LOCAL businesses have been left fuming by the way BT is introducing new fees to appear in a telephone directory.

Firms are being written to, saying unless they opt out byJune 30, they will be charged around £185 plus VAT to appear in Bradford’s next issue of the BT Phone Book.

The fees relate to listings in the classified section of the directory, where firms had previously been included for free.

The Bradford District Chamber of Trade has raised the alarm about the practice, saying businesses which don’t check their post carefully could be stung by unexpected charges if they didn’t opt out in time.

Secretary Val Summerscales said they would be discussing the issue at their meeting next week.

Mrs Summerscales said many businesses simply weren’t interested in being included in telephone directories these days.

She said: “A lot of them say, the Phone Book? What’s the Phone Book? Is it still in existence? Because they all go online now. This is why they are losing revenue.”

One of those who have received a letter is Mrs Summerscales’ son, Richard, who runs the Oasis sandwich bar in Church Bank, Bradford.

He said he had received the listing for free, until now.

Mr Summerscales said he had now opted out, but called the tactic “really sneaky”, saying others could easily mistake the letter for marketing material and throw it away.

He said: “There will be a lot of businesses that don’t have time to read rubbish and throw it away.

“I totally disagree with the idea you have opted in unless you opt out.”

A spokesman for BT said: “BT has taken an opt-out approach to avoid the significant risk with an opt-in approach that the customer misses a letter leaving no option but to wait a full year to get their entry into the next Phone Book, possibly resulting in business losses.”

She said BT would accept opt-outs after the four-week period outlined in the letter but before the Phone Book was published, and planned to issue refunds “when required post-publication”.

She added: “Businesses will continue to receive a free listing in the A-Z section of the Phone Book.”