The Phone Co-op

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The Phone Co-op
TypeConsumer co-operative
Founded1998 (1998)
Area served
United Kingdom
ProductsFixed line telephony, broadband, fibre broadband, mobile telephony, telephone systems, Voice over IP (VoIP), leased line, domain names, web hosting, telephone conferencing
Revenue£12.54 million (2016) 1
£182,826 (2016)
£164,614 (2015)
£326,546 (2016) 2
£280,334 (2015)
Members11,734 (2016)
Number of employees
74 (2016 average)
ParentMidcounties Co-operative Edit this at Wikidata
Footnotes / references
1. Figures rounded from 2015-2016 Annual Report 2. UK cooperative taxation means that after tax surplus is also after distributions

The Phone Co-op is a consumer co-operative in the United Kingdom, which provides landline, mobile telephone and Internet services, including web hosting and broadband. Now part of the Midcounties Co-operative, the largest independent co-operative in the UK, it is 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 is a living wage employer and is accredited to hold the Fair Tax Mark.

As of 2015, the business had over 30,000 customers,[2] 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 a virtual operator on the EE network.

On 1 June 2018, The Phone Co-op became a part of The Midcounties Co-operative.[3]


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 2016 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] For the three years ending 31 August 2016, just over £180,000 was paid out to the 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 their 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]


  • 2016: wins Growing Co-operative of the Year category at the 2016 Co-operative of the Year awards, run by Co-operatives UK.[9]
  • 2015: wins Best Consumer-facing Social Enterprise award at 2015 UK Social Enterprise Awards.[2]
  • 2014: Awarded Fair Tax Mark for fair tax behaviour.[10]
  • 2013: Finalist in Overall Social Enterprise of the Year category at the 15th Social Enterprise Awards.[11]
  • 2012: awarded the Green Award of trade body, The Federation of Communications Services, for the fourth year running.[12]
  • 2008: receives the UK Government-sponsored Enterprising Solutions Award for Best Social Enterprise 2008.[13]



At the Annual General Meeting of 3 February 2018, the board presented a plan[16] to boost sales to businesses by investing the co-operative's reserves and part of the members' share capital in updating systems and raising pay. Members voiced their concern about the risks involved and urged the board to be more transparent in its communication.[17] At a Special General Meeting on 28 April 2018 members voted 136:50 for a motion supporting the strategy. However this was only after voting 202:17 to transfer the co-op's engagements to (i.e. merge with) Midcounties Co-operative Society, which has greater resources and the potential to cross-sell to its Co-operative Energy customers. Since both votes were open to all circa 11,700 members, the vote turnout was less than 2%. A confirmatory vote on the transfer of engagements was held on 12 May 2018 in Droitwich[18] where it was passed by 75 votes out of 76. The transfer took place on 1 June 2018.[19]

Other history[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pat Moral (8 Dec 2015). "The Phone Co-op wins national social enterprise award". The Phone Co-op (Press release). Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  2. ^ a b "Katharine Hamnett CBE and Jo Wood on red carpet at UK Social Enterprise Awards". Social Enterprise UK. 27 November 2015. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  3. ^ "About Us". The Phone Co-op. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  4. ^ "2015-2016 Annual Report" (PDF). The Phone Co-op. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  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. Archived from the original on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  7. ^ Bibby, Andrew (15 July 2008). "Victorian model's modern take". The Financial Times. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  8. ^ "Development Fund". 31 August 2016.
  9. ^ "2016 Co-operative of the Year award winners announced". Co-operativesUK. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Talking to the Phone Co-op". Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  11. ^ "Social Enterprise Awards 2013". Social Enterprise UK. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  12. ^ "The FCS Awards 2012". Federation of Communication Services. Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  13. ^ "Social Enterprise Awards". Positive News. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  14. ^ "Fair Tax Mark scheme launches". economia. No. Feb 2014. ICAEW. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Living Wage employers". Living Wage Foundation. Archived from the original on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  16. ^ Annual Report & Financial Statements 2016-2017 (PDF) (Report). The Phone Co-op.
  17. ^ "Full Report: Phone Co-op AGM". Co-operative News. 8 February 2018.
  18. ^ Miles Hadfield (28 April 2018). "Phone Co-op members agree transfer of engagements to Midcounties". Co-operative News.
  19. ^ "Phone Co-op members vote for Transfer of Engagements to Midcounties Co-operative". Charity PR. 15 May 2018.
  20. ^ Dave, Bowman (4 September 2012). "Phone Co-op joins The Co-operative national brand". Co-operative News. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  21. ^ Bibby, Andrew (24 Sep 2012). "The Co-operative gets good with phones". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  22. ^ Rebecca, Horsley. "The Phone Co-op partners with Community Network". Charity Digital News. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Millett, Carol. "The Phone Co-op clinches deal on ethical smartphones". Mobile [magazine]. Noble House Media Ltd. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  25. ^ "The Phone Co-op offers UK's first ethical smartphone". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  26. ^ Ravenscroft, Fiona. "Fairphone: a review". The Phone Co-op blog. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  27. ^ Sparkes, Matthew (27 November 2014). "The 'ethical smartphone' that appeals to your conscience". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  28. ^ "Phone Co-op acquires Namesco broadband services". Telecom.paper BV. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  29. ^ Beth, Brooks. "Co-op Group launches pay-as-you-go mobile SIM". The Grocer. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  30. ^ Luke, Westaway (7 April 2014). "Co-op pay as you go SIM out this month". CNET. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  31. ^ "Fairphone 2, The Ethical Smartphone" (PDF). The Phone Co-op.
  32. ^ Milton, Nick. "The Phone Co-op Launches a New Brand for the Digital Age". The Phone Co-op. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  33. ^ Rebecca Harvey (21 June 2017). "The Phone Co-op launches Foundation for Co-operative Innovation". Co-operative News.
  34. ^ Miles Hadfield (28 April 2018). "Phone Co-op members agree transfer of engagements to Midcounties". Co-operative News.
  35. ^ Goodbye to PAYG. Hello to a great SIM only offer

External links[edit]