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BT tests a phone to block pests

(First Edition)

THE NUMBER of threatening and abusive telephone calls could decline sharply if trials of a caller identification service which begin in Edinburgh today prove successful, John Arlidge.

The new service enables telephone users to establish who is on the line before they pick up the phone, allowing them to ignore calls from 'suspect' numbers. If a malicious call is made, the caller's telephone number and the date and time is recorded.

British Telecom is confident that the new service will prove popular and plans to extend it throughout Britain by 1995. The company hopes it will 'substantially reduce' the 15 million threatening calls made each year, two-thirds of them to women.

BT customers in Edinburgh will pay about pounds 40 for a telephone with a screen which will display and store the number of each caller. Those who wish to remain ex-directory can use a secrecy code, but the screen will show that they have chosen to remain anonymous.

Carol Rue, BT's project co-ordinator, said: 'We are putting power back into the hands of the person receiving the telephone call. For the first time they will be able to answer the phone safe in the knowledge that they know who they will be talking to. We even have the technology to bar calls from people who use the secrecy code.'

Small businesses and family customers could also benefit from the system, with businesses saving time and money by choosing which calls to respond to, she said.