Broadband customers are being charged as much as 50p a minute for seeking technical support - costing them around £70 million a year.
uSwitch.com says that customers call their broadband provider around four times a year about problems such as trouble setting up or network connection failure. With the average call charge around 9p a minute, the cost of asking for help is hitting customers where it hurts.
However, BT has made telecoms history by scrapping charges on its customer service numbers irrespective of the landline the customer calls from. With the average call time around 17 minutes, BT estimates that around £70 million is spent each year by broadband customers looking for technical help
The numbers will change by 1 April with 0845 or 0870 prefixes being replaced by a free 0800 or 0808 prefix. It previously charged its 4.5 million customer base 3p a minute for peak technical calls, or 1p a minute for off-peak.
Gavin Patterson, managing director of BT, said: “We call on the rest of the industry to follow our lead. There really is no excuse for companies whose prices are either sky-high or verging on the ridiculous. We believe that customers are out of pocket to the tune of £70 million a year.”
The move has been welcomed by uSwitch.com. Spokesman Steve Weller said: “Broadband customers have been hit especially hard lately by the hefty cost of calling technical helplines. We call on the rest of the industry to follow BT’s example and stamp out the extortionate and inconsistent charging structures currently facing customers just trying to obtain help from their company.”
However, price comparison site Broadband Choices said that customers should still shop around to compare costs when choosing a broadband provider.
Product director Michael Philips said: “We welcome this move by BT, but customers should remember that providers cutting the cost of telephone calls could put up prices elsewhere.”
What the top broadband providers charge their customers for technical support:
|Provider||Daytime call (per min)||Evening call (per min)||Cost per 17 minute call||Cost of one hour call|
| Virgin Media||25p||25p||£4.25||£15.00|
|AOL||5p (from BT phone*)||5p (from BT phone*)||85p||£3|
|Sky||6p||1.5p||£1.02 / 25p||£3.60 / 90p|
|Orange||50p (starter package)||50p (starter package)||£8.50||£30|
Source: uSwitch.com as of 21/02/2008
* AOL technical support is free to AOL Talk Customers