British Telecom has revealed most phone and broadband customers are about to see a 9.3% increase to their bills, which is close to double the current chronic 5.4% rate of inflation.
The increases, which will work out at an average of £3.50 a month for UK customers, come at a time when most Brits are feeling a cost-of-living squeeze and economic uncertainty due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The company is placing the blame on the dramatic increase in data usage, citing a 90% increase since 2018, while since 2019 people are using 79% more mobile phone data. The company says the extra cash will be invested in keeping the networks up to scratch.
In a blog post, Nick Lane, the BT managing director for consumer customer services, said “customers rely on our connectivity more than ever for things like working from home, education online and the growth in TV streaming. Unlike most things we buy, like food, electricity or fuel, you don’t pay more for using more as our data plans are unlimited, but we need to keep investing in our networks so they can handle this huge increase in demand.”
The company also cites the switch to 100% renewable energy as mitigating factor for the price escalation, but that’s unlikely to be much comfort to customers who’d rather the telecoms provider footed that bill itself.
Lane also says the company is steering away from unpredictable random price hikes and is assessing them on a yearly basis. However, this year’s hikes are still going to come as a shock to Brits feeling the pinch amid rapidly escalating food and fuel prices and stagnant wages.
Lake added: “Price rises are never popular, but are sometimes a necessary part of business, if we’re to keep up with the rising costs we face and ensure we can continue to deliver a brilliant network experience as customers usage of data grows month on month. We’ve thought long and hard about how we make sure that any pricing changes are predictable, clear, and not unfairly focussed on our existing customers, but reflected in our new prices too.”
BT does say that the increases won’t apply to all of its broadband and phone tariffs. Prices will remain the same for “financially vulnerable” customers on BT Home Essentials, BT Home Phone Saver and BT Basic plans. It plans to write to all customers explaining the new charges.