Freephone numbers to finally be free on mobiles and charges for 08, 09 and 118 calls to be simplified
Ofcom has announced a major overhaul of UK calling charges for non-geographic numbers, which will come into force from 1st July. Significantly, mobile phone companies will no longer be able to charge customers for calls to Freephone numbers. Plus a new, clearer system for expensive numbers starting 08, 09 and 118 will be implemented. Ofcom says together the changes will impact more than 175 million telephone numbers, making it the biggest overhaul of call charges in more than a decade.
Freephone numbers finally free
Freephone numbers beginning with 0800 and 0808 will finally be free to call from mobile phones under the reforms. Currently these numbers don’t cost anything to call from landline phones, but mobile users typically incur charges of between 14p and 40p per minute. 0800 and 0808 numbers are used by a range of businesses and organisations including helplines and charities like Age UK and National Debtline, as well as some Government services. Ofcom says that less widely used Freephone numbers beginning with 0500 will continue to be chargeable from mobiles, but will be withdrawn from use by 2017.
New charging system for service numbers
Ofcom is also simplifying charges for calls to expensive non-geographic service numbers beginning with 08 (including 084 and 087), 09 and 118. These numbers are used by banks, directory services and broadcasters, but as things stand, unless a caller is using a BT landline, the charges are unclear.
For example when viewers are invited to call to vote on a reality TV show like X Factor, the broadcaster usually issues a warning along the lines of: “Calls cost Xp from a BT landline. Other landlines may vary and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.”
Ofcom doesn’t think the current system clearly explains what someone will be charged for making the call. So from 1st July the cost of calling 08, 09 and 118 numbers will be simplified with a new system made up of two parts: an ‘access charge’, which goes to the phone company, and a ‘service charge’, set by the broadcaster.
Phone companies – both landline and mobile – will have to state what the single access charge for calls will be on bills and when customers take out a new contract.
Ofcom says this will help people work out the exact cost of making calls to non-geographic numbers, which will save them from bill shock and help them spot the best deal when comparing providers.