/ Technology

Am I stranded without a landline?

An old black telephone on a yellow wall

Mobile phones have become so prevalent that many people have hung up their landlines for good. But are there still situations when a landline number comes in handy?

Recently my partner and I went to hire a van. We had all the required documents, but were a bit stumped when asked to provide a landline number ‘for security reasons’. Neither of us has a landline, so what were we to do?

I haven’t had a landline for about four years, and I don’t miss it. I get enough free mobile minutes that I can call whoever I like without paying a penny, and the idea of having to run through my flat just to pick up a phone is alien to me.

Will any old number do?

And yet every now and again I’m asked for a landline number. Not just when hiring this van, but on things like credit applications too.

Although I doubt I’d give a credit card company the home number of an elderly relative – as we did with the car hire company. I know, not a great idea, but to be fair it was what the friendly assistant from the car hire company recommended.

‘Oh, loads of people have that problem,’ she said, and asked if we knew anyone who did have a landline. We wrote down grandma’s home number, just so that we’d have something that didn’t begin with ‘07’. We did warn Grandma too, in case she received an unexpected phone call!

Does a landline equal stability?

So is there any need to have a landline number? I don’t think so. But then I’m occasionally confronted with situations like this, and I wonder if I should have a landline number in my back pocket in case it proves useful.

For instance, it’s often said that adding a landline to your credit application means you’re more likely to be accepted. Experian says that putting a landline number instead of a mobile can be a stability indicator in credit scoring, along with things like relationship status and the time you’ve been with your bank.

However, the good news for those without landlines is that the effect is unlikely to be significant, because so many other things are taken into account and more people are ditching their landlines for mobiles.

I certainly don’t think it should be significant. After all, I’ve had the same mobile number for ten years, certainly longer than I’ve been with my current bank, and far longer than I’ve managed to hold down a relationship. If I were to put a landline number down, all it would prove was that I was happy to fork out money each month just so I had a number to put on credit applications!

No longer tied to a landline

I used to have a landline, but only because it came as part of a bundle from my internet provider. I couldn’t get broadband unless I had a phone line too. However, despite paying for the line, my wired phone sat gathering dust in a box until my ISP announced that it would start providing internet-only packages. I sent my dusty, unused phone away via Freecycle, never to be seen again.

But if so many people are dropping landline phones, why are we still being asked to supply landline numbers? Have you been asked to provide a landline rather than a mobile number?

Sophie Gilbert says:
31 May 2013

I have a landline and a corded phone to make sure I can dial 999 in case of an emergency without having to rely on potentially failing batteries. I can’t remember who gave me this advice, given to me a long time ago either by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service when I did a fire warden’s course, or by the Red Cross when I got trained as a first aider.

I have just replaced an ailing corded phone with a new one, though I normally use cordless phones.

Having a corded phone is still commonly recommended for emergency calls, Sophie, though I could not find this advice on the Which? website. A normal cordless phone will not work during a power cut even if the handset is charged.

As part of my emergency plan I keep a spare car key hidden but accessible so that I can easily get to the cheap mobile phone that I keep in the car for emergencies.

A few years ago, I paid £7 for a slimline corded phone and it sits on the bedside cabinet for emergencies. When we had the hurricane winds many years ago, the phone line continued to work but the electrics went down quite early in the storm. Many young people rely on mobiles, but at the best of times mobile signals and networks are not totally reliable. This morning, I received a text message at 11.25 and the time it was sent, from Devon, was 09.18.

My emergency plan involves having a set of keys to the front and rear door, near to each door for emergency exit, but not reachable from outside the doors. Perhaps I should add my car keys to the plan. And perhaps those with cordless phones only, should test their phones with the power to the base unit/s switched off. Better to know before there is an emergency than find out when you are in the midst of one.

Jill says:
31 May 2013

Credit card companies are allowed to discriminate on the basis of relationship status? I’m assuming that this is another way those of us who are unpartnered are considered not quite full people. Given how many people I’ve seen go through greatly destabilising breakups and divorces I rather doubt that being single makes me less stable!

paddy19 says:
31 May 2013

You can get a UK land line number from Skype.
It costs about £17 for 3 months or £30 a year.
You can choose from a long list of UK area codes.

It can be really handy if your abroad, your friends can
call a UK number and you can receive the call any where
in the world on Skype.

Sound quality is very good if you are on a good connection.

The same system operates for lots of countries Italy and Canada
are notable exceptions.

Paddy, the Skype landline sounds interesting for those who only have a mobile.and would find a landline number useful. Is communication through a computer/tablet/smartphone only or can you connect using normal phones. I’m not up to date with the technology and have only connected on Skype via a computer and with those far away.

Anybody can buy a Pay as You Go phone without showing any ID or proof of anything, I know as I bought one recently. I suppose having a landline is some indication of stability and you have to supply proof of address and bank details to be approved for the landline.

paddy19 says:
31 May 2013

The Skype number is exactly the same as any normal land line.

As a Skype number you have to receive calls via computer/tablet/smartphone.

Thanks Paddy

It would seem this would suit those who need to have a landline number but are not interested in having a landline phone. Personally I would challenge the companies that require a landline number as part of their security checks.

I believe this is being done to verify our identity ???!! Personally the telephone / media companies have you by the hairy curlies . They cannot cope if you relocate as have no consistent cover yet want to charge over & above what they agreed . One person says one thing another refutes .It took nearly a month when relocated to get transferred .Installation was a wireless router which did not work yet showed switched on so had to employ experts. They are now wanting to charge double after initially saying with Sky would stay the same. They also agreed to credit loss of service .The company also cut the 80 year old off here immediately & causing the sale of house to be delayed .
They pretend to have Rapid access for those with medical conditions & frail elderly but when ask for it nothing happens even though dyspraxic so have had directory for years.
I myself because single have a telecare button system as frightened may not wake up [ pulse drops low] which needs a landline too. Although they did eventually do calls to mobile before landline .However because they do not take into account medical situation if acute do not wait long enough to get to the phone so ambulances are called unnecessarily as one person does not liase with another over you informing them .

I’m old fashioned and like a landline, but it has set me wondering why. There is the 999 facility, and as well as cordless we have a cheap corded so never (!) without a connection.

As the household is more than one person, the one with the mobile phone goes out and the house has no phone – unless all have there own? These cost around £400 a year each with calls, according to my grown up kids, so we’d have to spend around £800 a year on two? At present our landline phone plan costs around £150 a year and we have pay as you go mobiles that are little used and probably cost £60 a year. Skype on the laptop does for overseas calls (how good to see the other end in video).

I know it’s trendy to have a mobile that does everything bar make the tea, and to have a new one each year (why?) but am I missing something in the ££s?

I have a Tesco mobile which costs £7.50 a month. 250 mins talk 5000 texts and 500mb of internet connection free each month.

anderpayne, 250 mins a month is only 9 minutes a day – we frequently spend an hour talking to family. Sounds a good deal though. Out PAYG are Tesco and we get good reception most places (O2 I think behind it).
We use text very little – younger people seem to use it all the time, and I am amazed at their dexterity with the awkward keyboards.

Dave Young says:
7 June 2013

Virgin’s VIP sim card is the best value on the market. Unlimited phone calls, unlimited texts & unlimited data, all for £15 per month and on a one month cotract

You can buy a landline number from Flextel for £6 and point it at a SIP number (e.g. Callcentric) using an app on a smartphone. Therefore all you need is a data connection (e.g. wifi) to receive calls for free on the fixed line number anywhere in the world.

Nikki – you say “I get enough free mobile minutes that I can call whoever I like without paying a penny”. Does your mobile tariff include free calls to 0845 and 0870? Few do, but many landline tariffs do. And I bet calls to numbers like 0844 and 0871 are much cheaper from a landline than your mobile.

Having said that, I don’t entirely disagree with your sentiments, and your line rental saving might pay for calls from your mobile that aren’t included in your tariff. A lot depends on how much you pay for your mobile tariff. I pay a total of £18.25/month for landline + mobile tariffs (using an iPhone bought independently).

But what about the poor souls who have to call you? No problem if they too have mobile tariffs with loads of minutes, but what about those calling from landlines? My parents wouldn’t thank me if I made them dial a mobile number.

I wouldn’t get hung up on needing a landline for 999, though. It really isn’t difficult to keep a mobile charged and many home have multiple mobiles. Everyone in our house has one and, contrary to what Malcolm R says, they don’t cost anything like £400 p.a. In any case, a landline won’t work if it goes down, which ours does from time to time.

Other factors are things like quality of mobile signal at home – mine’s rotten, and, anyway, even the best sound quality on a mobile can’t compete with a landline. It also depends on how much time people are in the home to use the landline (I often work from home and my wife’s there most of the time, so we get good use out of ours).

There are other benefits to a landline too. E.g. with the BT Smarttalk app on my iPhone I can call UK numbers from anywhere in the world as if I were at home. If I have wifi (and free wi-fi is easy to find, these days), calls to most UK landline numbers are free.

Trowley says:
8 June 2013

The same thing is happening with utility bills which are now more and more being generated over the internet – an original copy is required as proof of identity – which of course is not the copy that is printed off at home.

I will not telephone from or to a mobile unless I am out and about and there is no alternative. Phoning a mobile number from my landline or my PAYG mobile, costs money – phoning a landline doesn’t. If I’m looking for a plumber/joiner or whatever and they only have a mobile number, then they don’t get the business. I don’t mind leaving a message for when they get home. In case you think I’m a miserable so and so – you’re right, I am !

My son uses his mobile all the time and when I want to ring him (on his landline) I have to text his mobile first (which is free) otherwise he won’t answer.

Also my friends and family all have ‘free anytime’ landlines, so why should they pay to phone me on a mobile, or I them. I know this puts me with the ‘older generation’, but I won’t be getting rid of the landline any time soon.

That doesn’t make you miserable Sandie – it makes you sensible. I happen to have a monthly contract on my mobile because it works out to be the best deal for me, given my data usage, so don’t mind calling mobiles from my mobile. Previously, though, I took the same attitude as you and didn’t ring mobiles, so anyone without a landline number didn’t hear from me or get my business.

It’s unreasonable of people without landlines to expect others to call them on their mobiles. That’s especially true of callers (e.g. elderly parents) who don’t have mobiles of their own or are on PAYG,

PS Couldn’t your son get a phone with caller display on it, so he’d know it was you calling?

He does have caller display Aitch, but the phone is upstairs and used so little they don’t bother with it. It’s not a huge problem – we get round it and often use Skype anyway. I’m more concerned with the older relatives who all use landlines as their main phone.

I agree with the other comments on contacting tradesmen.

By the way Aitch – I enjoyed your explosive remark !!

I would not dream of using a tradesman if I did not have a landline number for him. I realise they need to use a mobile during the day to keep in contact with clients and suppliers but I want to know they also have a fixed line number. Now I shall have to watch for Skype type numbers and rethink my strategy where I’m not using a recommended tradesman.

Murram says:
8 June 2013

I agree with the requirement for a landline for a tradesman, but would add an address to my requirements. If you have a problem following a job, without either of these you have a good chance of being stuck. A landline indicates stability and an address indicates their confidence in their own work.

paddy19 says:
8 June 2013

The Skype number will look exactly like any other landmine number.

This whole landmine number as a security check is meaningless.

This debate is becoming explosive.

As Murram said, an address for the Tradesman would also be useful. I may have to go with recommendations as the next thing will be virtual addresses.

Chris says:
9 June 2013

Ditched the landline four years ago. I figured no-one rings a house, they ring a person. I haven’t ofund a single issue & its never hurt me – not once. I’ve rented cars, flown, changed banks, gas etc all after ditching the thing. Don’t care about tradesmen having a landline, but care a lot that they have great personal recommendations.

I use my smartphone extensively as do most of my family but there are people who want to speak to us who don’t and as someone said already, it lumbers them with high costs if that is their only option so we keep a landline going (though must admit, I thought I had to to get broadband – will look into that). So I don’t really think having no landline is considerate, though fewer and fewer people use it.

As far as tradespeople using mobile numbers only – consider this. Many people that work from home risk anyone in their family picking up the phone. If you are calling for a professional reason and the phone is answered by a child, with a dog barking in the background, who says ‘Muuuuum, there’s someone on the phone for you, no I don’t know who’ it doesn’t give a good impression. Using a mobile number gives a self-employed person control over how their business phone is answered and now many more people (such as myself) have a home office so please think about that before penalising someone who only gives a mobile number.

Barjona says:
11 June 2013

I still use a landline for my calls with caller display which is very useful. My mobile is kept mostly for emergency calls when I am out.

No-one has mentioned the important fact that mobiles produce radio waves which we are warned are harmful to the brain so calls should be kept short. For lengthy conversations it is safer and I would say far more ‘comfortable’ to use a land line phone.

This point is nothing than a joke landlines= NOTHING between 75% and 90% have a mobile phone so why should people be forced to have a Land line phone to get Broad band when are the mobile phone suppliers going to wake up and sell you a mobile and Broadband instead of us having to take our laptops to cafes and bars just so we can use FREE broadband all we are doing is tempting theives and giving this goverment more of our hard earned cash for nothing so WAKE up you suppliers and think? the first one to do this will clean up

Jimbo – Many of us want a landline. I am very happy with my home phone and broadband service and use mobile broadband when I am away from home.

My grouse is the high cost of making calls to mobiles from my landline, whereas the cost of calls to other landlines is included in my tariff. Those who expect me to call their mobile on a regular basis are asked to call me back. I wish people would be more considerate.

i have 2 mobiles at a cost of £21@ month you cant get better than that 10,000 texts= free even to land lines i am not saying dont have a land line its up to you but we are paying for not having 1 thats not fair

I’m not opposed to what you want, Jimbo. I will leave it up to you to campaign for what you want.

If I am going to devote any effort it will be to push for ‘free’ calls to mobiles during the day, like I have at weekends and in the evening on my landline tariff.

Michelle says:
8 September 2014

I agree with Barjona. It is surprising that no-one has mentioned the health risks associated with excessive mobile phone use and in particular, the warnings about the use of mobile phones by children. We keep the landline so that our child, in particular, has a phone to use that is not exposing him to radiation.

Perhaps that’s because the risk has pretty-much been dismissed now. this is from the USA’s National Cancer Institute:

“Although there have been some concerns that radiofrequency energy from cell phones held closely to the head may affect the brain and other tissues, to date there is no evidence from studies of cells, animals, or humans that radiofrequency energy can cause cancer”.

See http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/cellphones

Cancer Research UK has a lot to say on the subject:

I’m not saying there isn’t a risk or that you’re wrong to keep your child away from mobile phones, just that most people seem to have concluded that the risk is trivial or non-existent except perhaps for the heaviest of users.

Sqweeker says:
20 July 2015

Thanks for raising health issue something that seems to have got lost.
Was actually looking for a standard corded phone but which seem to have NO reviews on this anymore despite saying that people still use them. Only reviews I can find are for cordless phones so not much use but the comments on this post were interesting to read.

Squeeker, we’ve had Panasonic wireless phones for years, working well and very convenient if you are in the garden – they seem to have a decent range. However, no good in a power failure so we also have a corded phone as a standby. Ours was a cheap BT Duet 60 – don’t know whether you can still get it – its very basic but it works fine.

My Panasonic wireless phones are my most hated product because it is necessary to programme every handsets with each number. Previously I had Philips cordless phones where numbers appear to be stored on in the base station, which was far more convenient. Unfortunately I left a handset in my pocket after being in the garden and it did not survive a 60°C programme in the washing machine.

The annoying thing is that Panasonic do produce phones that don’t have this problem. Which? said that they would provide information about which phones allow numbers to be shared between handsets, but I don’t think this happened.

I replaced my ancient corded phone with a new one but it’s not very good. When it is recommended that we all have a corded phone for use in emergency, we could do with advice on worthwhile products.