BT is claiming to bring New Year cheer to 14 million customers by becoming the first UK telephone company to make calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers free.

Frequently used by banks, insurance companies and other big companies with automated switchboard set-ups, in a move "costing BT tens of millions", the company has decided to no longer charge for such calls.

A BT exec says: "All of our 14 million calls customers have free calls included in their package and now all 14 million have free calls to 0870 and 0845 at times that fit with their calling plan, which is something not offered by any of our competitors".