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Is it the end of the line for landlines?

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Written by: Emma Lunn
23/04/2021
More than a quarter of households never use their landline for phone calls with more than a third (35%) only having one to get broadband.

A survey by Uswitch shows that the number of homes with a landline has fallen four million from its peak in 2000, with homes now spending an average of just five minutes a day making calls. Landlines are much more popular with older generations; more than nine in 10 (95%) over-65s have a landline, compared to just over half (52%) of 18 to 24-year-olds.

However, although 80% of homes have a landline, a quarter (26%) don’t have a handset attached to their landline. Nearly three in 10 (29%) people say the last person to phone was a nuisance caller, while almost a quarter (22%) of people avoid answering their landline for fear of nuisance calls.

On average, households spend just five minutes a day — 35 minutes a week — talking on their landlines, down more than a quarter (27%) from two years ago, when people made 48 minutes of calls a week. Older consumers make 46 minutes of calls a week on their landlines, compared to 25 minutes for young people.

While the number of nuisance calls reported has not changed dramatically in recent years, the proportion of scam calls has risen to now make up more than one in four (26%) of unwanted contacts — up from just 4% in 2017.

Landlines remain a lifeline for residents in rural areas where mobile reception can be poor. More than four fifths (83%) of rural households have a landline, compared to less than two thirds (65%) in urban areas.

Surprisingly, landline use has even fallen during lockdown, with more than a quarter (27%) of households using their connection less, compared to only one in seven (15%) using it more frequently.

More than a third (35%) of households have registered for the Telephone Preference Service to dodge nuisance calls. Younger consumers have taken more drastic action to avoid such calls, with the most popular option among 18 to 34-year-olds being to stop answering the landline altogether.

Part of the reason for the decline in landline use is that calls are more expensive than on a mobile phone. Almost three fifths (59%) of households that have both a landline and a mobile phone say making a call on a mobile is cheaper.

Nick Baker, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, said: “With the rise of mobile phones and network coverage improving all the time, landlines aren’t the necessity they once were. Many consumers — especially younger generations — don’t see the need for landlines, and find it odd that they have to pay line rental in order to have a broadband connection.

“Nuisance calls have been a problem on landlines for years, and unfortunately they are not getting better, with nearly one in four households reporting the last call they received was from a scammer or sales person. However, it isn’t time to forget about the landline just yet, as they continue to be a lifeline for those in rural communities where mobile reception can be unreliable.

“If you’re struggling with nuisance calls, make sure you have registered for the Telephone Preference Service, which should reduce the amount of sales and marketing calls you receive. And if you suspect you are being targeted by a scammer, hang up immediately.”

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