BT to start charging a fee for 1571 messages & Caller Display service

Mobile phone users are quite used to being charged for picking up their voice-mail and answer phone messages, but now telecommunications company BT have announced that they too will charge for this service. BT has stated that customers will now have to pay for the 1571 service, which allows telephone users to hear their messages. It is estimated that with this rise and others to landline and broadband services, BT will raise around £245million a year. Previously the 1571 service was free, but now their customers will have to pay an extra £1.75 per month, for the privilege of picking up their voice-mails.

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And although the charge may be considered minimal by other standards, it has become apparent that some of BT’s 10million customers are not happy about the rise. Some accused the company of introducing ‘immoral’ and ‘money-grabbing’ price rises that will now mean millions of customers are being charged for the 1571 messaging service for the first time. Those customers who do not want to pay the additional charge will have the option of opting out, but this is something they will have to action themselves, as BT say anyone who has ever used the 1571 will be opted in.

So far BT has raised charged to their monthly phone and broadband packages by 6.5 per cent, with standard line rental up by 44p or an above-inflation 3.5 per cent to £15.99 a month. It is widely thought that they have introduced these higher charges in order to recoup some of their recent spending on sports broadcasting. In fact, David Hickson, who works for the Fair Telecoms Campaign has already waded in and denounced the charges as ‘money grabbing nastiness’, saying it was ‘obvious’ that ordinary people were now paying for BT Sport. BT has invested around £2.4billion investment in sport broadcasting, which includes the new Champions League and Premier League football matches.

Hickson added: “BT will deny it but the timing seems unfortunate. Dipping into areas which BT previously felt should be free of charge customers suggests they are desperate to recoup cash.” And another concerned customer, Paul Green, who is a spokesman for Saga, said that is his opinion it would be the elderly and vulnerable, who rely on their landlines, that would be the most affected. Green said: “It is immoral for BT to charge customers for the 1571 service they haven’t purposely asked for and have to opt out of,” he added: “Putting up standing charges will hit elderly customers particularly hard. Older, more vulnerable customers perhaps don’t make as many calls, but those they do make are vital to their social interaction or are made in an emergency. For them, having a landline is also a lifeline.”

This is just a small part of the price rises that BT are intending to make, as their previously free Caller Display service is also now being charged. A spokesperson for BT spokesman said: “We review and revise our prices every year given the market is extremely competitive. Whilst some prices may go up during the year, many go down or remain the same. Our customers have seen their calls bills fall by 14 per cent on average in the last five years as a result of us slashing the price of inclusive calls plans. We want customers to move onto those plans as they can save money. Hopefully these changes will encourage that.”

BT enjoyed a rise in profits from 5 per cent up to £595 million in the quarter to June 13 2013.