloud, a free-if-you-give-us-money cloud storage product. I suppose we should have seen this coming.

Kevin T says:
6 October 2013

I will try to speak to BT to clarify the below but if someone has already done that it would be useful to share. I know PlusNet, a subsidiary of BT, charges lower rental but does charge £0.99 for Caller Display. I would prefer, if I can switch without penalty from the 1 year contract, to PlusNet from whom I have broadband.

“If, as a result of these price changes or changes to terms, you decide to terminate your affected service(s), you may do so without incurring the Early Termination Charge(s) that may otherwise be payable. If you wish to exercise this right you must contact us within 10 days of receiving the notification sent to you personally. You will still be liable to service charges up to the date of termination. “

Kevin T says:
6 October 2013

Just spoke to BT call centre. Was effectively told that I would lose the remaining period of the 12 month line rental pre-paid using Line Rental Saver. Was told to give 30 days notice to cancel features not required.

(Was left feeling the Call centre guy did not really know about aspects that well, including getting BT Privacy i.e. Caller Display free for 12 months on taking out a new 12 month contract.)

John says:
7 October 2013

BT are just after maximising their profits by every possible way. Does anyone remember the good old days? PO Telephones. This is what you get for privatisation of public utilities. It is all marketing, what’s wrong with simplicity. They charge me £1.50 to send me a bill, can I deduct £1.50 for sending them a cheque!? Watch out for Royal Mail ‘add ons’ next.

Peter Morgan says:
10 October 2013

My memory of the “good old days”, quite some time back in the 80s, was of waiting for nearly a year to get a new phone line installed, and it cost a small fortune, too. We also had to pay rental for the phone. In the early 90s it was finally possible to buy your own phone and send theirs back, and not pay many times its real cost.

I think you may be wearing some rosy coloured specs.

The charging for caller id, which previously has been a free protection under the privacy sign-up,
is an obvious snub to the Culture and Media Support Select Committee, and more importantly, to
BT’s customers.
I have tried taking up BT’s price increases and general behaviour with the regulator in the past.
The regulator responds that the customer has the option to switch provider if the pricing becomes
uncompetitive. I have actually enquired of the regulator as to why it exists, or should continue so to do.
The day that any of the so-called regulators become effective a celebration party should take place, attended by all of the electorate.

For everyone’s information, I have just switched my elderly mother’s phone to the Post Office. They are a lot cheaper than BT, all the free services are still free, and they still do 10% off for Friends & Family.

@lee beaumont I expect all the companies will issue a vague statement such as this. “We have no plans (at present) to change our tariffs” !!

Hi all, Mike Crockart MP made this comment on the first day of a nuisance calls inquiry (which we’re attending on your behalf):

“I am delighted with the way the first session went this morning. Whilst the Government needs to take action to protect consumers from unscrupulous organisations and individuals, further regulation and legislation will only go so far to solving the problem.

“The telecoms providers and Mobile Network Operators need to play their part in tackling this nuisance and I was pleased to hear about the very positive steps which BT, TalkTalk and the Mobile Broadband Group are already taking in this area.

“I was disappointed to hear about BT’s recent decision to charge some of its customers for Caller ID services. I believe that it is unfair to charge people up to £21 a year to be able to see who is calling them.

“Caller ID is not a premium service, and as such, should come as part of the basic service offered by BT. It leaves vulnerable constituents at risk of scams and may
Prevent many registering their complaints with the Information Commissioner’s Office or Ofcom.

“I am looking forward to questioning the regulators tomorrow on what reforms are needed to make them more effective in their tracing and enforcement work.”

Thanks for this update Patrick. It seems like a good start. I don’t suppose BT are quaking in their boots but it might give them pause ad reconsider. As the major consumer organisation Which? [and with help from Parliament] might be able to keep the regulators up to the mark on tracing and enforcement, but getting BT to start behaving decently and not exploit its enormous market dominance -especially among the most vulnerable – is a real challenge and – unless the regulator, or in default the legislators are brought to bear on the matter – the charge for caller-display will become embedded as standard practice across the industry.

It’s sad to see an MP come up with “further regulation and legislation will only go so far to solving the problem”.

Why admit defeat so swiftly. Any number of the commentators on here could, I’m sure, suggest legalisation that would dramatically cut the number of nuisance calls.

Be it a) eye watering/jaw dropping fines against the MD/board members of a company caught cold calling. b) eye watering/jaw dropping fines against the MD /board members of a telco connecting a nuisance caller c) making it illegal for a company/organisation to withhold/spoof or otherwise prevent their real number from being displayed in advance of a call. d) or simply just give me the means to report a current or last call to my telco company and let them sort out who it should be reported to,

I’d love see to the MD of BTs face after getting a personal £50million fine the next time I get a PPI /double glazing/ survey call. And none of the recent we would have fine them more but they couldn’t afford it nonsense.

Any fines will just be passed on to the customer in higher prices.

That’s why their personal against the MDs rather then their companies, Although they’ll just get their pay up which would result in higher prices. So maybe just ship with CEOs etc over to a jail in Peru for 10 years.

Peter Morgan says:
10 October 2013

If you are getting regular nuisance calls, there’s already a way for you to report them. I don’t have the details to hand (but it requires dialling 147x {I cannot remember the last digit}), but know that you have to discuss the matter with your telecom firm, and possibly the Police. It’s more for the stalker/ threatening calls than PPI or “your Windows PC has a virus” type calls.

As for the other types of call, just like the phoney e-mails, many of the nuisance calls are made outside the UK, so no matter how eye-watering the fines, the UK firms who put out to tender their marketing work, the actual nuisance callers won’t be here and won’t be fined and cannot easily be stopped without Interpol or similar. Don’t know if the EU might have any regulations, but if they did, firms would move outside the EU anyway.

Sorry, but international calls are also a reason why Anonymous Call Rejection won’t work – International does not get classed as Withheld (which could be blocked automatically, for a fee) and does not get blocked. Also, because Caller ID is not trusted to be sent correctly when a call goes international, many UK networks do not show the number because there’s no guarantee it is valid.

There are many different systems in place worldwide and it’s probably still not the case that a service like “caller display” is available, globally. Compared with poverty, wars, and famine, it’s a pretty unimportant aspect to many hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Yes there are numerous ways to report nuisance calls. Nearly all of them are pointless. You give company name and number to the TPS and their standard reply is we don’t have enough information to go on. OFCOM and the ICO will have words with offenders, and if they then repeat offend again and again, they may get fined, the fines being rather trivial, although one company was let off with an even smaller fine as their were hard up, ah shame.

“many UK networks do not show the number because there’s no guarantee it is valid” them maybe those calls should not be connected? Why must everything be made so easy for the scammer, and so hard for the consumer? Maybe the reason is laziness by industry and government.

As for overseas scams, they nearly all want my credit card details, so give me a bogus credit card which I can happily quote the number for, the credit card company can then see where its being presented, and send in the relevant authority, its not rocket science, yet it will never happen.

I’ve even personally tried to get Sky news, BBC Watchdog to run articles on these scams but I guess as there’s zero chance I will personally ever fall for them its not sexy enough for them to bother with even if it could help 10,000s.

Peter Morgan says:
11 October 2013

> maybe those calls should not be connected?

Easy to say, and perhaps do, but at the same time, there may be hidden consequences.

Just as Anonymous Call Rejection makes it awkward for various professionals (which may currently withhold their number when calling your home, eg doctors, nurses, etc) as ACR rejects the call (albeit with a message telling them not to withhold their number), if there was an absolute block, or even a customer “opt-in” to a block on overseas calls, what would you do if your son or daughter (or some other relation or friend) tried ringing you when stranded overseas, and it was on one of the “blocked” countries?

The methods we use are often too blunt – they cannot select the calls we want from the calls we hate. Given that the mobile networks automatically display the number, and the landline firms may charge a fee, I intend to move most calls over future years to answering on my mobile, and may even have no phone plugged in on the landline (after all, there are many who might live in rented accommodation and move every 6 months, who have no landline, so it’s probably unrealistic to expect everyone even has a landline number).

For those who mostly use their landline, using an answerphone to just “screen” calls is probably a good option (but you need to explain to your friends and anyone you give the number to that if you don’t pick up and they hear your answerphone, please to leave a message and if you are nearby, you will pick up the phone). Also, having your own answerphone is a one-off cost, and so long as you find a model which allows you to hear the caller at the time they ring you, makes the screening part easy.

I don’t like 1571 – it causes a caller to be charged whether you are busy or out (give me an engaged tone and leave me the option of ringing back if I wish, but don’t charge me for being offered a chance to leave a message the caller might not listen to anyway).

richard says:
10 October 2013

Never trusted BT since it tried to cheat me – I’m glad I joined Virgin

Peter Morgan says:
10 October 2013

You’re in the lucky 50% that has the option. They serve the next road (I look out onto the back garden of someone who could use Virgin), but not this road. When someone in the shopping centre asks if I have considered using them, I explain politely that I would, if I could. (OK, I might, or might not, but it’s academic right now.)

Since they serve over 70% of properties in this postcode area, they mailshot everyone with offers, and 30% of us cannot use those deals. Bit annoying at times when the leaflet says something like “For just xxx you can enjoy …”

Anne says:
11 October 2013

Going back to earlier postings, I am disturbed to read that customers have problems ‘getting money back’ from their suppliers. Maybe these suppliers are taking advantage of the permission their customers have given them over their bank accounts which helps them to ‘milk the account’. I know this is only part of the problem and if we really feel we must have these special services we must put up with it. I just refuse to set up any Direct Debits. Some years ago I had a few direct debits – to the Electricity Board in Essex who milked out my bill twice and ran me into the red (people never forget who sent them cheques that bounced) and on one occasion when a payment was made from my account taking ten times the amount notified due to their putting an extra 0 on the amount, thus milking out my entire month’s salary in one go, and, yes, again running me into the red. This was an error on their part and in no way an attempt at fraud and I got it all back but not before I had spent at least half a day apologising and explaining. At that point, I thought “I earn it and put it in, I want to be the only one who ‘writes a cheque’ on my account” I just object to this inertia thing – I have a living to earn and cannot be checking all my transactions daily.

I do have a few Standing Orders on my current account to some young relatives at Uni to help with their monthly outgoings, and to Readers Digest on my Credit Card for quarterly subscription for their monthly magazine. Those have never been a problem. I use a PAYG mobile phone. I pay E-on quarterly by cheque and my ISP sends me a paper bill each month and I send them a cheque usually within days – they don’t fret if it’s 2 or 3 weeks because I am on holiday. I don’t have a Sky package as my family and I find that a choice of around 15 programmes is enough for us. Therefore I am never in the position of trying to get money back from anyone. It is a real position of strength! As for nuisance calls, as soon as they launch into their spiel I say “sorry, you’ve got the wrong number” and hang up. Maybe this will not work for everyone’s lifestyle, but it works for me.

Peter Morgan says:
12 October 2013

While I can understand your dislike of the Direct Debit system, those who take variable amounts are meant to give about 2 weeks warning of the amount they will bill, which should allow most to have time (barring being away on holiday) to query the amount with the firm, if it seems too high.

CCA (Continuous Credit Authority) with a Credit Card is far less safe for the customer, because only the firm can cancel this, compared with a Direct Debit which the customer has reasonable control over (esp if you use online banking and can view/ delete DDs via the internet).

Unfortunately, because DD is a bit simpler from an accounting point of view (collect the money, check when a DD has failed and decide what to do) compared with accepting cheques or STOs (where the date when a payment coming in is random, so a list of unpaid accounts takes longer to generate, and needs to be done a few days after the “due date” for payment to have been received), there are many firms charging a penalty fee for not paying by DD.

I don’t have the spare cash to waste on paying for the “privilege” of choosing not to use DD, but in 20+ years with my bank, cannot remember a time when a DD has been incorrect. Guess it is down to individual choice, but I can see why a DD is easier for a firm… if they do charge more for someone not using DD, I think there should be a limit set under OFT rules, that it cannot exceed say 12 pounds a year. I think BT charges an extra 4.50 per bill, so even quarterly that’s 18 pounds a year extra. I know there’s a bit more to do if a DD isn’t used, but think a pound ought to be enough to cover it.

If by CCA you mean Continuous Payment Authority, then the FCA have stated that if you can’t get the recipient to cancel the authority then you can instruct the card issuer to cancel it. The fact that many card issuers aren’t allow people to do this is wrong.


Taken from the FCA website, I won’t paste the link here cos you won;t get to see this posts for a couple of hours whilst the post is being checked 🙁

“CCA (Continuous Credit Authority) with a Credit Card is far less safe for the customer, because only the firm can cancel this, compared with a Direct Debit which the customer has reasonable control over ”

This is NOT true. the customer can cancel this with the bank or credit card firm. I know this for a fact due to me doing the very thing last week with the Nationwide.

Peter Morgan says:
12 October 2013

Thanks for the info and the link. I was going by past consumer shows and articles.

Glad this has improved.

Hi all, we’ve included a few of your comments in our round-up this week, and one of you got our comment of the week 🙂 https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/nuisance-calls-spam-texts-cold-called-cat-comments/