The communications regulator has today introduced new measures to help simplify call charges for 08, 09, 116, 118 numbers and to ensure that calls made to 0800, 0808 and 116 numbers are FREE from mobiles as well as fixed phone lines. But it won’t happen for a while.
Ofcom’s new rules also require that telephone users be able to see the cost of calling such numbers by having them broken down into an ‘Access Charge‘ to their phone company and a ‘Service Charge‘ to the company or organisation they are calling.
Telephone providers will thus be required to set the Access Charge for related numbers, which must be made clear on their bills and during the sign-up process. Meanwhile service providers (the party being contacted) will have to specify their Service Charge wherever they advertise or communicate it.
* The service charge for premium rate (09) numbers will be capped to protect consumers from the risk of rogue operators imposing extremely high charges in future.
* Confusion around 0845 will be addressed. This number range – which is sometimes tied to the cost of a geographic call – will no longer work this way, and will instead function like any other 084, 087 or 09 number. That means the cost of calling 0845, broken out into an access and service charge, will become clear.
* Organisations wishing to offer a geographic-rate number will still have the option of using the 03 range. Ofcom is actively encouraging public and not-for-profit bodies to use 03 numbers. These cost no more to call than a geographic (01 or 02) number, and must be included in a customers’ inclusive minutes or discount schemes.
Ofcom’s CEO, Ed Richards, said: “These changes will be the biggest for UK telephone customers in more than a decade. We expect them to restore people’s confidence in using phone services, and to increase competition.” But we’ll have to wait 18 long months before the measures are fully implemented on 26th June 2015, which is intended to give operators ample time to prepare.
The regulator also plans to launch a national campaign to help explain the changes to UK telephone users, although it won’t reveal more about this until Spring 2014. It should also be noted that the changes announced today will apply to calls made from residential lines, although Ofcom anticipates that providers will extend the same arrangements to business customers.
Ofcom has today also published a second consultation relating to its proposal to withdraw the 0500 number range. The regulator is now proposing to open a numbering sub-range which would provide a migration path for service providers currently using 0500 numbers (e.g. two alternative number sub-ranges – 080 50 and 080 85) and has issued a revised three-year timeframe for withdrawal of 0500. This consultation closes on 31st January 2014.