Leap in cost of calls to mobiles provokes fury

The Consumers Association yesterday reacted furiously to news that the cost of making a call from conventional phones to Orange and One2One mobile phones would more than double soon after the new year.

The unexpected blow to consumers is due to Orange and One2One sharply increasing the charges they levy for transmitting calls from BT's land lines across the airwaves to mobile phone users.

Orange, which was formed through a joint venture between British Aerospace and Hutchison Whampoa, and One2One, which is owned by Mercury, are increasing the charges to BT to close the price gap with more expensive rivals - Vodafone and Cellnet.

The price hike, which will take effect in February, will see the cost of making a one-minute daytime call from a BT phone to an Orange or One2One handset on weekdays leap from 16.71p to possibly as much as 30p. The price of an evening call could go up from 9.85p to 20p. Weekend calls, though, would probably stay at the same price.

Both Orange and One2One are currently believed to be making a loss on incoming calls from the BT network, but feel that the competitive charges are one way of enticing customers away from rivals.

The increase will bring the two network's price structure for incoming calls much closer into line with Cellnet and Vodafone. Calls made from BT to these two operators have come down recently after pressure from the industry watchdog, Oftel, but still cost 37.5p a minute at peak times and 25p during weekday evenings.

The Consumers Association, which has been severely critical of some of the marketing practices adopted by the industry, slammed the price increases. Philip Cullum, the Consumers Association's policy manager, said the price differential between the rival operators should have been reduced through big cuts in Cellnet and Vodafone charges, and not with increases in Orange and One2One charges.

"We would obviously be very concerned if prices were going up just after people bought their phones over Christmas. It's an industry which has grown fast on the back of fairly dubious selling techniques."

Many consumers are already unaware that it costs much more to make a call to a mobile phone from the BT network than it does to make an ordinary local or long-distance call. This is because the mobile company charges BT to connect the call over its airwaves. The bill for this service is then passed on by BT to its own customers, plus the cost of the local call connection and additional profit.

BT declined to comment on the figures, though it is believed that this internal charge that the two networks make to the company for weekday calls is to rise dramatically from 7.3p a minute to more than 15p a minute. The charge for evening and nighttime calls made during the week would rise from around 5p a minute to as much as 12p.

Discussions are still going on between BT and Orange and One2One, though one of the two operators is already thought to have formally agreed the new price regime.

Asked about the increases last night a spokesman for BT explained: "We can confirm that we have been approached by the two PCN operators, Orange and One2One, who are both requesting higher payments for calls our customers make to their networks. Any increase would obviously result in higher retail prices for our customers, which we would regret."

However, Orange insisted even after any price rise it would still be more competitive for incoming calls: "It remains the case that it is substantially cheaper to call an Orange or One2One phone than it is to call a Cellnet or Vodafone customer."

Despite its objections, BT is not believed to have made a complaint about the increase to Oftel. Industry observers cynically pointed out that the move by Orange and One2One would make the Cellnet network, in which BT has a 60 per cent stake, look more attractive. Oftel is also likely to attract controversy because it is thought to have agreed to the price rises.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat