BT is to be freed of constraints on charges for telephone-line rentals under radical proposals from the telecommunications watchdog, Oftel, but must offset any increase by cutting the price of calls.
However, Ruth Evans, director of the National Consumer Council , said: "While we hope that the regulator is right that competition will keep bills down, we need to be convinced."
Don Cruickshank, oftel director general, said he expected BT to offer more flexible pricing packages which could include higher rentals in return for low call charges. He gave a guarantee that the one in five BT customers who use the phone least would not see prices rise by more than inflation.
In a report issued yesterday, the regulator also proposed an end to disconnections for those who temporarily cannot pay, calling for BT to offer instead "outgoing calls barred". Oftel said that about 60,000 customers were disconnected a month for debt.
To help those without permanent homes, Oftel also proposes a public voice "mailbox" service for leaving messages which could be accessed from any telephone.
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