The Phone Co-op

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The Phone Co-op Limited
Consumer co-operative
Industry Telecommunications
Founded 1998 (1998)
Headquarters Chipping Norton, London and Manchester, United Kingdom
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
Shelagh Young, Chair;
Vivian Woodell, Founder and Chief Executive
Products Fixed line telephony, broadband, fibre broadband, mobile telephony, telephone systems, Voice over IP (VoIP), leased line, domain names, web hosting, telephone conferencing
Revenue £12.0 million (2015)
£164,614 (2015)
£257,747 (2014)
£414,677 (2013)
£276,036 (2012)
£280,334 (2015) 2
£339,940 (2014)
£554,632 (2013)
£424,160 (2012)
Members 11,003 (2015)
Number of employees

Footnotes / references
1. Figures rounded from 2014-2015 Annual Report

2. UK cooperative taxation means that after tax surplus is also after distributions

The Phone Co-op, trading as The Co-operative Phone & Broadband, The Co-operative Business Telecoms and The Co-operative Mobile is a consumer co-operative in the United Kingdom, which provides fixed, mobile telephone and internet services, including web hosting and broadband. It is 100% owned by its customer-members who democratically control the business and who share in its profits. This makes The Phone Co-op the only telephone co-operative in the UK. The co-op is a Social enterprise and was awarded the title of UK customer-facing social enterprise of the year 2015.[1] The business has adopted The Co-operative brand, is a living wage employer and has been accredited with the 'Fair Tax Mark'.[2]

The business has over 30,000 customers,[3] spanning individuals, businesses, charities, local authorities and other co-operatives including: Amnesty International, The Big Issue, Christian Aid, Central England Co-operative Society, the Centre for Alternative Technology, Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society, The Co-operative Group, The Council of the Isles of Scilly, Manchester City Council, The Midcounties Co-operative, Triodos Bank and UNISON. Alongside organic growth, The Phone Co-op has acquired other telecommunications businesses, most notably the telecoms business of Saga Group in 2010 and the broadband business of Namesco in 2014. The business provides its fixed line services through the network run by Openreach using Local Loop Unbundling and it provides mobile services as an MVNO on the EE mobile network.

The Phone Co-op follows the widely recognised Rochdale Principles of co-operation, including the payment of a dividend to its members based on how much they spend with the co-operative during the year. The dividend is paid out of profits generated by the co-operative and for year ending 31 August 2015 was 1.5% of each member's spend.[4] In common with many other co-operatives, The Phone Co-op seeks to operate to high ethical and environmental standards, publishing extensive non-financial data in its annual report.

It operates an affinity marketing scheme, where like minded partners receive a revenue share in return for introducing its supporters to The Phone Co-op's services. Participating organisations include New Internationalist, Positive News,[5] The Soil Association[6] and World Development Movement.[7] In 2015 more than £60,000 was paid to these affinity partners.

The business operates a 'Co-operative & Social Economy Development Fund' which is financed through retained earnings to support the development of new social enterprises and co-operatives in the UK by investing in the new enterprises in the form of share capital. Over £300,000 has been invested in this way, with beneficiaries including Torrs Hydro, Go-op, Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative and the Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative.[8]


  • 1998: founded as SETCO (Social Economy Telecommunications Co-operative), incorporated as a company limited by guarantee. Initially, membership of the co-operative was reserved exclusively for other co-ops and charities.
  • 1999: rule change opened membership to the general public in August. SETCO renamed itself The Phone Co-op and converted into a co-operative society incorporated under the Industrial & Provident Societies Acts.
  • 2008: receives the UK Government-sponsored Enterprising Solutions Award for Best Social Enterprise 2008.[9]
  • 2010: acquired the telecoms business of Saga Group, including approximately 8,000 residential customers.
  • 2012: awarded the Green Award of trade body, The Federation of Communications Services, for the fourth year running.[10]
  • 2012: concluded a brand licensing agreement with Co-operative Brands Limited to use The Co-operative brand with three specific sub brands, The Co-operative Phone & Broadband, The Co-operative Business Telecoms, and The Co-operative Mobile.[11][12]
  • 2013: Finalist in Overall Social Enterprise of the Year category at the 15th Social Enterprise Awards.[13]
  • 2013: Accredited as a Living Wage Employer by the Living Wage Foundation.[14]
  • 2013: Partners with the UK charity Community Network to take over its teleconferencing platform, allowing the charity to focus on serving its clients.[15]
  • 2014: launched a Pay As You Go (PAYG) SIM card in conjunction with The Co-operative Group,[16] to complement the existing postpaid mobile service. Available in approximately 3,800 branches of The Co-operative Food.[17]
  • 2014: acquired the broadband business of Namesco.[18]
  • 2014: became the UK's sole stockist of Fairphone 1 ethical smartphones.[19][20][21][22][23]
  • 2014: invests £500,000 in public transport social enterprise HCT Group.[24]
  • 2015: partners with Fairphone to release their second generation modular smartphone, Fairphone 2, in the UK.[25]
  • 2015: wins Best Consumer-facing Social Enterprise award at 2015 UK Social Enterprise Awards.[3]
  • 2016: wins Growing Co-operative of the Year category at the 2016 Co-operative of the Year awards, run by Co-operativesUK.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Katharine Hamnett CBE and Jo Wood on red carpet at UK Social Enterprise Awards". Social Enterprise UK. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015. 
  4. ^ "Dividend has been applied". The Phone Co-op. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  5. ^ "Partners". Positive News. Positive News Trust. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  6. ^ "Business Club case study: The Phone Co-Op - A telecoms company with an ethical ring". The Daily Telegraph. 3 Sep 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  7. ^ Bibby, Andrew (15 July 2008). "Victorian model's modern take". The Financial Times. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Social Enterprise Awards". Positive News. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "The FCS Awards 2012". Federation of Communication Services. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  11. ^ Dave, Bowman (4 September 2012). "Phone Co-op joins The Co-operative national brand". Co-operative News. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  12. ^ Bibby, Andrew (24 Sep 2012). "The Co-operative gets good with phones". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  13. ^ "Social Enterprise Awards 2013". Social Enterprise UK. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "Living Wage employers". Living Wage Foundation. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  15. ^ Rebecca, Horsley. "The Phone Co-op partners with Community Network". Charity Digital News. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  16. ^ Beth, Brooks. "Co-op Group launches pay-as-you-go mobile SIM". The Grocer. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  17. ^ Luke, Westaway (7 April 2014). "Co-op pay as you go SIM out this month". CNET. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  18. ^ "Phone Co-op acquires Namesco broadband services". Telecom.paper BV. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  19. ^ Millett, Carol. "The Phone Co-op clinches deal on ethical smartphones". Mobile [magazine]. Noble House Media Ltd. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "The Phone Co-op offers UK's first ethical smartphone". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  21. ^ Ravenscroft, Fiona. "Fairphone: a review". The Phone Co-op blog. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  22. ^ Griffiths, Sarah. "Would you buy this ethical smartphone? £250 Fairphone 'is made from conflict-free minerals by happy workers". Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  23. ^ Sparkes, Matthew (27 November 2014). "The 'ethical smartphone' that appeals to your conscience". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  24. ^ Voinea, Anca (9 Dec 2014). "The Phone Co-op invests in public transport social enterprise". Co-operative News. Co-operative Press. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "2016 Co-operative of the Year award winners announced". Co-operativesUK. Retrieved 7 October 2016. 

External links[edit]