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Ofcom Proposes New Measures to Help Clarify UK Telephone Charges

Monday, April 15th, 2013 (11:06 am) - Score 502

The UK telecoms regulator has today proposed a series of “major changes” to how phone call charges are handled, which is designed to make the cost of calling businesses and services clearer for consumers (focus on 08, 09 and 118 numbers). Calls to 080 numbers could also become free from “all telephones” including mobile.

An Ipsos MORI survey of more than 2,000 UK people, which was conducted in October 2011, found that the majority of respondents didn’t know the cost per minute of making calls from their fixed line to “any type of telephone number” (here). By comparison the proportion of people who claimed to know the cost per minute of calling 07 numbers was just 12%, which increased to 14% for 0845’s and down to 7% for 0870 numbers.

Part of the reason for this is because different ISPs and telephone providers can charge different amounts for calling the same numbers. On top of that businesses and public services often operate lines that may have a similar degree of price diversity. According to Ofcom, unless you’re using a BT landline, it can apparently be very difficult for callers to 08, 09 and 118 numbers in particular to tell how much they will be charged.

Ofcoms New Proposals – Statement

Consumers will pay a single ‘access charge’ to their phone company for all calls to these numbers, plus a ‘service charge’ to the company or organisation they are calling.

Phone companies will inform their customers of their access charge when they sign up to a new service, and it will appear on bills; while service providers will specify the charge for their service wherever they advertise or communicate it. Consumers will therefore be able to understand the exact cost of making the call by adding the access and service charges together.

Ofcom also intends that calls to 080 (Freephone) numbers will be made free from all telephones. At present some phone companies, particularly mobile providers, charge for calls to such numbers.”

The regulator notes that its proposals represent a “fundamental restructuring of call charging” and will require new “legal instruments“. As a result Ofcom has opened a new consultation, which will run until 28th May 2013. Unfortunately the regulator doesn’t expect to publish its conclusion for another 18 months, which gives operators a “reasonable time” to implement the changes. See you next summer then.

The move itself should represent good news for consumers, although in theory some operators may feel encouraged to claw back any lost revenue by simply increasing subscription costs or call charges in other areas.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Am baffled to know what Ofcom is really up to here! Do they mean, for example, that a customer would pay say 1p per minute to call an 0845 number and then 3p per minute directly to the company they are calling?? Or would the telco be expected to “collect” this 3p per minute directly from the caller and then forward this on to the called company? Either way, it sounds like an even bigger mess is on its way!!

    1. Tom says:

      I read the notice and was also confused… I think it isn’t explained very well. I do welcome the mobile 0800 is free idea though.

  2. dragoneast says:

    There seems to be a developing tendency (encouraged by Government pressure, I suspect, seeking favourable electoral publicity as elections approach) for Regulators to “simplify” – for which read – remove, competition. The effect is that prices increase for increasingly savvy consumers. They must think we’re stupid.

    Use competition as we’re supposed to and you can get inclusive 0800, 0870 and 0845 calls. Presumably these inclusive calls on some packages will now become chargeable as to the “service” charge element. Oh how clever are these “hidden” charges, which the PR headlines always omit to mention. The devil makes work for the bureaucrats’ idle hands, as ever. While the Regulators are so busy pleasing their political masters and mediating between the political and commercial imperatives, who is looking after the poor consumers’ interests?

    1. Sledgehammer says:

      “who is looking after the poor consumer’s interests?”

      NOBODY, thats why we are regularly screwed over. By government both local and national, ISP’s and Uncle Tom Cobberly and ALL.

  3. Timeless says:

    ld like to see the 0800 numbers become free via mobiles.. so few actually do it at the moment however it would save us a few calling our insurance company etc atm lol.. the battery on our house phone has gone to pot after being left to loose charge so much :/

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