BT cuts cost of European calls

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The Independent Online
BT IS cutting the cost of off-peak telephone calls to European Community countries by almost a quarter throughout January. A four- minute call will cost 99p, compared with the normal pounds 1.29 (including VAT) to most countries and pounds 1.14 to the Republic of Ireland.

The move is the latest in a series of offensives by BT, which is fighting to retain its share of the market in the face of increased competition. More special offers are planned later in 1993. They are likely to include cheap calls to other countries, including the United States and Canada.

In November and December, BT ran a 'Sunday Special' which allowed people to call anywhere in the UK after 3pm on Sundays for the price of a cheap-rate local call. As a result, call volumes rose at one stage to three times the normal Sunday level.

The latest new year offer means that charges in cheap rate periods will fall by 22.9 per cent for calls made to countries in BT's 'band one' category, which includes all EC countries. Calls to Eire, which are already at a lower rates, will be 13.4 per cent cheaper than at present.

Michael Hepher, BT's group managing director, said: 'With BT it is already cheaper to phone any EC country than for them to phone us. Now for the whole of January we're making it cheaper still.' But the offer does not include public payphones, mobile telephones and calls made using the BT Chargecard.

The Consumers' Association said it would do little for the great majority of callers. A spokesman said: 'Very few people make regular calls to Europe. What we'd like to see is Mercury and BT competing on the local routes, the calls that make up the majority of most people's bills.'

Mercury, BT's main rival, has so far concentrated on international calls and is only beginning to make a significant impact on local services. The company, which has an estimated 20 per cent of the international calls market from the UK, said that its charges for international calls undercut all BT's regular prices and, in some cases, the special offer price.

A Europe-wide number for contacting emergency services will be introduced in Britain from 1 January. The number - 112 - will run in parallel with 999 in this country. The idea is to make it easier for people travelling abroad to contact emergency services.

COMPARISON OF CALL CHARGES

BT's charge to any band one country (includes EC countries) is 84p. The exception is Eire which is cheaper at 71p. Other countries' call charges to the UK are:

Eire 82p

France 90p

Netherlands 90p

Belgium 94p

Luxembourg 99p

Denmark 102p

Germany 106p

Italy 131p

Switzerland 136p

Greece 139p

Spain 152p

Portugal 197p

Source: BT. All figures are based on a three minute cheap rate call and do not include any government taxes. The exchange rate is that of 14 December.

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