Don’t Believe the Lies

There are many telecoms companies who will have you believe that BT are turning off their ISDN service and that means BT are turning off all phone numbers that run over their copper imminently.

THIS IS A LIE

BT Openreach’s Public Switched Telephone Network (PTSN) will reach end of life by 2025 and that is what supports products such as ISDN2 and ISDN30. They are currently planning to phase out their ISDN service from 2025. There is no rush for you to make the change, from ISDN. BT is not going to cut you off. However, there are 16 million lines that need to move by that point.

There are, however, a range a reasons why migrating from ISDN solutions to others would be beneficial for your business. Let’s look at them now.

1. Flexibility

When your phone calls go over ISDN, they can only go to one location; where your phone system is. With a VoIP or SIP solution, your calls go to wherever you are.

  • To another office
  • To your mobile
  • To your laptop
  • To your home – if you really want them to

If your teams need to be highly mobile, but also need to be contactable, an ISDN solution will not meet your needs. Imagine how much more productive your teams can be if they can communicate quickly and easily from wherever they are.

2. Cost management

ISDN contracts are based on a fixed number of lines for a fixed period of time. If your business is growing, this is less of an issue. You may get to the point where some calls cannot get through (you don’t need an ISDN line per person, it’s per concurrent call per line that’s important). You simply add more lines at that point. However, if the number of people working from a specific location gets smaller, you will be wasting more and more money on lines you don’t need. That can be renegotiated at the end of the contract, but not at any point before that.

3. Improved business continuity

If something happens that means you cannot use your office, you want to be able to work productively from another location. This may be a serviced office (if the closure is expected to be for some time), from client locations, from home or even coffee shops (for an hour or two…). Without a solution that allows you to divert calls accordingly, your clients, prospects and suppliers will be calling your office and becoming increasingly frustrated because they cannot reach you.

4. Scalability

Is your business trading pattern the same throughout the year? Or does it have peaks and troughs that mean staff numbers expand and contract? SIP and VoIP solutions can be adjusted on a monthly basis, adapting precisely to your business needs.

5. Opening/closing new locations

If you’re opening a new location, you will need to plan ahead if you have a ISDN solution. Lead times are at least 20 working days, whereas an internet-based solution can be turned on almost instantly. If you then need to close that location, you are still paying for ISDN lines because of the contract.

 

If you do get companies telling you that BT are turning off their ISDN service, simply tell them you know they are lying. Whilst they are trying to get you to think about alternative solutions, that come with a range of benefits, a lie is never the best way to start a relationship.

If you are getting calls from companies lying to you in this way, and want a more accurate conversation, give us a call: 020 8912 0845

 

Five Questions to ask your Telecoms Supplier

Making Sure you get the right telecoms contract for your business

You may have read our previous blog about charities being ripped off – Click here to read that!

We have noticed that the same thing has been happening with Telecoms Suppliers recently.

We have a list of questions that it is important to ask your Telecoms supplier:

How long a contract would we have to enter?

There are lots of tricks out there around contract length. Look out for things like:

  1. Long notice periods, often over a year, otherwise you’re locked in for another period of time
  2. No notifications, so that they auto-renewal date slips by and you’re stuck again
  3. Every invoice payment is classified as a contract renewal (!) – seen a few of these recently

We recommend you always get a specific time period stated in the contract, usually no more than three years. If contracts are much longer than this, you are highly likely to be paying more than you should.  The high level of competition in the market means that prices are constantly changing, usually downwards, so you can miss out on savings if you sign for more than three years. Make sure the notice period is reasonable too.  There is absolutely no reason why it should be any more than three months.

What would our line rentals and call costs actually be?

As we alluded to above, prices can change quickly, so you need to be sure what you are paying for.  Line rentals and call charges can vary significantly, dependent on the volume of calls made and the length of the call.

If you make lots of very short calls, you are likely to be better off on a per-minute, or even per-second, call costs basis.  If your calls are longer and can vary in length, you should consider charges per call.  We frequently see these the other way around so that the telecoms company makes more money.

Something that is frequently promised is a guarantee that you will always be on the lowest call charges. This is a great line for getting the contract signature, but it is rarely delivered upon as many providers don’t regularly review the market and pass these savings on to you.

Would we own the system outright at the end of the contract?

The value of telephone system hardware is minimal after a few years, even without the depreciation you use within your accounting. Even so, many companies will add clauses into contracts that spread the cost of the hardware over a much longer period than the contract length.  This means you either face a big invoice to get out of the contract or, much more likely, you simply renew and stay with them.

This is especially true when companies offer you a “free telephone system” as part of the deal.  It is never free!

What make and model of system would you offer and with which handsets?

Make sure you are getting up to date hardware when buying a new telephone system. One phone system box looks like another to non-techies and some companies will talk about the latest from Ericsson or Avaya, but then actually supply a much older unit. At a point you then want increased functionality, there are high costs involved because that unit doesn’t support the functionality you want.

Would the line rental and call costs be fixed until the end of the contract?

Mid-term price rises are becoming more and more frequent, so make sure that your contract fixes the costs. Alternatively, you have a 30-day window of opportunity to cancel your contract after any price rise.  Many telecoms providers will fail to remind you of this, but it is a legal requirement.  If they haven’t told you of your right to cancel at this point, then give us a call and we can help resolve the matter.

Finally, please ensure you read the contract all the way through. We have seen contract where clauses are placed in very strange places. They rely on people reading certain parts (the beginning, the end and the notice period bit) and not much else.

Let’s be clear. We are not saying that all telecoms providers are trying to catch you out.  The vast majority are decent, honest businesses looking to help you, but there are a number of companies who will resort to various dirty tricks to either make more money or to keep you tied into a contract for much longer. We hope these  five questions to ask your telecoms supplier help you get the telecoms contracts you need for your business. Of course, if you think we can help, please get in touch.

 

2018’s Seven Deadly Telecoms Sins

wrath is a deadly sinpride is a deadly sin

What has Changed in 5 Years?

Way back in 2013 we published a series of blogs about the seven deadly sins of telecoms. A lot has changed in that time, so we thought it was about time for a refresh.

Sloth – Take Time to Check the Contract

Before you sign any telecoms contract check the length of that contract and what happens at the end. Many less than scrupulous firms have conditions that say contracts are deemed to be 60 months. Small print that automatically renews unless you’ve given them considerable notice often accompanies these contracts too. Remember, if your business is less than 10 employees, OFCOM has ruled that rolling contracts are illegal. Don’t fall into the trap or let your supplier tell you otherwise!

Telecom costs, particularly for calls, tend to reduce over time. Locking yourself in long term is highly likely to cost you more in the long term. Also check the cost of cancellation, some companies will charge you the full balance of rentals and expected call volumes, whereas others will just charge a percentage of the rentals. One recent client was threatened with three and half years of charges if they tried to cancel their existing contract, this prohibited them from saving money. Finally problems sometimes occur so make sure you understand what the target response and fix times are.

Greed – Cheap Headline Tariffs Do not Always save you money

Many call tariffs look very attractive when advertised. However, behind the cheap tariff, there often lurks hidden dangers:

  • Are your call charges based on per second or per minute charges?
  • If per minute, are calls rounded up or down?
  • Is there a set-up charge for each call?
  • What types of numbers are included within any bundles?
  • What are the charges for premium numbers. such as 0844, 0845 and 0870?
  • How are international calls billed, and at what rate?

We see lots of contracts with hidden tariffs, so be careful.

Gluttony – Capped calls and Bundled Call Minutes

Capped call prices and free minutes appear to be a great deal. For residential customers where average call durations are longer this may be true, but the average business call in the UK is about 2 minutes. At this level, because many such deals have a high minimum charge, it is likely to cost you more than conventional call charges. Bundles do sound like a good deal, mostly because of that “just in case” scenario that pops into your head. The question is then: how often do you actually use anywhere close to what is in the bundle and what are the charges for excess calls? Contracts with set costs per second, whilst meaning your bill will vary each month, can often be cheaper. In the past year we have only found one customer that it was of benefit. Want us to check your bills?

Wrath – Can your Customers Reach You

All businesses want their customers to be able to contact them easily, but how many achieve it?

  • Do you know how many customers abandon their calls because of long answer times? According to Voice Response, Inc., about 34% of callers who hang up won’t call back, ever. Can you afford to lose these clients or prospects?
  • Do they call you regularly from their mobiles? If so, using 0800, 0844 and 0845 numbers can deter them from making that call. they can be expensive to make from a mobile phone. Don’t forget that you have to clearly display the costs of using these numbers in EVERY location you advertise the number. There is a heavy fine from Ofcom for those who don’t
  • Do you use press 1, press 2 to route calls, some customers will abandon the call when they hear that. Auto-routing can save you money on answering calls, but is there a cost attached?
  • Do you know what marketing is generating enquiries for you? Did you know you can put different numbers of each type of marketing, so you can accurately track what is generating your enquiry calls?
  • How can your customers get in touch if you cannot reach your office or shop due to bad weather or transport problems? In business continuity situations, how are your calls being routed to ensure they are being answered?

Using the right numbers and solution can solve all these problems, because if you don’t your customers will be calling your competitors. Are you confident your customers can reach you easily?

Pride – Review Regularly and Be Willing to Admit I could have got a better deal

Most business owners like to think they are good negotiators and think that they are on a good deal because it was a bit cheaper than the last one. However, the cost of telecoms have dropped dramatically in recent years and, like mortgages, there are always special deals available. Keeping track of the deals available is difficult. You want the best deals, so you are best off going to an expert. Let’s look at a few examples of how things have changed in the last 5 years and what they could mean to your telecoms costs:

  • As workforces are becoming more mobile, office based staff are becoming less as a result. Have you checked to see if you can reduce the number of connections to your premises as there are fewer calls being made? A recent survey showed 1 in 7 companies had more many lines than they needed.
  • Would you be better off just using mobiles? The cost of calls to and from mobiles has plummeted in the last five years, so it’s worth checking.

Lust – Signing Long term leases to get new technology and smart features

Many companies want to get all the latest features and think that the only way to avoid a high upfront cost by signing a long lease so they can afford it. However, telecoms technology changes about every 15 months, so signing a lease for five or more years could mean committing to regular expensive upgrades or consigning your organisation to working with obsolete technology. Also how many companies can accurately predict what size they will be in two years time let alone seven. They could be stuck paying for something that is far bigger than they need. Hosted solutions can give more flexibility without the long term commitment.

Envy – Buying features that you don’t need

It is often tempting when you hear a friend telling you about the deal they got or the new feature that enables them to work from home. It is tempting to think I must have that. However, many businesses do not stop to think “is there an even better way of using telecoms to improve my business that could enable me to leapfrog their competitor or find one more applicable to their business?”. Make sure all the options are evaluated before making a decision. Remember it is unlikely that one supplier has all the options.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our whistle-stop update.  If you have any questions, just shout. Our number is constantly attended Mon-Fri, 9 to 5.30, so you can be confident you can talk to us!

What will a No-Deal Brexit mean?

what will a no-deal brexit mean?No-deal Brexit: Good or Bad?

As the possibility of a no-deal Brexit deal increases what would be the impact on our telecoms if it were to happen.   Is it another instance of doom and gloom or are there any upsides.

These are our thoughts on the matter…

Roaming

In 2017 the EU abolished all the charges previously levied by the mobile operators for roaming calls and data within the EU area.  Should the UK leave the EU on a no deal basis, this could no longer be the case.   Other countries outside the EU such have Norway have signed up to the deal but they have agreed economic arrangements as well.   If the UK is operating on World Trade Organisation arrangements then there is nothing in there that covers roaming.  I am sure the mobile operators will be pleased as it was a major revenue source for them.

Like all these bilateral arrangements it is a case as to whether the EU wants to cut its nose off to spite it face as all EU citizens could roam for free in the UK.

The impact may be longer term as UK can negotiate its own trade agreements it could similar seeks to do deals with countries it wants to encourage more trade with.  So it could be free to roam between the UK and commonwealth countries for instance.   It is to be hoped that this will be an element of any new trade agreements that are set up.   Certainly, it has been discussed in the initial conversations between the UK and USA.

So there are potential implications for tourism, business people working in Europe and those with overseas home.   Should it come to fruition people should check their contracts – and add roaming plans if required.

Competition

At the moment some of the biggest decisions affecting the UK market are taken by the EU.  For example, the final say on the O2 and 3 merger deal fell to European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.    In future any such mergers will down to the UK and as such will reflect more the views of the UK Government.  The EU has generally been anti merger and the UK Government has been less so.   It enhances the role of Ofcom, who has constantly bottled the decision to split Openreach away from BT.   The EU has made decisions and threatened fines against anti competitive behaviours by companies such as Microsoft and Google.  Historically the UK Government has been less interventionist.

It potentially leaves companies more open to overseas acquisition.  Would BT be a tempting target for someone given their share price being 40% of what it was 3 years?   Deutsche Telecom already own a stake in them.   As general rule greater consolidation leads to less choice for customers and the potential for lower service levels and higher prices.

Trade

Like many other manufacturing industries, as a country we import far more telecoms equipment than we export.  Not many mobile phones or phone systems are made here, even most of the infrastructure is imported.   A lot is made in China, Asia and the USA.  These countries are the forefront of targets for our own trade deals.   As the fifth largest economy, the UK is attractive to the handset makers and deals could lead to lower import charges and therefore prices.

The first few weeks after the Brexit referendum saw a large drop in value of the pound, which resulted in the cost of telecoms and technology equipment going up quite quickly.  Dell announced a price rise within weeks.  Should we go on WTO rules after a no-deal Brexit, then the uncertainty could drive the pound lower, at least in the short term.   If that seems the likely option and your business is considering replacing your phone system and data infrastructure it may pay to order early.

Regulation and Infrastructure

As an industry telecoms has not integrated very much across Europe.  Each country issues it own licences and phone numbers.   There are no minimum standards for 4G coverage or broadband speeds.  Although the EU has stated it believes the minimum target speed should be 30 mbps which is higher than the UK.

The EU has set targets for 5G rollouts. Each country should have one city operational by 2020.  The UK has continuously lagged behind most of Europe on 4G coverage and FTTP availability.  The recent announcements have targets that will not improve that, but currently being in or out of the EU won’t affect that situation.  It is more a question of local priorities.

The EU customs union allow member states to charge higher international termination rates to non-EU members so the UK would be free to break from that and make the cost of calling here from abroad lower and therefore more attractive to businesses to have overseas offices here.

Like so many other things there is a lot to resolve and we have less than 6 months to go if we are to leave on a no deal basis.   But it will make the telecoms market very interesting and it means businesses should be asking key questions when signing long term contracts that extend beyond that period.

What are your thoughts on a no-deal Brexit? We’d love to read them.

What does the future of UK broadband look like?

There are at last embryonic signs the Government has begun to wake up to the need to improve the countries broadband infrastructure.

We should not be fooled by the claims that 95% of premises can access superfast broadband – that figure includes residential properties and drops to around 60% when only business premises are measured.

BT seems to have accepted that the battle is not around FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) but FTTP (Fibre to the Premise).   The UK currently has around 2-3% coverage here compared to 45% in Lithuania and 90% in South Korea.

Openreach has announced an increase of 50% in the number of homes it plans to connect with more reliable and ultra-fast fibre-optics by 2020 – taking the total to three million.  It said it had secured approval from BT for a “Fibre First” approach, superseding an earlier plan based on squeezing faster Internet from existing copper telephone lines.  The first three million homes, of which around 500,000 new builds are already connected, will be spread across Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

Other operators including Vodafone and Talk Talk are also focussing on this technology.  If the operators are now moving to fight in this space it can only accelerate the deployments.  This should significantly improve available speeds and reduce costs, providing plans are met.  But it is a start.

In the meantime the Government has reintroduced grants for businesses for companies wanting to put in larger dedicated circuits.  However, this was badly abused by many suppliers last time in that they simply raised their normal prices by the amount of the grant – so the end user did not benefit.  So if these are being offered ensure it is you and not the supplier that is benefitting.

If you have any questions regarding broadband and would like to know how we can help you, please get in touch.

What does 5G really mean to you and I?

5G in the future5G Future Reality?

Last month saw Ofcom auction of part of the radio spectrum for 5G technology.  Apart from raising almost £1.4Bn for the chancellor of the Exchequer you might be saying “so what”.  But 5G has the potential to transform our daily lives but only if the UK is at the forefront.

So what is 5G?  Firstly it will be fast – about 10 times faster than 4G meaning a high definition film should only take about a second to download.  It would also enable much touted virtual reality games.   Secondly there will be less latency than 4G, whilst this is not always noticeable, these brief lags between data being sent and received.  Again so what – well imagine that delay when applying to a driverless car communicating with traffic lights or the gap between a surgeon remotely controlling a laser during surgery.  Finally, 5G offers greater capacity which means more devices can connect and communicate at the same time.  This is obviously important for the internet of things as we connect our heating, front door cameras and even BBQs to the web.

That all sounds great but then think back to the fuss made around 4G and we arrive at the point where the most recent report said the UK ranked 54th in the world for 4G coverage.  There is no point in having great technology if you can only access it part of the time especially if it relates to driverless cars.

All this investment in the technology will need to be paid for at a time when network operators are facing revenue pressures from applications such as whatsapp which has seen text messages volumes fall by 40% over the last 4-5 years.

So there is the potential that 5G will cost more and certainly you need to buy a new phone which if the technology is available is to be available in the next two years means when signing your next phone contract do you actually want a phone or are you better being sim free.

5G represents a great opportunity for the UK to make up for the mistakes it made over 4G and broadband availability and become genuine leaders in Europe at least.  But it needs to hold the operators accountable for failures to deliver and be radical about releasing the capacity within the spectrum.

Six ways Mobile Operators sting Businesses

Whilst it’s good news that roaming charges in Europe have fallen dramatically, there is no need to feel sorry for the mobile industry as there are plenty of little tricks that ensure it remains highly profitable at your expense. There are six ways mobile operators still sting businesses:

1) Roaming away from Europe

Many countries outside Europe have no data or cost cap, and prices have gone up to counter the reduction in Europe. Most smartphones are data hungry so download an app that will compress your data, thus reducing the cost. Consider buying local pay as you go sims – providing your phone is unlocked. Plus always look for free wifi. For heavy users a business grade VoIP app or other free apps that act as automated calling cards will significantly reduce call costs.

2) Locking phones

Many networks will lock phones to themselves. The cost and time of unlocking should be factored into purchase decisions. Doing it officially via the networks can take up to four weeks and can be, proportionately, very expensive if you are a low user.

3) Inflating handset funds

A favourite trick is for the provider to start inflating the hardware fund they will give you. In many cases it is a false figure. We regularly see handset prices inflated by 25% at least. Therefore the buying power of the handset fund is much less than you think. Always ask if you can have the hardware fund as cash so that you can buy your own phones sim free.

Very few providers will tell you at the end of the contract if there is any hardware fund left and even fewer will give it back to you. Make sure you agree this prior to signing the contract. It is very profitable for providers to keep all the unused hardware funds

4) No such thing as a free phone

The phone is not free – you are actually paying for it in every monthly payment. What the mobile companies find very useful is that when the contract is up the same payment continues after the phone has been paid for. A recent report estimated that in the UK alone £1 billion was being wasted on payments for phones that had already been “bought”. That is a lot of money for the mobile operators to share.

5) Keeping you perpetually in a contract

The operators have multiple ways of keeping you in a contract or denying your organisation the opportunity to review, in full, your options. The first is the mid-term renewal. Suppliers often go back to customers half way through their 24 month contract and get them to sign for another 24 months. In return the customer is given a hardware fund or handset upgrades. But this means you never gets to a contract end when you can genuinely compare your tariff to the marketplace.

The second trick is; when adding new handsets, each handset starts their own two year contract so that the organisation never reaches a situation where all the phones are out of contract. The way round it is to ensure you get a Co-terminus Contract from the outset so that all the phones share a common contract end date whenever they are added.

The other option is to go sim only. It can even help you avoid a contract altogether as there are now business focussed one month rolling contracts. These can give a lot of flexibility – particularly to growing or changing organisations.

6) Are unlimited deals the best value?

The industry heavily promotes the unlimited calls and texts model of packages. Sounds attractive but in reality you are almost always going to be paying ‘over-the-odds’. This is because the pricing of the bundle is set at a level that about 80% of people/organisations will never reach. Businesses often overestimate the volume of calls they actually make, therefore buying a service with usage corresponding to their actual usage can often save money.

By watching out for some of these tricks, and taking steps to mitigate their impact, you can ensure the money stays on your pocket, and not in that of the telecoms provider.

If you are worried that you are being affected by any of these six points please call us on 020 8912 0845 and we can help you!

What does the Future Hold for the Mobile Operators?

It is 44 years since the world’s first mobile phone call was made on April 3, 1973, when Martin Cooper, a senior engineer at Motorola, called a rival telecommunications company and informed them he was speaking via a mobile phone. It was another 34 years before the first iPhone arrived and transformed the way we use our phones today.

As the technology has improved, both in terms of devices and the networks (in some places) our usage patterns have changed. Are the providers keeping up with this in terms of the packages being offered and are they in fact under threat if they do not?

A variety of recent reports have reflected these changes. A 2016 report said that 31% of smartphone users make no traditional voice calls in a given week. This reflects the growth of consumer apps such as Facetime and Whatsapp, which reflected growth in interest of video calls, and a desire to avoid roaming charges.

Similarly, in the business sector the growth of VoIP and phone system apps allowing people to have their office landline number on their mobile has seen traffic move away from the mobile networks.

There has been a long-standing battle over whether it is better to have a mobile or landline number if you want to choose just one number to promote. It would appear the landline is winning.

The first text was sent on December 3, 1992, when British engineer Neil Papworth, 22, used his computer to send the message ‘Merry Christmas’ to a mobile phone. The number of texts sent in Britain peaked at in 2011.  Since then it has fallen by almost half and has been over-taken by instant messaging applications.

WhatsApp passed a billion active users and research found that the main reason 42% of Brits used a mobile phone was to access messaging apps. Other apps such as Snapchat have appealed to younger age groups who see SMS as old and unfashionable.

The implication for the mobile networks is that of lost revenue as SMS was always a key part of their income stream. So, with SMS declining, the loss of roaming charges in the EU, and potential that, as we negotiate trade deals elsewhere in the world post-Brexit, other regions may also drop roaming charges – the mobile networks could see their profits dropping and their future looking a little less rosy than it has been.

So, is the hope for the future of the mobile networks a growth in data usage as a result of the Internet of Things and increasing use of data-based apps? Whilst there are people with high usage due to video and music streaming, the average usage per device is still quite low. Research by Cisco showed that average monthly smartphone data traffic in the UK during 2015 was 1.2 GB.

There are over 50 million 4G connections in the UK, but the lack of coverage (the UK ranks 54th in the world) means that the applications and technologies that would drive data usage struggle to work all the time. That is where 5G, whenever we finally get it, may help the networks as it is likely to prompt surge in data usage. However, the networks face a new challenge in the growth of wifi hotspots – consumers now expect that almost every coffee shop and bar offers free wifi. It is also becoming the norm on many train and coach services. Smart users who consistently connect to wifi wherever available can, on average, reduce data usage by a third.

This creates a challenge as the mobile operators need to make a profit to fund investment – especially in the next generation of 5G networks. The UK’s mobile and data telecoms plans are already five years behind countries such as Japan and South Korea. But if users continue to communicate via apps (both messaging and voice) and use wifi wherever it is available then that can only lead to standard package prices going up to generate the revenues the operators need. Either that or the Government is going to have to fund more of the infrastructure – something that is already happening in many countries.

What does the future hold for the mobile operators? These are the challenges we believe they face, so we wait to see what happens.

Top tips for choosing the right telecoms package

As a small business, it may seem a lot easier and faster to choose a telecoms package based on price. As a business owner, you have hundreds of things to be getting on with and choosing a telecoms package is something which can be dealt with quickly.

However, there is a lot more to consider that just the price. All telecoms providers are different so there are certain things you must look out for when deciding which provider is right for you.

All telecoms providers are different. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a supplier that’s right for your business.

1. Is the supplier signed up to the Ombudsman scheme?

Make sure you check that the supplier has signed up to the Ombudsman scheme. If there is a dispute, this scheme gives free binding arbitration. You can find a list of members at http://www.ombudsman-services.org/memberlists/communications/. If they aren’t a member make sure you question why.

2. Don’t opt for a residential service

Whilst it may save you a small amount, a residential service will not prioritise you when something goes wrong. If you lose service for a day, how much business will you lose as a result? Don’t buy based on price because a residential service may be less, but it won’t necessarily be the quality you need.

3. False lowest price promises

Lowest price promises made by suppliers are often false. They may seem cheap on the surface, but that’s because there are hidden costs which will inflate your final bill. Some hidden costs may include:

  • Call set up fees
  • Call durations being rounded up to the nearest minute.
  • Minimum call charges.

4. Illegal automatic renewals

Make sure you check when the contract runs out. Auto-renewal of phone contracts for small businesses has been banned, but there are still some suppliers who will try and get away with it.

5. Price rises

Once the contract has started, make sure you keep an eye out for any price rises. As a small business, you should be given notice of price rises and the option to cancel within 30 days.

Many suppliers hide the notifications in bills or on their website so it is vital you check the bill against the contract regularly. Make sure you insist on an additional contract clause that states if you spot there has been a price rise, you have the right to cancel.

6. Avoid signing long-term deals

You don’t know where your business is going to be in a few years time so it’s best to avoid signing a long term contract even if it does seem like the cheaper option.

7. Mobile-only perceptions

Plenty of research has shown that having a landline makes consumers feel they can trust companies more than if they just had a mobile number.

Getting a landline is easy, cost-effective and makes your business seem bigger than it is. It also means as a business owner, you can separate your work and personal life more efficiently.

8. Check the reviews

Although supplier reviews can be a useful guide when making your decision, be aware that they are not as independent as they seem. There have also been instances where people have left negative reviews and later find they have disappeared from the site.

9. The cost of lost business

It’s a similar story with broadband. Don’t just buy on price. There are huge variations in contention ratios, network capacity, quality of ‘free’ routers and customer service between providers.

So you may be paying less, but if you lose internet or phone connection for a day and a provider takes longer to send someone to fix it, how much business are you going to lose?

By keeping all of these things in mind, you can find the right telecoms package for your business at the right price, with no hidden fees.

Are you prepared for MiFID II?

The implementation of MiFID II is approaching quickly, so it’s important that you know who is affected and how to make sure your business is compliant.

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) regulates firms who provide services linked to ‘financial instruments’. This includes IFAs, mortgage brokers, credit institutions, corporate finance companies, investment firms and brokers/dealers.

MiFID has been applicable in the UK since 2007, but is now being revised to strengthen investor protection. The 3rd January 2018 will see MiFID II set in. The following must be recorded by financial service companies if they relate to an actual or possible transaction:

  • Telephone calls
  • Electronic communications
  • Face-to-face meetings

Records for these must be kept for 5 years (in some cases 7 years) or for the duration of the client relationship.

Commodities companies that were originally left outside the first MiFID will now be covered. This also applies to insurance brokers who take cover products with an ‘investment element’.

Customers who are affected by MiFID II may need to upgrade their telecoms systems to support recording of fixed and mobile calls. Affected firms have a number of options, depending on their existing set-up:

Landlines/SIP

Landlines – no system

You can now record phone calls via cloud-based providers. If firms choose this option, they may need to consider switching to an FCA-compliant VoIP provider, as it is the most cost-effective choice.

Phone system with landlines or SIP

  • Firms can add an on-premise call recorder. Some SIP providers offer cloud recording. But, firms would need to make sure that it’s FCA compliant and check storage costs.

VoIP/Skype for business

  • Firms will have to ask their supplier for written confirmation from their legal/operational teams that the call recordings are FCA-compliant.
  • Many VoIP providers only use Wav files and don’t offer FCA-compliant recordings. Firms will need to find out how long calls are stored for and the costs.

Mobiles

Mobiles are slightly more difficult. This is especially the case if the firm’s employees use SMS. There are still a number of options available.

  • Firms can ban mobiles. It’s a simple solution but it reduces productivity.
  • Mobile clients could be added. All recordings would be in one place, but SMS would not be recorded.
  • Firms could switch to recordable sims. This would allow the recording of calls and SMS. However, it would mean being out of contract on their current mobiles.

Financial services firms will have to make sure they assess how they are affected by MiFID II. This will also need to examine how they can comply with new regulations. But, suppliers will have to make sure they are meeting the new needs of affected customers.