BT says it has stolen a march on its rivals by becoming the first UK telephone company to offer free 0870 and 0845 calls to customers.
The move follows a deluge of complaints from customers unhappy at having to pay extra to call these premium numbers, which are frequently used by banks and insurance companies as well as NHS Direct and doctor's surgeries.
"We know that the public is frustrated by having to pay higher charges for these numbers, even though BT's rates were cheaper than our rivals, so we worked out a way to go further and include calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers in our call packages," explained John Petter, managing director of BT's Consumer business.
"All our 14 million calls customers have free calls included in their package and now all 14 million have free calls to 0870 and 0845 at times that fit with their calling plan, which is something not offered by any of our competitors," he added.
According to Petter, BT customers spend an average of 30 minutes a month calling these numbers, meaning that customers should save a total of around £24m per year.
The move was welcomed by price comparison site moneysupermarket.com, with the company's mobile manager, James Parker, saying: "We applaud BT for taking the first steps to helping customers receive a fairer deal when calling these numbers.
"With every household service provider adopting 08 numbers, callers have for too long been forced to shoulder the cost for premium rates that only line the pockets of providers. Now BT has taken the first steps, we urge other providers to do the same and abolish these charges."
The change excludes ISP dial-up numbers and indirect access numbers.
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