Cable operator Virgin Media has today taken Ofcom’s new probe into the cost of landline rental to heart and announced the launch of a new “Talk Protected” plan, which will freeze the price of line rental at £17.99 per month for its elderly and disabled phone-only customers.
Customers currently on Virgin Media’s phone-only plans (NOT their broadband and or TV bundles), specifically those who are over the age of 65 or have additional accessibility needs (e.g. hearing, sight, speech and mobility issues), will be upgraded to the new tier from January 2017.
Eligible customers will also receive £5 off of other Virgin Phone plans, such as Talk More Anytime and Talk More International Anytime, as well as a few additional benefits.
Talk Protected Features
* Inclusive evening and weekend calls to UK landlines and mobiles
* Inclusive calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers and directory enquires (118 180)
* Paper billing at no extra cost
* Caller display at no extra cost
* Voicemail at no extra cost
* Flexible payment options
The new product is effectively a social tariff, albeit one that’s not as cheap as BT’s Basic service (£5.10 every month, including £1.50 to spend on calls and free weekend calls to 0845 & 0870 numbers). On the other hand you do get more free calls and features with ‘Talk Protected’, although BT Basic is also available to those on various kinds of state support (e.g. Jobseeker’s Allowance) and they allow it to be used with broadband.
Gregor McNeil, Managing Director of Consumer at Virgin Media, said:
“For some people their landline is their lifeline – it’s important that those who rely on this service the most are not left behind. Elderly customers and those with accessibility needs who just want a reliable phone service are often less likely to shop around for deals and don’t benefit from cheaper bundles including broadband or TV. By freezing line rental charges and price changes through Talk Protected, we’re ensuring these customers receive even better value from us and get the service they rely on.”
Mark Atkinson, CEO of Scope (Disability Charity), said:
“This is an important step by Virgin Media, and we are very pleased they have recognised the financial pressures its disabled customers face.
Life costs more if you are disabled – from specialist equipment to higher fuel bills research shows that these costs add up to on average £550 per month.
About 25 percent of disabled people have never used the internet, making their landline an extremely important means of communication.
We now need Government, charities and the whole sector to target digital access for disabled people, which has the power to make life cost less. Many people go online to compare the best consumer deals and offers.”
Most of Virgin Media’s telephone subscribers also seem to take the operator’s broadband and or TV services, usually as part of a bundle, and as such today’s announcement probably won’t be too much of a stretch for them since it only applies to a small proportion of their customers. Now we’ll have to wait and see if any of the other major ISPs decide to do something similar.
Source: ISP Review