Line rental costs: Do I still need to pay if I don't use the landline?

Households are paying around £200 a year towards line rental despite nearly a third never using their landline telephone, new research shows.

Some 72 per cent of those with a landline say they only have one because their broadband package requires it, according to data from Compare the Market.

Residential line rental prices cost up to £20 a month, or £240 a year, according to analysis.

The price of line rental is also rising significantly with Ofcom saying the average annual increase in charges during June 2014 to June 2019 was 4 per cent – outpacing the rate of inflation.

A third of households say they don't ever use their landline - despite paying for it every year

A third of households say they don’t ever use their landline – despite paying for it every year

Five years ago, This is Money questioned whether Ofcom – the regulator – was ever going to act when it came ever rising line rental prices, but it appears the annual increases are simply continuing.  

Compare the Market used data sourced from a poll of 2,082 UK adults conducted by Populus in October 2020 to find out how many people used their landline. 

It found the number of house phones will significantly reduce in future as the growth of the smart phone market and roll out of 5G continues.

A fifth of UK households now no longer own a home phone – an increase from 14 per cent in 2018, and some these will still be paying line rental in order to have broadband. 

While half of those in the UK currently have, and use a landline, that number drops to just under 25 per cent among 18 to 34-year olds.

A further 28 per cent of households said they had looked into changing to a broadband provider without a landline charge but only 6 per cent have made the switch.

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This is likely because very few providers offer such a service with cables necessary for a fast and steady broadband connection, although the roll out of 5G and mobile broadband is predicted to accelerate this trend and drive innovation in the market. 

When asked to describe the reasons why they do not have or use a landline, 67 per cent said that they only use their mobile phone, which is not surprising in an age where calls on mobiles tend to be unlimited on monthly packages.

Another fifth said that they were ‘fed-up’ with the number of cold calls and scammers that called them on their home number.

A fifth of households now no longer own a home phone – an increase from 14 per cent in 2018

A fifth of households now no longer own a home phone – an increase from 14 per cent in 2018

Landline use increases during lockdown 

Despite the general trend away from landline use, lockdown has inspired greater usage among landline owners, as 18 per cent of those with a home phone found that they used them more often during the lockdown.

Two in five of these respondents said they were isolating or becoming lonely and so wanted to speak more regularly with family and friends over their landline.

Landlines also appear to have proved a lifeline to certain demographics – particularly older generations – as one in ten of those aged 55 and above said they are unable to operate video options such as Zoom and Teams and consequently used their landline more to make contact with others throughout the lockdown period.

 At around £200 a year, line rental charges are a twentieth-century hangover in an increasingly digital age.

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Holly Niblett – Compare the Market 

Separate data from TalkTalk earlier this year revealed that calls made via landline phones in Britain have doubled during the pandemic. 

It said calls by TalkTalk customers made from landlines to UK national and mobile numbers rose 60 per cent across March and April and calls to international numbers increased 7 per cent in the same period. 

Virgin Media added that it had also seen a rise in landline calls with voice call minutes increasing 80 per cent week on week during the morning busy hour in March, peaking at 10am with around 2.5million calls per hour.

It also revealed customers were spending nearly twice as much time on their landline phones in the early evening as they did in the previous week, with phone call minutes up by as much as 94 per cent. 

Holly Niblett, head of digital at Compare the Market, said: ‘Our research shows that landline usage continues to decline, but many people are still required to pay line rental costs in order to get online – and in recent years these costs have outpaced the rate of inflation.

‘At around £200 a year, line rental charges are a twentieth-century hangover in an increasingly digital age. 

‘Whilst the industry recognises the nationwide shift away from landlines, their decreasing level of use is not being reflected by a reduction in line rental costs.

‘Ofcom analysis shows that buying broadband and a landline as a package bundle can be cheaper than purchasing these services with different providers. 

‘Landlines should remain an option for customers who need one, especially older generations.

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‘But for much of the population it appears inevitable that the rise of digital platforms – such as Teams, Snapchat and Zoom – and the ongoing 5G roll out will further reduce the number of people who require and use a landline. 

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