I heard BT is cutting phone bills. When will my bill go down?

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I heard that BT is cutting phone bills by £5 a month. Does that apply to everyone? When will my bill go down?

Justin H, via email

It'll apply to anyone who subscribes to a landline from BT and no other BT service.

This is the result of a new plan laid out by Ofcom to get cheaper line rental to around 2.3 million of us.

From Sunday 1 April 2018, bills for landline-only customers, the regulator says, will drop by £7 - that means you'll pay no more than £11.99 a month for the basic service.

The cut in price returns the cost of BT line rental to 2009 levels in real terms, and covers "line rental, call charges, and call package add-ons", so you get the discount whether you have basic line rental or spring for something like anytime calls.

The key here, though, is landline only customers - if you have BT broadband or BT TV, you do not qualify for the discounted rate. The slashed bills apply to anyone and everyone taking out a landline-only service with BT.

Woman using a landline

At least, that's the basics of what Ofcom says must happen. BT may take a slightly different approach to its pricing that incorporates the new rule, such as discounting broadband too.

As for when it'll happen... we don't know just yet. Major price changes like this usually need an adjustment period; we'd guesstimate it'll go live within the next year or two.

So what's it all about?

In the course of its research into line rental costs, Ofcom found that the majority of people who subscribe to just a landline and nothing else tend to be elderly and vulnerable people - and it decided more should be done to make the service fair to them.

And, regardless, it believes that a BT landline has been poor value for money if you got it on its own without broadband... especially since wholesale prices that providers are paying for lines have gone down quite significantly in recent years.

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom's Competition Group Director, said in an official statement: "We had serious concerns about soaring bills for loyal landline customers. This was hurting people who rely on their landline, many of whom are elderly.

"We're pleased that BT has cut prices, which means these customers get a fairer deal, and they'll be protected from price rises in the coming years."

What action do BT landline customers need to take?

BT has accepted Ofcom's proposals and is currently in the process of writing to 900,000 of its landline-only customers, 700,000 of whom do not need to take any action to benefit from the price cut.

However, BT does still have some admin to mop up; and has also written to 190,000 landline customers who do not receive paperless bills, asking them to confirm whether they receive broadband or not. All customers who confirm this will receive the price reduction.

An additional 200,000 customers on BT's 'Home Saver Package' may also quality for the price cut. Depending on what is the best deal for them, they can either stay with their current package, or move to the standard product being discounted.

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