Charges to ring 0845 and 0870 numbers, as used by many GP surgeries and NHS Direct, are to be scrapped by BT for its customers from 16 January.
The two numbers currently cost 5.8p per minute, and are also used by banks, building societies, utilities and insurance firms. The move to abolish the charges will cost BT £24m.
John Petter, managing director of BT’s consumer business, said that it was making its customers happy by becoming the first telecoms company in the UK to make the numbers free.
He added: “We know that the public is frustrated by having to pay higher charges for these numbers so we worked out a way to go further and include calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers in our call packages.”
Mr Petter said that the move made sense, as many of its 14 million customers use the 0845 and 0870 services for around 30 minutes a month.
He added: “We hope we have taken a sting out of the price of these calls, but also removed one of those irritations that customers believed was an unfair anomaly.”
Copyright © Press Association 2009
Will this make a difference to your surgery call costs for patients? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
“Article is a bit misleading. The charges are not being ‘scrapped’ or becoming ‘free’ … the change is to allow BT customers to offset the calls against the call allowance in their call package, such as a monthly amount of local/national calls that they currently have, for example” – Mark, Manchester
“No – our phone number starts with 0844, so this will be of no help for our patients ringing. Although I am sure the change to 0845 and 0870 numbers will be welcomed by many” – Dawn Hunt, Cheshire
“A large number of patients ring us from their mobile phones and 0845 etc. Numbers are charged at exorbitant rates by the mobile phone companies. This will not help those patients. Therefore, in our practice, we have a normal landline number for which local patients pay the local rates” – J Knox, London
“We have an 0844 number and therefore our patients will not be helped by this. As the call duration is usually less than 2 minutes, if these numbers were included in BT’s offer, this may encourage non-BT customers to change back to BT” – Grace Yorke, Norfolk
“This change won’t affect the 0844 numbers for doctors’ surgeries etc. Also not everybody is with BT” – Molly, Yorkshire