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BT ‘cutting off lifeline’ for elderly as tech giant axes free phone book online


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BT has been accused of cutting off a lifeline to the elderly amid reports the telecoms giant has axed its free online directory. It comes after BT bosses ended free distribution of its phone book at the end of March after 140 years.

The internet service will reportedly be closing on Tuesday (April 30), with customers having to telephone 118 500 to get numbers at a cost of £1.55 per minute on top of a 77p call charge.

Sarah Coles from Hargreaves Lansdown told the Mail on Sunday BT could be cutting off a lifeline, adding: “People need to fully understand calling the 118 number is so expensive.”

She said there is a risk older people won’t know the number they want to call or how to find it anymore.

Age UK’s Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams, told the same publication most older people the charity had asked said the phone book should remain available for free.

BT says 18 million copies of the phone book are printed every year, but advertising on paper has reduced and the number of households using the directory has fallen.

The company has said searches via phonebook.com have been in steady decline because much of the same information can be found via search engines.

It said axing the phone book will save about 6,000 tonnes of paper per year, the equivalent of more than 70,000 trees.

The first phone book was issued in 1880 and a version has been printed annually since then, apart from a pause between 1913 and 1920.

In 2005, the first online version of the phone book was launched while in 2010 a compact version was introduced. It was designed to fit through letter boxes and according to BT saved 2,000 tonnes of paper annually.

BT said in its last ever printed phone book: “We have loved being your local directory online. Online services will also finish”.

A PDF version of the phone book will be available via BT’s website for people to browse. The company will also provide printed copies on request.

The firm announced in January that landlines across the UK will be cut as it shifts away from traditional copper-based landlines to new, broadband based technology.

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