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BT is scrapping its standard rate tariff for nine million phone punters in a move to simplify call charges.

The UK's dominant fixed-line telco reckons it will make BT cheaper for most UK calls than rival cablecos NTL and Telewest. It also says the move will make it more competitive compared to other telco providers such as One.Tel, The Carphone Warehouse and Tesco.

However, the company has admitted that some of the 9m people who are to be moved from the £9.50 a month standard rate to BT Together Option 1 (£10.50 a month) could end up paying more.

Despite this, BT insists that most people will make savings and enable them to compare BT's tariffs with those from rival operators.

Said Gavin Patterson, group managing director, BT Consumer and Ventures: "These changes are the latest developments in our strategy to deliver more simplicity and value for our customers.

"They mean that arguments by other operators about how their prices compare with BT become virtually irrelevant. By driving down prices and making them simpler to understand, it will be much easier for customers to see how BT offers great value when compared to its main competitors.

"Now it will be far easier for customers to compare like-with-like when making decisions about their fixed-line phone services.

"The changes will also make BT highly competitive against the majority of its rivals for UK calls and within a whisker of most of those offering lower rates," he said.

Yesterday, an influential group of MPs said that UK punters are paying over the odds for their phone services because tariffs are too confusing.

In a stinging report by the Public Accounts Committee, MPs said that more should be done to help consumers switch telco providers. BT was singled out with MPs reporting that its continued dominance of the UK market was "unacceptable".

While BT says that today's announcement will help consumers, it is also a move to help protect its core telephony business from ever increasing competition.

"We are determined to fight hard but fair to retain and even grow our share of the fixed-line market, Said Mr Patterson. "These changes demonstrate our intention to meet head-on the twin challenges of carrier pre-selection and wholesale line rental, and overcome them."

One of those challenges is expected to become clearer tomorrow when The Carphone Warehouse announces details of its new phone tariffs, including US-style free local calls. ®

Related stories

BT dominance 'unacceptable', say MPs
MPs accuse Oftel of failure to help consumers
Carphone Warehouse in free call offer

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