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Tackling consumer confusion over call charges

Ofcom's proposals to deal with the cost of calling businesses & organisations in the UK for telephone numbers such as 09, 08, 03 and 118 were published today by Ofcom.

- Proposals to make 0800 free from all telephones

- To make 118 directory enquiry service pricing information transparent

Ofcom is now proposing to simplify and standardise how a wide range of non-geographic telephone numbers are priced, this will help to promote competition and transparency in delivering services through these numbers such as 118 directory enquiry. The new proposals will make calls to 0800 numbers free from mobiles; it currently costs up to 40p a minute to call an 0800 telephone number from a mobile phone.

Confusion over 03, 08, 09 and 118 numbers

Consumers dial non-geographic for many reason's such as contacting businesses, organisations, government agencies or even voting on TV shows. The prices vary depending on many factors including whether calls are being made on a mobile phone or a landline. New research has revealed that consumers are confused and uncertain about the costs of calling these telephone numbers resulting in two new proposals to improve the consumers experience when calling these numbers.

1. Simple number ranges

Ofcom's proposes to rationalise the non-geographic number ranges, this will make pricing clearer and more transparent to consumers.

Under the proposal there will be clear categories of numbers:

  • 01, 02 and 03 - geographic rates;
  • 07 - mobile phone rates;
  • 0800 - to be free to call from mobile phones and landlines
  • 0843/4 and 5 and 0871/2 and 3 - business rates, lower cost; and
  • 090/ 091/ 098 - premium rate, higher cost.

2. Standardised call charges - phone company charges and service provider charges

Ofcom's secound proposal is to change the pricing structure of non-geographic calls by requiring two elements of a call - the phone company's charge and the charge made by the organisation or business that is being called - both to be transparently presented seperately to the consumer.

Consumers would be able to use this information in comparison when choosing between different phone offers and call bundles. This move should create transparent prices and will encourage competition and pressure on the providers to keep prices down for the consumer.

James on Dec 21, 2010

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