BT’s been in the news again. Turns out some BT customers aren’t happy with their call charges. Nothing out of the ordinary there, you might think – until you find out that the charges are for calls that aren’t even made.
And we’re not talking billing mistakes – BT charge customers on a certain tariff £1.50 a month because they haven’t made any calls.
BT’s ‘Line Rental Saver’ costs £120 for a year’s line rental if paid up front, as opposed to more than £166 if you pay by monthly or quarterly direct debit – a sizeable saving. The catch is that you must make two BT calls per month, or pay a fixed £1.50 fee.
Putting aside whether this charge is fair, what about transparency? BT told us that the £1.50 charge is ‘prominent on its website and in the customer FAQs’. But when I checked, the clause was clearer on some pages than others.
Are the line rental terms clear?
Navigate to BT’s home phone deals from its home page, click on any of the links that state ‘Line rental from £10’ and the terms are clearly displayed. However, a Google search on ‘BT line rental’ took me to a different page, where this call requirement is only in ‘The legal stuff’ at the bottom of the page.
Clearly, this can’t be that ‘prominent’ as BT had failed to notice that the charge was wrongly listed here as £1.80 (BT’s promised to get this changed urgently after I pointed this out).
You can start your order directly from either page, so I reckon these terms should be made clear on both. There is the possibility that you’re confronted with these terms again during the sign up process, but I was unable to test this as I didn’t want to risk inadvertently switching!
Unfair? Probably not. Bonkers? Yes
You could argue that, as long as it’s clear and up front, the charge isn’t actually ‘unfair’. However, it is a barrier to getting cut-price BT line rental. It also seems a bit bonkers to charge for not providing a service, especially when those two calls could potentially be made on weekends for free under BT’s Unlimited Weekend Calls package (which has no monthly charge). BT’s terms don’t seem to require the two calls to be chargeable ones.
I also wonder if BT is missing a trick by failing to cater to those who just need a fixed phone line for broadband, preferring to use their mobile to make calls. It’s particularly strange when, according to the BT website, ‘Line Rental Saver isn’t available if you’ve ordered a new line without broadband’.
As yet, it’s not possible to get fixed-line broadband without paying for line rental in the UK, unless you have Virgin Media cable. But there are cheaper alternatives around. O2’s PAYG line rental, for example (only available with O2 broadband) offers a straight line rental deal for £7.50 a month.
Even if you’re a regular caller, you could save money by ensuring you’re on the right deal. BT’s Line Rental Saver is one way to cut costs and will suit some down to the ground. But as our guides to home phone services and phone bundles show, there are plenty of other options out there too.