December 1, 2016 / 8:17 AM / 3 years ago

Ofcom to examine rising landline prices to protect elderly

An elderly man talks on the phone in London July 29, 2010. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - British telecoms regulator Ofcom said it was concerned about the rising cost of telephone line rental for customers who did not take broadband, particularly elderly and vulnerable people who rely on the service.

Ofcom said all major landline providers had increased line rental charges by between 28 percent and 41 percent in recent years, despite the wholesale cost of providing the service falling 25 percent.

Market leader BT (BT.L) and Virgin Media (LBTYA.O) had the highest line rental charges, it said, with TalkTalk (TALK.L) and Sky SKYB.L not far behind.

The increases were felt most acutely by customers who did not take advantage of competition in the market for bundling landlines with services such as broadband and pay-TV, it said.

Bundling has become more popular in recent years, with some services such as broadband marketed as free in packages.

“We’re particularly concerned for older and vulnerable customers, who rely on their landline and are less likely to change provider,” Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s competition group director, said on Thursday.

“So we’re reviewing this market to ensure these customers are protected and getting value for money.”

The regulator said it would examine whether measures were needed to protect those customers, and it expected to publish a consultation in early 2017.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Kate Holton

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