Sky customers hit with higher phone charges
Sky has become the latest telephone provider to change its peak time hours for landline calls - a move that will see many customers pay more for early evening phone calls.
Out of the big four home phone providers – TalkTalk, Virgin, Sky and BT - three have now shifted the start of their off-peak evening calls from 6pm to 7pm.
This could increase bills by up to £450 per year, if customers continue with their current calling habits, according to uSwitch.com.
Sky’s new peak hours, from 7am to 7pm, rather than 6am to 6pm, will come into effect from 1 June.
Adding insult to injury, peak-time rates will also increase by 12%.
Rival provider TalkTalk also intends to change its off-peak hours and increase peak-time charges from 1 June to 5.9p per minute.
Back in April, BT shifted the start time of its off-peak period from 6am to 6pm to 7am to 7pm.
BT’s changes also included price rises to its daytime rate, up to 5.9p per minute – the same rate TalkTalk will be charging.
The telecom regulator Ofcom has pointed out that provided they give customers notice, telephone companies are well within their rights to make such changes.
Virgin Media is now the only phone giant sticking to traditional off-peak hours, but it has the highest daytime rate of 6.5p per minute.
Steve Weller, communications expert at uSwitch.com, says: “Companies are making this move to encourage more people to sign up to the all-you-can eat ‘Anytime’ calling plans, but it’s clear to us that the new times will not sit well with the majority of customers.
“Those who make most of their calls in the early evening may find that switching to a different provider could help them keep their costs down,” he adds.
Anytime call plans usually charge an extra fee for the benefit of cheaper calls throughout the day, so it’s beneficial for providers to sell more of these.
Weller says a good way to avoid these is to look at new deals from lesser-known brands such as O2 and Primus, which offer cheaper tariffs and 6pm start times to their evening rates.
Before switching, customers should check terms and conditions so they don’t get hit with charges for breaking a contract early.
Also get in touch with your current provider to see if you can get a better deal. You may find it comes up with a cheaper package if it thinks it might lose your custom.