Mobile phone networks have been ordered to stop charging customers up to 40p a minute for dialling supposedly free 0800 numbers. The move was announced on 4th April by Industry regulator Ofcom in a drive to make call costs easier to understand.
Many government departments, councils, hospitals, charities and firms use 0800 numbers for help and Information lines. Landline operators such as BT ensure that dialling an 0800 number is free but mobile callers are normally charged.
Conservative estimates suggest Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone, 02 and Three make more than £100mllllon a year by billing for the calls.
Making 0800 numbers free from all telephones including mobile phones is excellent news since it’s rarely practical to redial from a landline to avoid charges for what are generally assumed to be freephone numbers. Greater cost transparency and simplicity of charging is badly needed in the landline and mobile phone sector.
Ofcom’s proposals include rules to clarify and simplify how calls to 08, 09 and 118 numbers are charged, with a standardised structure that will spell out the charge made by the phone company and the additional charges paid to the company being called.
Virtually every consumer and company in the country uses non-geographic numbers in some way. People use them to call businesses and government agencies like HM Revenue and Customs and NHS Direct, make payments for services and vote on TV shows.
However, Ofcom research has shown many people are confused about what non-geographic numbers are for and how much they cost, resulting in a lack of confidence and trust in the services. As a result consumers make fewer calls to these numbers, providers are discouraged from using them and there is less innovation that might benefit consumers.