BT doubles cost of using phone kiosks

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The Independent Online

BT doubled the minimum cost of using its pay phones from 10p to 20p yesterday and introduced charges for directory inquiries calls from them.

BT doubled the minimum cost of using its pay phones from 10p to 20p yesterday and introduced charges for directory inquiries calls from them.

Malcolm Newing, director of BT Payphones, said the rise was in line with inflation since the last price rise in 1984, when the minimum charge was increased from 2p to 10p. He said it came against a background of rising mobile phone use and that the old call charges did not cover the cost of cleaning, maintenance, theft and vandalism of phone boxes.

The changes also include a flat-rate charge of 11p per minute for calls to fixed phones, whether to local or national numbers - an increase on the previous 9p-a-minute local rate, but a reduction on the 14p national rate.

Directory inquiry calls will be charged at the same rate, subject to the 20p minimum charge.

BT, which made a profit of £3.3bn last year, said the volume of pay phone calls had fallen 12 per cent this year alone. Mr Newing said: "BT Payphones has to cover the costs of providing its directory inquiry service, unlike ordinary telephone lines and mobile phones, which are paid for by the customer. BT Payphones is a self-contained business that has to pay its own way and can no longer afford to absorb these costs."

The Telecommunications Users' Association said it was "amazed" that BT should use competition from mobile phones as a reason to put up prices. A spokesman added:"[BT] complain that the pay phone is not profitable but they are obliged to provide a universal service."

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