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% from its peak of being present in 95% of UK homes at the turn of the century.
However, although 80% of homes have a landline, a quarter (26%) don’t have a handset attached to their landline. More than a third of people (35%) 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 (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. Almost three in ten landline users (29%) say the last call they received was suspicious or an unsolicited marketing call, almost two thirds higher than for those on mobile phones (17%).
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. More than a fifth of consumers with a landline (22%) say they avoid answering their phone in case it is a nuisance call, and over a quarter of older people (28%) 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 (95%) of the over-65s have one, but this falls to four fifths (82%) of consumers aged 35 to 54, and ownership drops to just over half (52%) 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 (83%) have a landline, compared to less than two thirds (65%) in urban area].
Surprisingly, landline use has even fallen during lockdown, with more than a quarter of households (27%) using their connection less, compared to only one in seven (15%) using it more frequently. Over a third of households (35%) 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 (59%) 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 (37%) don’t know how much their calls cost, and almost a fifth of people (18%) can’t remember the last time they used their landline for a call.
Nick Baker, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, comments: “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.”
Uswitch.com is offering consumers tips on how to avoid nuisance calls and avoid getting conned by scammers.