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Virgin Media has announced that elderly and disabled customers who rely on their landline will not see any increases in line rental charges.

Under the Talk Protected Plan, line rental fees will be frozen at £17.99 for over-65s and anyone with additional accessibility issues, including mobility, hearing and sight issues.

Virgin Media hopes this comprehensive phone-only plan will help those who are "often underserved in the UK telecoms market, have less choice and are not able to take full advantage of technology upgrades and new services".

Eligible customers will be upgraded to the new tier from January 2017, as well as receive £5 off other Virgin Media phone plans including Talk More Anytime, inclusive evening and weekend calls to UK landlines and mobiles, and paper billing, caller display and voicemail at no extra cost.

Gregor McNeil, Managing Director of Consumer at Virgin Media, commented: "For some people their landline is their lifeline.

"It’s important that those who rely on this service the most are not left behind."

Mr McNeil pointed out that elderly customers and people with accessibility needs are often less likely to shop around for deals, while those who "just want a reliable phone service" do not benefit from cheaper bundles including broadband or TV.

"By freezing line rental charges and price changes through Talk Protected, we’re ensuring these customers receive even better value from us and get the service they rely on," he said.

This is a timely announcement as Ofcom confirmed just this week that it is reviewing landline rental prices, as it believes older and vulnerable customers in particular are not getting the best possible value for money.

The watchdog pointed out that standalone landline customers do not have broadband or a pay-TV service and therefore do not benefit from the competition in the market for packages where these services are bundled together.

Virgin Media's announcement has been welcomed by disability charity Scope, which said it is pleased the telecoms provider has recognised the financial pressures faced by its disabled customers.

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive of the body, commented: "Life costs more if you are disabled. From specialist equipment to higher fuel bills, research shows that these costs add up to on average £550 per month."

He went on to state that about one in five disabled people in the UK have never used the internet, which means their landline is an "extremely important" means of communication.

"We now need government, charities and the whole sector to target digital access for disabled people, which has the power to make life cost less," Mr Atkinson said.

"Many people go online to compare the best consumer deals and offers.”

According to the latest figures from Ofcom, line rental charges have risen by between 28 per cent and 41 per cent in real terms over the last few years.

This, it said, is despite the fact the underlying wholesale cost of providing landline services has fallen by about a quarter.

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