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Five million households say they no longer need a home phone but it can remain a vital link in rural areas

By David G Scott

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Over a quarter of households in the UK — five million — never use their landline for phone calls with more than a third only having one to get broadband.

The number of homes with a landline has fallen four million from its peak in 2000, with homes now spending just five minutes a day making calls.

Nearly three in ten people say the last person to phone was a nuisance caller, with the proportion of scam calls rocketing six-fold since 2017.

Almost a quarter of people avoid answering their landline for fear of nuisance calls.

Is the landline phone becoming a thing of the past?
Is the landline phone becoming a thing of the past?

Over nine in ten over-65s have a landline, compared to just over half of 18 to 24-year-olds.

The landline is in terminal decline, with five million households never using theirs for phone calls, reveals research by Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service.

The number of homes with a landline has fallen by four million since the year 2000 to about 22 million connections now, down 15 per cent from its peak of being present in 95 per cent of UK homes at the turn of the century.

However, although 80 per cent of homes have a landline, a quarter don’t have a handset attached to their landline. More than a third of people say they only have a landline because it's necessary for having a broadband connection.

On average, households spend just five minutes a day — 35 minutes a week — talking on their landlines, down more than a quarter 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.

Almost three in ten landline users say the last call they received was suspicious or an unsolicited marketing call, almost two thirds higher than for those on mobile phones.

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 of unwanted contacts.

Phones over the years.
Phones over the years.

More than a fifth of consumers with a landline say they avoid answering their phone in case it is a nuisance call, and over a quarter of older people have had a bad experience with scam and sales callers.

There’s a generational divide in attitudes to landlines, with their popularity far lower among younger consumers. More than nine in ten of the over-65s have one, but this falls to four fifths of consumers aged 35 to 54, and ownership drops to just over half among 18 to 24 year olds.

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

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

Over a third 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 of households that have both a landline and a mobile phone say making a call on a mobile is cheaper.

More than a third of landline users don’t know how much their calls cost, and almost a fifth of people can’t remember the last time they used their landline for a call.

When using your mobile, block any numbers used by nuisance callers. To stop unwanted contact on your landline, register with the Telephone Preference Service by calling 0845 070 0707.

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