Buy the phone and cut the bill

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IF YOU want to reduce your telephone bill, an alternative to disconnecting the extension in your children's bedroom is to buy rather than rent your telephone, writes Sue Fieldman.

The cheapest telephone to rent from BT is pounds 4.47 a quarter. To buy the same telephone costs pounds 25.50. In just over a year, your rental payments would have paid for the telephone outright.

The all-singing, all-dancing BT Falcon 2 model, which incorporates an answering machine, costs pounds 23.50 a quarter to rent. You can buy it for about pounds 170 - two years' rent with money left over to pay for the calls.

While BT gains from both rental and purchase payments, the rental income is a nice little long-term earner, so the company tends to extol the virtues of renting.

A spokesman said: 'A large proportion of people continue to rent because of the peace of mind of knowing that if anything goes wrong we will come and repair it. They can update the model when they want.'

However, the peace of mind aspect is somewhat overplayed. When a telephone goes wrong, it is inevitably the line rather than the handset - unless of course you are prone to throwing your telephone around the house in a fit of pique.

Vivienne Peters, the chief executive of the Telecommunications Users' Association, is a great advocate of buying rather than renting. She said: 'You can buy a very good telephone for as little as pounds 20. Telephones very rarely go wrong. If you do have a problem, then take your handset next door to your neighbour and plug it in to see whether it is working. You will then know whether it is the telephone or the line. If you call out BT and they find out it is the handset, they will charge you'.

Most homes will have no problem swopping a rented telephone for a bought one. Many shops now sell them. However, the 30 to 40 per cent of households that still have the old fixed telephones rather than a plug and socket will have to get a plug and socket installed first.