BT woos business users with international discounts

British Telecom will today announce price cuts of 15 per cent for international calls made by many high-spending business customers, in the latest bid to stem the erosion of overseas call customers.

A new tariff package, called BT Key Countries, will be launched on 1 January giving 15 per cent discounts on existing prices paid by companies for calls to 10 nominated destinations, out of 30 possible choices. The scheme applies to businesses paying between pounds 1,000 and pounds 10,000 a quarter for calls, though BT said numbers eligible to take part were "commercially confidential." The scheme costs pounds 7.50 a quarter for each country nominated.

The reductions, which come on top of existing discount offers, would cut the lowest possible price of a call to the US to 11.5p a minute, compared with a standard tariff price of 20.1p, and the cost of a call to France, Germany or Holland to 13.8p, against 24.2p on BT's standard tariff. A spokesman also declined to reveal the cost of the price cuts to BT, though they are thought to be in the low millions of pounds.

The move means BT has in effect abandoned quoting a standard tariff price for corporate customers after losing business to new rivals such as Colt and Esprit. BT has been increasingly concerned at price comparisons made by competitors against its standard tariff, which excludes the many discount packages. A spokesman said standard tariffs were now "irrelevant".