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BT's hidden charges

Telco puts price on dialling codes and admin

People searching for international dialling codes will now have to shell out up to £4 for this information thanks to BT's money-making plan to remove the codes from free phone books.

Customers who now wish to find out dialling codes will have to purchase a booklet, which costs £4, or call international inquiries, which carries a minimum charge of £1.50.

"This sort of thing generates grumbling antipathy towards BT," said International Telecommunications Users Association spokesman Ewan Sutherland.

The stockmarket floatation this week of BT's wireless arm, O2, made only a small dent in its substantial 3G licensing arrears. And with the telco also struggling under a £28bn mountain of other debts, Sutherland would not rule out that the new dialling codes fee is backdoor attempt to raise more funds.

"The darker motives are always there so it's very plausible," He said. "There's always the danger [that BT] will lose international calls because people don't know the country code."

While BT adamantly denied its customers would suffer from the O2 floatation, it looks as though they already are.

Customers who need to find international dialling codes will be pleased to know there is an alternative option to paying BT's charge, as they are available free on the internet at http://kropla.com/dialcode.htm.

Other concealed costs
Another fact BT customers may not realise is that if they pay their quarterly phone bills by cheque, they are missing out on discounts offered to those who pay by a monthly direct debit.

Customers who pay via direct debit receive a 49p per month discount — that's a yearly saving of £5.88. Okay, so it's not much, but it still means people are being charged differently according to how they pay.

BT says the price difference is due to the administration costs involved in processing cheques and chasing payments.

But what is significant is that, unless they scour the small print on their bills, customers are only told about the saving once they set up their direct debits.

Other utility companies, such as Eastern Electricity, also offer a discount of up to £35 a year to customers who pay by direct debit, so BT certainly isn't the only one, but perhaps these savings need to be advertised a little better.

"The truth of it is that companies do save administration costs on direct debit payments. Perhaps a little extra advertising of the saving would encourage more people to opt for direct debit," said a spokesperson at the National Federation of Consumers.

BT argued that this information is not hidden from customers, saying they could find out about it simply by reading the direct debit section on its website.


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