BT is to impose a price increase of over 6% on its home phone and broadband customers in a move that has already been dubbed a "football tax".
The company, which has 7.3 million home phone and broadband customers, said that from 1 December the cost of a BT landline – mandatory for phone and high-speed internet – will rise by £1 to £16.99. At the same time the cost of its broadband service will also rise above inflation by up to 6.49%.
The hike is nearly four times higher than the current rate of inflation, which was 1.6% last month under the consumer prices index measure. Announcing the price hike, John Petter, chief executive of BT's consumer division, said the company was "sensitive to the tough economic times". However, one expert asked whether the increase will appeal to customers who have no interest in sports following BT's expensive outlay on football rights since 2012 and might question whether they are being forced to subsidise BT's football coverage.
Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at broadbandchoices.co.uk, said: "Some people may see this as a 'football tax', but BT Sport is still incredibly competitive, with a huge amount of content for no extra monthly cost. Sports fans will very happy, but if you're not one, then your best bet may be to switch."
In 2012 BT surprised analysts when it paid £738m to show 38 live Premiership football matches over three years. It has since added a host of other TV sports rights, including a surprise £1bn deal to broadcast the Champions League, and is taking on BSkyB in the paid-for sports and broadband markets. BT's two sports channels are offered free to its broadband customers and are sold as an add-on to those viewing the channels on rival TV platforms such as Virgin Media.
Announcing the Champions League last year, BT chief executive Gavin Patterson said: "We can assure people who want to catch all the action that European football will be far more accessible and affordable with BT."
From December BT phone customers will being paying more than £200 a year in landline charges alone, although they can reduce this to £170 if they prepay for the year. The company's formerly free answerphone (1571) service rises to £22.20 a year.
To try to offset the accusation that it is making its customers pay for its sports outlay, BT has launched a new Home Phone Saver aimed at the 2.6 million customers who buy a phone service only. It will cost £19.99 a month, and includes the landline fee plus free calls to other landlines.
Petter said: "We've taken care to make sure that low-income customers avoid price increases. We've added extra money-saving options for low-income customers and for customers who only want a phone line for calls.
"Although some prices have gone up, we want to help our customers to find the best value BT option with Right Plan."
BT is not the only phone company to raise charges recently. Earlier this month TalkTalk upped the cost of buying its landline a year in advance from £141 to £172.20 a year.