- Freephone becomes free from mobiles as well as landlines
- Calls to service numbers split into ‘access charge’ and ‘service charge’
- Changes affect 175 million numbers
The biggest change to telephone calls in years will take place on Wednesday, affecting 175m phone numbers.
From 1 July, all Freephone numbers which begin 0800 or 0808 will become free for consumers to call from all phones, whether mobile or landline.
In addition, landline and mobile charges will become clearer for calls to service numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118.
People use these ‘service numbers’ every day for finding out information, contacting a business or helpline, or using competition, directory-enquiry, entertainment and voting services.
Ofcom research shows that every year, callers in the UK spend a total of 250m hours calling these service numbers, spending around £900m between them.
Until now, callers to these numbers have not generally been told by the service provider how much they will be charged.
But under changes brought in as part of UK Calling, prices will be clearer on telephone bills, in marketing materials and in advertising.
From Wednesday, charges for service numbers will be made up of an ‘access charge’ going to the phone company, plus a ‘service charge’ set by the company or organisation being called.
Phone companies are responsible for setting their access charge, making it clear to consumers on their bills and informing new customers of the charge when they sign up to a contract.
Separately, the service provider - the party being contacted - will be required to specify its service charge wherever it advertises or communicates the phone number.
From Wednesday, consumers will be able to:
- know that when they call a Freephone number from a consumer mobile the call will be free;
- understand the exact cost of making a call to a service number call by adding the access and service charges together;
- compare the prices of different service providers more easily; and
- choose a provider with a competitive access charge when signing up to a new landline or mobile deal.
What callers will see
Previously, callers have been given information such as:
“Calls cost xp per minute from a BT landline. Calls may vary from other landlines and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.”
Under the new system, the cost of calls will be explained in a simpler format such as:
“Calls cost xp per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.”
With service number charges being made clearer, many organisations that used 084 and 087 numbers in the past are moving, or have already moved, to using an 03 number.
Calls to 03 numbers cost no more than calls to geographic 01 and 02 numbers and are now used by most government departments, major banks, public bodies and not-for-profit organisations.
Freephone will mean free
Also as part of UK Calling on Wednesday, calls to Freephone numbers (beginning 0800 and 0808) will become free for consumers to call from mobile phones, just as they generally are from landlines.
Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “UK Calling is the biggest change to telephone calls in over a decade.
“Together we spend around £900 million a year calling service numbers, so it’s important that people understand the cost before they pick up the phone.
“Callers will be able to see what they’re paying and where their money is going. You can visit ukcalling.info for more information on the changes, and what they mean for you.”