BT off-peak calling pushed back until 7pm

From 1st April, BT is pushing the beginning of its off-peak calling period, from 6pm to 7pm.

In a move sure to unsettle millions of customers who have calling packages including free evening calls, incumbent landline supplier British Telecom will move it’s off-peak period from 6pm to 6am, to 7pm to 7am.

The company acknowledges many calls are made in the early evening, and a spokesperson told the Guardian newspaper, "We've looked into it and 6pm to 7pm is a busy time for calling, but it's the time when people make short, organisational calls," he said. "It's between 8pm and 9pm when they sit down to have a chat."

In addition to moving the time slot, the standard cost of calls made during peak hours will increase from 5.4p a minute to 5.9p a minute. Customers with anytime plans also face an increase in the fixed charge to set up non-inclusive calls, from 9.3p to 9.9p a call.

Ofcom’s sixth annual Communications Market Report, published last August, detailed up to a quarter of UK households opting out of fixed line communications entirely, with Cardiff having as many as 27% mobile-only homes.

6pm off-peak calling is traditional and deeply ingrained in the UK national psyche. Telecoms is fiercely competitive market and I understand BT wanting to follow the mobile market in nudging customers towards taking anytime plans, though I think the company may have throw away one of its few remaining goodwill advantages.

Update! 12 Feb. Gavin Patterson, group managing director of BT Consumer and Ventures appeared on the BBC Breakfast news show this morning, giving a distinctly lacklustre performance. He was challenged by presenters, that the decision to move the time band was all about money. Mr Patterson defended the decision as simply 'following the industry', and talked about the value of anytime packages, costing around £5 extra a month for 24/7 land-line calling. He didn't appear to like this being equated to customers paying £60 extra a year instead of having free calls between 6pm and 7pm.

BT, at one point you were the industry. Wouldn't you rather lead than follow?

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