Friendly Sheffield ISP PlusNet is ditching its free international calls package for some current and all new customers from next month, a potentially whopping price hike for anyone who currently uses the feature.

From 4 January 2011, the concession of 300 minutes of free international calls per month to 20 international destinations (including the US) will be withdrawn for all customers other than those signed up to the Talk Anytime tariff by that date.

After that date, customers on the slightly cheaper ‘Talk Evening and Weekends’ package will not get the concession and will not be able to switch to it either. New customers will also be offered a new Anytime package at £3.50 per month, down £1.50 on the current price, but offering only a 25 percent discount on the new international rates instead of free calls.

Given that landline calls to those 20 destinations will mostly now cost 8.48 pence per minute (inc VAT at 20 percent), this is a big change for anyone on 'Talk Evening and Weekends’. Assuming the previous allowance of 300 minutes per month is consumed, that will add up to £25.44 extra per month, or £19.08 for a new Anytime user.

Confusingly, PlusNet appears to want customers already using the Talk Anytime tariff to sign up to the potentially inferior Anytime package and is offering three months free for those who do on top of the lower monthly charge. Just beware the sting in the tail if you make international calls.

Separately, calls to UK mobiles will rise from 9.3 pence per minute daytime to 12.5 pence per minute daytime for all customers, which in fairness brings the company into line with the rates charged elsewhere for this type of call.

Almost all broadband packages will absorb the cost of the VAT increase by staying the same.

Anyone wanting to retain the free international calls should sign up for the current Talk Anytime package by 4 January. Changes that take place after that date will be honoured if they were requested prior to that date.