How to beat BT’s price rises

Around 10 million BT telephone and broadband customers are facing inflation-busting price hikes of up to 6.5% in the New Year.

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Existing customers will pay more for calls, line rental and even cancellation fees from January 4, 2014. But BT is giving unhappy customers a 10-day free pass to leave without charge, making now a good time to look for a better deal elsewhere.

So what exactly is happening here?

Ringing the changes

BT is upping the cost of line rental for all customers by 54p (or 3.5%) per month.

The ‘set-up’ fee for landline calls (what you or I might call a connection charge) will rise from 13.87p to 14.76p, and the cost of calls to UK landlines and 0870 numbers from 1.11p to 1.18p per minute in the evenings and from 8.41p to 8.95p per minute in the daytime.

Customers on inclusive calls package don’t pay set-up fees or pence-per-minute charges for inclusive calls, and will be unaffected. BT says this accounts for 85% of all call minutes on its network.

For the first time ever, BT will start charging for the (optional) 1571 and BT Privacy services. Each will cost £1.75 per month.

The cost of cancelling within your contract’s minimum term is going up too. The biggest increase will be to the Unlimited Anytime Plan Plus tariff. Cancelling this tariff will cost you £11.50 (was £8.75) for each remaining month of your contract’s term.

It’s not just telephone charges that are growing. Customers on capped-usage broadband tariffs will be charged £5.30 (formerly £5) for every 5GB they exceed their download limits by. Broadband prices are also going up by 6.5%.

Finally, while there are no changes to BT TV prices, Sky Sports 1 and 2 accessed via BT will each go up from £15 to £15.50.

BT is writing to all its customers over the coming weeks, giving anyone who’s unhappy with the price hikes the chance to leave, without charge, within 10 days of receiving the letter – after which normal Early Termination Charges will apply.

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How to pay less for phone and broadband

Phone your provider(s) and ask, based on your actual usage, if there’s a cheaper option.  Ask them for a MAC (Migration Authorisation Code) and they’ll most likely put you through to a retention department where you may be able to wrangle a better deal.

If not, it’s time to start comparing what else is available. Look for tariffs with generous or unlimited download allowances and inclusive calls, so you’ll know exactly what it’ll cost you each month.

Bundling your broadband and home phone together can save you money, as can paying by direct debit, and only paying for what you actually need. There’s no sense paying for really fast fibre optic broadband with high download limits if you’re a casual web user.

If you only want to check your emails and social networks, something like the Primus Saver Broadband and Phone Summer Special could suffice, offering speeds of up to 14Mb with a 40GB limit and free evening and weekend calls, on a 12-month contract. Including line rental (payable upfront), it’ll cost you just £134.40 for the year, or £11.20 a month.

The 40GB limit is equivalent to more than 32,000 average-sized web pages, 8,000 music downloads, or streaming 4,000 average YouTube videos.

If download limits are a concern, TalkTalk offers an unlimited downloads tariff on a 12-month contract with speeds of up to 16Mb. TalkTalk Simply Broadband will cost you £156 over 12 months and that’s with line rental – but not inclusive calls.

Tesco Broadband’s Evening & Weekend Package offers unlimited downloads as well as free evening and weekend calls on a 12-month deal. You’ll pay the equivalent of £16.90 a month, totalling £202.80, but you’ll also earn Clubcard points on your monthly bills.

Tips and tricks

Instead of paying for non-inclusive calls, you could try an online service like Skype. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, as you’re paying for broadband anyway. If your tariff has download limits, keep an eye on your usage and avoid excess charges with free software such as Bitmeter OS.

Turn off any automatic updates that will download data in the background. Apple and Adobe’s software often does this, but you can turn off automatic updates in ‘settings’.

Where possible, always download and upload compressed (zipped) versions of files and folders – it can have a drastic effect on their size. Also, why not turn off your broadband when it’s not in use? It’ll prevent background downloads.

If you’re on an inclusive calls package and get free evening calls, be sure to check what time ‘evening’ starts, and avoid making calls before then. Typically, it’s between 7pm and 7am the following morning.

Often, inclusive calls are only free for 60 minutes, so you’ll have to hang up and call back if you’re having a long chat to avoid being charged.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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