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Carphone Warehouse (CW) - which has more than 760,000 TalkTalk phone customers - has been accused of sneaking in a "stealth" price rise by making early morning calls more expensive.

Copying a similar move by BT last month, peak rate charges for CW's TalkTalk landline service now kick in at 6am rather than 8am.

A statement added on to bills this month reads: "In line with changes announced by BT, from 1st March 2005 the Daytime calling period will be changed to cover the period between 6am-6pm weekdays."

When BT announced plans to increase its peak rate time from January it was slammed for introducing a "stealth price rise" that would see the cost of calls made between 6am and 8am increase by 110 per cent.

Now consumer group uSwitch.com - which helps punters find the best deal for telecoms services - has criticised TalkTalk for the copycat move.

Said uSwitch.com director Jon Miller: "BT introduced this charge by stealth in February, and it's disappointing to see TalkTalk following suit, not only because of the increase in charges, but also in the way they have chosen to notify their customers."

A spokesman for BT described TalkTalk's move as "very cheeky" and a "good bit sneakier" than BT's approach to informing punters of its change.

BT is also concerned at the wording of TalkTalk's announcement because TalkTalk is "trying to imply that this price rise was forced on them by BT's actions which is, of course, complete nonsense," said a spokesman.

CW was asked to comment on the price rise and explain why its stealth price rise is "in line with changes announced by BT".

The company declined, but in a statement said: "We urge that you look at the bigger picture. All TalkTalk customers talk to each other for free forever and whenever. TalkTalk guarantees that your bill will be cheaper than BT or we will pay you £1,000." ®

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