/ Technology

Is it good to talk? Line rental prices keep rising

Arrow and phone

BT, Sky and TalkTalk are delivering unwanted early Christmas presents to customers by increasing line rental prices in December. And Virgin Media has announced a similar line rental price rise for February next year.

Perhaps you’ve battled price hikes by switching provider, paid a year’s line rental up front, or combined it with a broadband and TV package. But do you know how much you’re paying for your telephone line compared to a few years ago?

We’ve tracked the cost of line rental prices and found that regular price increases by the UK’s biggest providers mean you could now be paying up to 62% more now than you did in 2008. This is much higher than the cumulative inflation rate of 20.5% and means you now pay up to £77.88 more per year if you pay monthly – and that’s before charges for call packages and individual chargeable calls.

Line rental price increases since 2008

Come 1 December, BT and Sky will increase line rental by £1 a month (6%), and TalkTalk will increase its by 75p a month (4.7%). Virgin Media will increase its prices by £1 a month (6%) from 1 February next year. This follows similar above-inflation increases of £1 a month from Plusnet and The Post Office earlier in the year. You can see how much line rental prices have increased over the past six years in this graph:

Line rental price increases

Is it time to call time on the landline?

We’re begrudgingly familiar with price rises, but considering most of us are using our home phones less and less, landline price hikes seem to sting a bit more. Ofcom reports that we made 28 billion fewer landline calls in 2012 compared to 2003. And our own research has found people are spending £14.48 less each month on their home phone in 2012 compared to 2003.

Then there are those of us who only use our landline for broadband. Virgin Media is currently the only provider that offers a ‘broadband-only’ deal within its cable network area. Yet other providers still have a mandatory line rental charge – even for fibre broadband which, unlike ADSL broadband, doesn’t use the same copper line used for your voice calls.

How much has your line rental gone up? What have you done to try and reduce your home phone costs?

Following our Fixed Means Fixed campaign, Ofcom introduced new rules that mean anyone taking a contract from 23 January 2014 onwards can cancel without penalty if the provider increases prices mid-term and didn’t warn you when you bought it. Signed-up before then? You could argue a case of ‘material detriment’ under Ofcom’s old rules.

Nigel Whitfield says:
21 November 2014

BT’s latest increase is just one in a long line, plus of course the hidden charges. For example, when they changed earlier this year and started billing people for caller ID, which had previously been free with BT Privacy.

All my calls are made over the internet connection, with the exception of a few calls made by the burglar alarm when it’s turned on and off. Frankly, I could replace the alarm with one which uses a mobile SIM, and then I wouldn’t need a dial tone at all on the phone line.

Yet, with BT’s increases, I was paying for weekend and evening calls that I never made, plus their extra payment charge for using BACS rather than letting them help themselves to my bank account, and in the end it worked out at not far short of £20 a month.

I’ve now had my ISP take over the phone line, which is costing around £12.50 a month. As more and more people have mobiles, or make calls over the net, it’s about time BT was made to provide a really basic “DSL only” line, with no dialtone, at little more than cost price.


We stepped on this slippery slope when we accepted with no protest the changeover from quarterly billing to monthly charges for various utilities . It seemed to me that in no time at all we acclimatised to monthly line rentals that were not much less than the previous quarterly rates for line rental plus call charges . Expressing rentals in annual terms as the lead-in article does shows the enormity of the charge for what is a standard and universal utility service – no operator/service provider can add much value to a telephone line outside of broadbanding it [which costs extra anyway]. Comparing telephone charges with historic ones is another painful exercise for some of us; we can remember when not only did BT supply the instrument free of charge but included many free services and had low charges for repositioning an outlet or installing an extension.


The days of BT supplying devices free of charge etc were not good. These low charges for hardware etc were offset by extortionate charges for calls, even basic local and national calls. Charges for international calls in the 1980s and early 1990s would breach the current roaming price caps, even without adjusting for inflation. The whole thing was a total rip-off where charges bore little connection to cost.

David Laing says:
21 November 2014

Are Talk Talk not in breach of contract with me – I entered in to an 18 month contract in May 2014
with line rental and calls which would have taken me through to November 2015. Can they actually increase prices on a pre- agreed contract only six months in? I have contacted them but with little response only a young man on the phone to say that can opt out of the contract without charge if i am not satisfied. Not customer friendly at all!! However I am still awaiting an email response.


As far as I am aware they are not in breach of contract as they do state before you sign up that prices can go up during the term of your contract that’s what they did with me before I signed my contract that response is to the person with talktalk


Virgin Media is currently the only provider that offers a ‘broadband-only’ deal within its cable network area” – This is incorrect; I have a one gigabit broadband connection from Hyperoptic without a telephone line. Although Hyperoptic offers an optional telephone line that runs over its broadband connection for an additional charge, I chose not to take it. For incoming calls I instead have a virtual 020 number from Flextel, which I receive via VOIPtalk, all for free. For outgoing calls I instead use FreeVoipDeal which costs me €12 every 120 days for unlimited calls to fixed lines in most industrialised countries. I can still make emergency calls on my mobile.

The days of a physical landline are numbered. It’s high time that we move away from carrying the internet over archaic copper telephone lines and instead carry telephone lines over the internet. Fibre should be the norm, not the exception.


Fibre broadband is simply not an option for many of us at present, and it could be years before we are all connected. I had a 90 minute power cut recently and my mobile was dead. I have one wired landline phone, so I spent the time phoning friends.


My point is that fibre broadband should be an option for most people; I’m well aware that it isn’t currently. Copper telephone lines have had their day and should be confined to history as soon as possible.