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The Phone Co-op

Organisation Summary

Business Sector:Telecommunications

Business Activities:Fixed and mobile telecommunications, broadband and business data services, social enterprise investment, telephone conferencing, solar PV

Business Location:UK wide (HQ Chipping Norton)

Chief Executive:Vivian Woodell

Turnover:£11m (2013-14)


Legal structure:Industrial and Provident Society

The Phone Co-op

The Phone Co-op is the only telecommunications co-operative in the UK. It is owned and controlled by its consumer members.

The introduction of competition in the market for telecommunications services in the UK created the opportunity for The Phone Co-op, which was launched with just £35,000 in 1998. Since then it has grown every year, and now has 23,000 customers (business and residential), over 70 employees, and an annual turnover of £10 million (EUR 12.7m, US$ 16m).

With a strong emphasis on ethical trading and providing an alternative to the investor-driven competition, The Phone Co-op has a reputation for good customer service, and gains many of its customers through referrals from existing customers. In addition, it has built up a network of agents and over 200 affinity partners (mainly charities and other co-operatives), who benefit from a share of revenue.

Over the years, The Phone Co-op has won many awards for customer service, for putting its values into practice, for example through its environmental policies, and for the overall approach of the business.

The Phone Co-op has also completed a number of acquisitions of smaller service providers. Acquisitions are an increasingly important route to growth in a rapidly consolidating marketplace. All of these acquisitions have been achieved without recourse to borrowing, and were financed by member capital and retained profits.

In September 2012 The Phone Co-op adopted the well-recognised national Co-operative Brand, in order to support its expansion in both the consumer and business markets.

E3M Member

The Phone Co-op

Name:Vivian Woodell

Title :CEO

Vivian Woodell is the founder and Chief Executive of The Phone Co-op, one of the UK’s most innovative and most successful new co-operative enterprises. Vivian is also an elected director of The Midcounties Co-operative, one of the UK’s largest independent retail co-operatives, where he also served as President for eight years.

Prior to starting The Phone Co-op, Vivian had no background in telecoms, but had worked extensively in the co-operative movement.

His earlier roles include: Executive Director of the Social Economy Consortium, which managed Co-operative and Social Economy development projects in Central and Eastern Europe, and Project Manager with the European Social Economy Information Network, ARIÉS. In the past he has served as a board member of CECOP and a member of the executive of CICOPA.