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Thursday, 28 April 2011

Expensive GP telephone numbers are now relatively even more expensive for BT customers

BT has today made further adjustments to its prices for residential customers (see "Some of our prices are changing").

The price of the Unlimited Anytime Call Plan is reduced from £5.00 per month to £4.70.
The "penalty rate" for weekday daytime (7am - 7pm) calls to geographic numbers outside a calling plan goes up from 7p per minute to 7.6p per minute.
The Call Setup fee (which applies to all non-inclusive calls) goes up from 11.5p to 12.5p.

The latter directly affects calls to GP 0844 telephone numbers, which are never included in packages, but the other changes make a difference too.

The "break even" point

It is worthwhile to select the Unlimited Anytime Call Plan, even if one only makes a few weekday calls to geographic numbers. Following these changes, anyone who makes at least the equivalent of 3 calls, each of more than 3 minutes, per week to a geographic number before 7pm, is now best served by the Unlimited Anytime Call Plan (see calculation below).

This should leave very few people paying the "penalty rate" for making otherwise inclusive calls outside the period covered by their Call Plan. Having subscribed to this plan, all other calls (of up to one hour, to "geographic rate" 01/02/03 numbers) at any time are made without any further charge.

Only those who NEVER use their landline during the day, perhaps because they use a mobile for daytime calls, would be likely to choose to continue paying for daytime calls to geographic numbers at these newly increasedpenalty rates”.


False claims

Some providers of the 0844 (type 'g6') numbers used by many GPs claim that because BT is compelled to charge no more than 5.105p per minute (plus the 12.5 call setup fee), calls to the surgery are "cheaper" than calls to geographic numbers. By regulation which applies only to BT, it is only permitted to charge the amount which is passed on to the other end on these calls - the subsidy from which the GP benefits.

The "cheaper" claim relates to the odd circumstances of BT being unable to add its own charge for these calls. It is only true in relation to those who would pay a "penalty charge". There will now be fewer of them! Furthermore, the increase to the call set-up fee makes the additional cost of calling 0844 numbers greater for all.

Aside from the regulated rates forced on BT; callers using Virgin Media, all mobile phone tariffs and public payphones invariably pay far more to call these 0844 numbers, whether they benefit from a package for geographic calls or not. Mobile voice call packages generally include calls to geographic landline numbers, but never 0844. The highest surcharge for 0844 calls amongst the major providers is 41p per minute (T-Mobile).

Breach of contract

GPs who cause ANY caller to pay more than the cost of a geographic call (by choosing to benefit from the revenue share earned from these expensive numbers) are already in breach of their contract. The noose is tightening around this scam - the BT changes from today will serve to pull it a little tighter.

This briefing addresses enforcement of the regulations on NHS GPs.

Please refer to this table for illustrative call cost examples and links to published tariffs.

Calculating the break-even point

From today, non-inclusive weekday daytime calls to geographic numbers are charged at 7.6p per minute with a call-setup fee of 12.5p.

Charges include VAT, durations are rounded up to the nearest minute, call charges are rounded up to the nearest penny.

A call of between 3 and 4 minutes costs: 4 x 7.6p = 30.4p + 12.5p = 42.9p rounded to 43p

43p x 3 = £1.29 per week x 4 = £5.16 per month vs. £4.70 Unlimited Anytime subscription

There are innumerable other examples; e.g. 5 calls of just over 10 minutes each per month:

11 x 7.6p = 83.6p + 12.5p = 96.1p rounded to 97p x 5 = £4.85

My point is that this is not "heavy" usage, it is just "someone using their phone". Having passed this point, there is no further charge for any other inclusive call.

The "penalty charges" shown in these examples are clearly not the "standard" charge for a telephone call.

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