BT said yesterday that the move was inspired by research that consumers have greater trust for businesses that have a local number. Non-geographic numbers, which effectively charged a customer for phoning a business, are said to have eroded the public's trust in companies.
The rise of VoIP, with its non-descript phone prefixes, would not endear the public to businesses any further, said Bill Murphy, managing director of BT Business.
"People like to deal with local companies and feel more comfortable calling numbers with codes they are familiar with. But by giving our clients a free VoIP line, we are enabling even the smallest businesses to enjoy the cost savings and convenience of making calls over the internet, while still maintaining their local presence."
BT has been driven to this decision by consumer anger over the way businesses have been seen to charge their customers, said Simon Clark, sales director of communications supplier Atrica.