Switching Landline Provider – Your Essential Guide


Many people regularly look out for better deals on their mobile phones or broadband, but few bother switching landline phone providers. However, doing so can often save you a significant amount of money, especially if you’ve never bothered to upgrade out of an ancient BT contract. Here’s how you do it:

Available landline services

Landline phone services can now be bought either on their own or as part of bundles which include other services such as broadband, television and mobile phone provision.

There are a variety of landline call packages available; all the main providers offer similar packages. These include basic line rental, unlimited calls or evening and weekend calls. There are also options tailored for people who call mobiles a lot from their landlines or make a lot of international calls. It’s important that the package you choose reflects your landline phone usage.

Landline phone packages in themselves tend to be cheap; it’s the line rental that makes them expensive. Lines are rented from your service provider and charged monthly. This is why it often makes financial sense to purchase a bundle, especially if you use ADSL broadband, as this comes through the same phone line you are renting.

Most landline providers now offer the option of paying 12 months’ line rental in one go rather than monthly. This usually works out cheaper; however, it carries a risk, especially if you are switching to a smaller provider, as you will lose everything you have paid if the company goes bust.

How to choose a landline phone contract

Your contract should offer you the best deal based on your phone usage, so obviously the first thing you will need to look at is the price. However, it’s important to break this down into monthly package cost, line rental cost and call rates if you want to make a realistic comparison between suppliers.

Some contracts have hidden costs; it’s worth checking the small print. If there is a free call allowance, ask what is included. For example, almost all “unlimited” call packages have time limits on the length of each call. With most providers, this is an hour, after which time you will be charged for the call. Hanging up and redialling before the hour is up prevents you from having to pay; you can do this as many times as you like.

If your provider offers free or cheap off-peak calls, it’s important to check what times they classify as off-peak, as these can vary between providers.

Some suppliers also charge for answerphone and call barring services, and most will add on an extra charge for paying by any method other than Direct Debit.

You should also be aware that most landline providers will charge you if you end your contract before the minimum term. Before you agree to switch, it’s worth finding out whether you are still within the minimum term, and if so, how much you will have to pay.

How to switch landline providers

There are two different processes for switching landline providers in the UK:

  1. Gaining Provider Led

This is the most common way of switching landline providers. Using this procedure, all you will have to do is inform your new provider that you want to switch to them. They will then contact your old provider, end your old contract and arrange the transfer for you. Your old and new providers will then contact you by post, informing you of the switch. Your old provider needs to let you know which services will be affected, and both providers should give you an estimate of the date when the switch will happen.

  1. Cease and Reprovide

This usually applies if you are switching to or from a cable network. If you want to keep your existing phone number, your new provider will have to notify your current provider that the service is being transferred to them. If you want a new phone number, you will need to contact both your current provider to end your contract and your new provider to take out a new contract. Your contract with your new provider will tell you when your new service will start. Your old provider will notify you that your contract is ending. If as part of this process you need a new line installed to your home, you may be liable for the cost of this.

If you are switching a bundle that includes broadband, you will be asked to follow one of these processes. If you are switching a bundle that also includes television, the procedure may be slightly different. Your new provider will be able to tell you what you have to do.

Your rights

If you change your mind within fourteen days of agreeing to your new contract, you are allowed to cancel it with no extra charge. This should be done through your new provider.