BT offers free home answering service

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The Independent Online

British Telecom will offer a free answering service to all its residential customers from Monday. Called BT Answer, customers who sign up will dial 1571 to access their messages.

The scheme is expected to surpass the success of the 1471 service, which allows users to discover the number of their last caller.

Covering almost 20 million households, it will store 10 messages for up to 20 days. Messages will also be recorded while customers are busy on other calls or logged on to the internet.

BT said the launch on Monday follows a successful two-month trial in Scotland in which 70,000 customers took part. It said 99 per cent of those who took part in the trial said they valued the service, with 96 per cent claiming they would recommend it to family or friends.

However, users will only be able to access their messages when they return home, unlike BT's £6-a-quarter Call Minder service which stores up to 30 messages and allows customers to record personalised greeting and access messages away from home.

Angus Porter, managing director of BT Consumer Markets, said: "Today's hectic lifestyles mean that an answering service is now a necessity, not a luxury."

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