Major changes are being made to telephone call charges in a move that should benefit both businesses and consumers.
The plans, which will come into place in June 2015, cover numbers starting 08, 09 and 118 and are designed to clear up confusion amongst consumers about how much it costs to dial these non-geographic lines.
These numbers are used by many services, from finding out information to banking, directory enquiry and entertainment services, but users are often not told how much it costs to call them.
Under the new guidelines issued by Ofcom, each call will be broken down into an ‘access charge’ to the user’s phone company and a ‘service charge’ to the company or organisation they are calling.
Phone companies and the organisations using 08, 09 and 118 numbers will both be required to publicise their charges. Phone companies will have to make their charges clear on bills and to new customers signing up to contracts, and the service providers will be required to specify their charge on advertising or when asked.
Currently, for example, TV shows that offer phone voting usually tell users what the cost per minute is from a BT line, but say simply that calls from other phone providers and from mobiles may vary.
From 2015, Ofcom will expect them to use the format of Calls will cost x pence per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.
The net result of this is that customers will be able to add both charges up and easily see what each call is costing them. It will also make comparing both phone and service providers much simpler.
The new move is not being brought in until 2015 to allow companies using these numbers time to adapt and will only initially apply to calls being made from residential numbers, although business lines are likely to follow suit.
As well as introducing new charges, Ofcom has also simplified some existing anomalies to boost consumer confidence.
Calls to freephone numbers starting 0800, 0808 and 116, which are usually free from landlines, will become free from mobile phones as well.
- The service charge for premium rate 09 numbers will be capped, and 0845 numbers will no longer be used for geographic calls, functioning instead the same as any other 084, 087 or 09 number.
Ofcom will instead encourage organisations which want to offer a geographic-rate number to use the 03 range, which costs no more than a geographic 01 or 02 number, and must be included in customers’ inclusive minutes or discount schemes.
Ofcom is working with major landline and mobile providers to develop a major, national advertising campaign which will explain the changes to UK telephone users from next year.