Calling 0845 and 0870 – how much does it cost you?

by , Head of Money & Travel Research Consumer Rights 1 May 2012
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It should soon be free to call freephone numbers from mobiles. Not rocket science, you might think, but when it can cost as much to call an 0800 number as an 0870 one, something’s clearly in need of a shake up.

Gold phone with 'call now'

03, 0800, 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871, 09… That’s not, as you might think, a cryptic code, but just a selection of the UK’s ‘non-geographic’ calling codes – where the number isn’t linked to a geographic location, as with 01 and 02 numbers.

But when the cost of calling such numbers can vary hugely, and not just by the code itself but also depending on the phone service provider you’re calling from, it’s no wonder that Ofcom’s research shows that many of us are utterly confused. I know I am.

The cost of calling customer service

It’s difficult to escape calling non-geographic numbers. Many of the companies we need to contact – such as energy providers, banks or insurers – use these numbers for sales and customer service. So if you run into a problem – with your bill, or making an insurance claim, say – you’ll often have no choice but to call one.

This is an issue that past Which? Convo commenters have made their views clear on – but just how tough is it to understand how much you’ll pay?

The answer is – very. The cost of calling these numbers can vary greatly and charges are often as clear as mud, particularly if you’re calling from a mobile phone or a non-BT landline.

For example, calling a 0800 number from a landline is usually free, but calling from a mobile could cost you up to 40p per minute.

And while the widely-used 0845 can cost more than 10p a minute from some landlines, some providers include it alongside 01 and 02 minutes in their inclusive call packages. Don’t even get me started on 0844 and 0871 numbers.

In the dark over call costs

Many companies that use non-geographic numbers only advertise the cost of calling their number from a BT landline (often tucked away in the small print) but don’t give costs from other landline or mobile providers.

So, unless you have the time and inclination to scrutinise your phone provider’s complex price list – it’s likely that you’ll be completely in the dark about how much one of these calls will cost.

Ofcom has recommended that charges to 08, 09 and 118 numbers should be simplified. For example, it proposes that calls to 0800 numbers from a mobile would be free, just as they are from landlines. It also wants companies to offer clear and transparent information on charges for their customers.

At the moment, the chaotic and inconsistent pricing of numbers makes it impossible for consumers to predict the cost of calls, so we welcome Ofcom’s measures to simplify the system and increase transparency.

But we want to hear from you for a future magazine feature. Has the cost of calling, or the lack of transparency about charges, ever put you off calling a non-geographic number? And have you ever been shocked by how much it’s cost you to call a customer service line?

Are you baffled by the cost of non-geographic phone numbers, like 0845 or 0870?

Yes – I find the charges for these numbers really confusing (86%, 864 Votes)

Maybe - It depends on whether I’m calling from a landline or mobile (10%, 100 Votes)

No - I know exactly what every call I make will cost me (4%, 37 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,005

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73 comments

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John Ward

With the exception of 0800, whenever I see a number with a non-geographic dialling code I am wary. I usually look to see if there is any call-charge information: if it says “calls are charged at the local rate” I go ahead but for any other rate [even as low as 4p a minute] I try to find an alternative number. Some of these can be found on the web, or on old bills, delivery notes, letters, or invoices, or even on initial promotional literature or advertising where they would not want to upset a potential customer with a high charge. Once I have got through to the organisation I say “is this the right number for [whatever it is] . . .?”. I invariably get transferred to the correct part of the organisation. In fact it confirms my long-held belief that if you want to be absolutely sure of an enquiry getting to the right place, direct it to the wrong place; the staff there will get it off their plates as quickly as they can.

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adamh05

I always call another dept. if it has a cheaper or free number and ask to be transferred. Have you ever experienced calling them once and getting put through, but another time being told ‘we can’t transfer call’ all of a sudden?

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Frank

When it says that calls will be charged at the “Local Rate” it does not mean that it is the same as an 01, 02 or 03 landline call. It means that the call is charged at the local Premium Rate,.ie 10p+ per minute.

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jackdaww

john

dont go ahead if it claims to be a local rate.

there is no such thing as “local rates” now – they went out many years ago.

use of the term ” local rate ” is deception and probably fraud.

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fonetic

If it says “calls are charged at the local rate” then I realise they have no idea what they are talking about.

Since 2004, there has been no pricing difference based on distance when calling numbers beginning 01 and 02. There is just “geographic rate” and it applies to all 01 and 02 numbers in the UK (though it may exclude CI and IOM when it comes to “inclusive” calls).

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William

0845 nothing extra now I’m on a fixed per month with unlimited calls that includes 0845. Any other number I refuse to ring.

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wavechange

I was on a tariff that included calls to geographical numbers and have now paid more to include 0870 and 0845 numbers as part of a phone and broadband package. Unfortunately, that does not help with 0844 numbers, etc. Perhaps we should start asking organisations to call us back. They might get the message.

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tpoots

Personally, I’m liking the sounds of the Ofcom recommendations – I don’t know how many times I’ve been left thinking ‘How much?!’ when receiving a bill with a call to the bank included.

One of my biggest gripes is where it costs me a ridiculous amount to call up core government services such as HMRC, but I suppose that’s a topic for another conversation!

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fonetic

HMRC have now moved most of their services from 0845 and 0870 to new 0300 and 0345 numbers.

These cost the same as calling an 01 or 02 number and they also qualify as “inclusive” calls in packages on landlines and mobiles.

I recently went to Europe for a few days and travelled by Coach (to cut costs) and got an open return. It wasn’t until after I purchased the ticket that I realised I had to call them to arrange my return journey (rather than just roll up at the Coach station), and the number was an 0845 number.

Essentially they required me to call an 0845 number from a mobile whilst in another country. This could easily have been swept under the carpet if I got throught straight away and the call was 2 minutes max. Of course this wasn’t the case though, I was sent on a wild goose chase- on hold for 10 minutes before getting through and then asked to call a number in Paris (from the very same UK mobile). When i got through they then told me I had to call the very same 0845 number again, to be kept on hold for 5 more minutes.

I haven’t yet received my mobile phone bill, but I am dreading it, and have complained about the lack of service, but that is also an issue for another conversation.

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John Symons

The price of the goods or service should be on the goods or service, not on related phone calls especially if these are for complaints or the like. These add insult to injury.

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nfh

I couldn’t agree more. Phone bills should include only charges for communications and nothing else. Any charges for goods or services should be paid for separately with a clear and transparent price. Similarly overtly premium rate 09 phone numbers should be banned. For example, if the producers of a reality television show wish to charge viewers to vote, those viewers should be explicitly asked to pay (e.g. with a credit card) and the payment to the broadcaster should not be misleadingly disguised on a phone bill as a communication charge.

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fonetic

Pay-as-you-go dial-up internet services (remember those?) and pay-as-you-use voice-conferencing are two services that are very suited to micro-payments collected via the phone bill, as are dial-a-weather-forecast or vote-on-a-TV-show and other such services. Directory Enquiries also works that way.

Product enquiries, complaints, customer service, renewals and other such functions should not impose extra charges on the caller – and they won’t once the new Bill on Consumer Rights passes into law later in 2013. That should see mass migration from 084 and 087 numbers to their 03 equivalent, or to new 01, 02 or 080 numbers.

Premium Rate Services on 09 numbers and non-geographic services on 084 and 087 numbers have always had a revenue share premium built into the call price. The problem is that this premium (or Service Charge as it will soon be known) has been hidden within the total call price, and the organisation you are calling hasn’t been openly declaring how much it is. Advertisers often hide behind BT’s low regulated prices, merely stating “other operators may charge more”.

As BT is regulated to make no profit on calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers, when you call from a BT line almost all the money you pay for the call is passed on to the terminating telecoms provider and they then go on to share some of it with the organisation you called.

Other phone operators add their markup and mobile operators add a massive markup so these calls can be very expensive. Unless you check with your own operator for the exact price of the call, the bill can be a nasty shock when it arrives.

Since the Service Charge varies depending on the number called (1p to 5p/min on 084 numbers; up to 10p/min on 087 numbers and much more on 09 numbers) there are thousands of price bands – each one depending on the first six digits of the phone number. Landline price lists run to hundreds of pages for these numbers. Mobile operators add a huge markup and charge a fixed but highly inflated price.

For 0844 numbers with a 1p to 5p/min Service Charge, BT charges the exact same 1p to 5p/min (no Access Charge), Virgin add about 7p/min Access Charge on top of each one, and mobile operators charge a fixed amount per minute for the call – often around 30p to 40p/min – irrespective of the actual level of Service Charge that applies to the number you called (i.e. mobile operators add a variable Access Charge).

In the future, phone companies won’t tell you the total call price, they will tell you their markup (or Access Charge as it will become known) and that will be the same figure for all 084, 087 and 09 numbers on that tariff or price plan. For landline operators, the hundreds of pages of prices will be replaced with a simple, single Access Charge. For mobile operators, the single highly inflated call price (with a variable but hidden Access Charge) will be replaced by a single fixed Access Charge for all 084, 087 and 09 numbers. The Access Charge might be 5p/min from your landline and 20p/min from your mobile, with other rival operators maybe charging a bit more or a bit less.

It will then be easier to compare providers as you’ll only need to compare a single Access Charge for each of their tariffs.

Users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers will no longer be able to hide behind advertising only BT’s regulated low priced calls. They will instead have to declare their Service Charge and state that the callers phone network will also add an Access Charge. The Service Charge will still be based on the first six digits of the phone number and so the list will still run to hundreds of pages. Consumers will rarely need to refer to this list as the Service Charge for that particular phone number will be shown wherever each 084, 087 and 09 number is advertised.

Faced with declaring such a Service Charge, some users of 084 and 087 numbers might instead choose to migrate to 03 numbers where no such charge exists. Many will be forced to do so by the Bill on Consumer Rights.

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fonetic

The draft legislation was published by BIS early last week.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-implementation-of-the-consumer-rights-directive-2011-83-eu

The specific detail is contained in this file:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/226625/bis-13-1111-the-consumer-contracts-information-cancellation-and-additional-payments-regulations-2013.pdf

and the relevant part is (39) especially (39) (2). This details the telephone number prefixes that will be allowed.

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Paul

There is a website called “Say No to 0870.” I’ve found this quite useful on several occasions lately as it gives alternative geographical numbers for 0844, 0870, 0845 and so on. Our phone package with the Phone Co-op gives free calls to geographic landlines and 0845/0871 numbers, as well as by the second billing for our mobiles.

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jackdaww

PAUL

sadly , the COOP themselves use 084x/087x very extensively..

and they make the fatuous claim to be BETTER because they are mutuals and dont have shareholders.

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Simon

Here here, well done for championing Which? (and good to see you setting an example by not using these rip off numbers yourself). I avoid at all costs 084xx/087xx/09xx numbers and think that variants should not be allowed. Some service providers state that 0870 and 0845 are free to call, but most organisations get around this by using 0871 and 0844 – this should be outlawed, it is totally misleading. Wherever possible, I use http://www.saynoto0870.com in order to find a cheaper alternative, and totally agree that THIS IS SOMETING OFCOM NEED TO CONTROL.

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fonetic

The Bill on Consumer Rights recently anounced in the Queens Speech will outlaw the use of these numbers for many of the things they are currently being used for.

You should see many organisations moving from 084 and 087 numbers to the equivalent 03 number in the next 12 months.

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Neil

I rarely dial any 08 numbers other than 0800 which I know are free, and obviously never from my mobile. I use http://www.saynoto0870.com to find geographic numbers instead.

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Liz

I quite simply dont phone them. I refuse. I even walked to a gp surgery to make an appointment rather than phone the 0844 number. I got a post removed from the Next facebook page when i kept posting their 0800 number they said that they wanted people to use the 0844 number I wonder why!
i use the website sayno to 0845 numb etc to look up an alternative number

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Rosie

I don’t think banks and government departments should be forced to give a normal landline number, even if they also give an 0845 or similar number.
It costs be about 12p per minute to call my bank on an 0845 number just to find out what items are pending payment on my account (because the bank’s computer system isn’t sufficiently up to date to show the correct available balance and pending items!). I also strongly object to having to call these types of numbers for DVLA etc. These are normal day to day calls to public-serving organisations and they shouldn’t be allowed to profit from us having to pay premium rates to call them.
I also feel for the elderly who don’t have access to PCs (or aren’t able to use them) as they’re no doubt the ones being caught out by high phone bills when they can least afford them. (And please don’t anyone say they should shop around as that’s hard enough for most of us with internet access and busy lives, let alone the elderly).
It’s about time our MPs and consumer organisations sorted out these sort of issues once and for all.

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adamh05

I always call the international number, as this is a 01 or 02 number. If there isn’t one I try searching on saynoto0870.com (Not just for 0870 alternatives). Where my mobile is concerned I will very rarely call an 0845/0870/0844/0871 unless it’s very urgent, I’ll always try to locate and alternative. However on my network, GiffGaff, 0800 numbers are free which is great. Also if one dept. has a 01, 02 or 0800 number I’ll call them and hope they’ll transfer me to the correct dept.

Thanks all for your comments – clear votes for a fairer, more transparent system! Here’s a question for you – has anyone spotted any organisations changing their phone numbers lately – for better or worse?

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dave.robinson

Not really, but I have on a couple of occasions seen geographic numbers on invoices e.g. from garages, and I will now use this. I have two comments:
a) encourage people not to use them. I use email, say no to 0870, call and ask them to call me and generally be as awkward as possible if I can
b) Campaign with Ofcom to remove 0845 numbers or as a minimum require that all organisiations, especially government and health to give geographic numbers alongside 0845 0870 etc. This then gives the consumer choice. I understand that some software will not handle geographic numbers and in this case it should be outlawed and fixes found, e.g. after hours call forwarding.
The whole thing has become a rip off for consumers and a cash cow for BT. Good luck.

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Anne C

YES! HMRC Tax Credits have changed their number to 0844 and the Co-operative Bank have too. I took a package with BT which included 0845 numbers to control the amount of money spent holding/dealing with queries. My last call to HMRC 2 weeks ago was almost 60 mins and to my council regarding council tax, almost 45 mins. I conduct as much of my business online as possible, but there are times when only a phonecall will sort out the problem. I’m angry though not at all surprised by HMRC’s action but the Cooperative’s move is particularly disappointing, considering its ‘ethical’ stance. I’ll be writing to the Cooperative to complain as well as my Westminster and Holyrood MPs about HMRC. I’m astute enough to negotiate deals that include 0845 numbers but I don’t know of any providers that include the 0844 numbers, so it looks as though my attempt to control my costs at such a difficult time have hit the buffers. We’re not in this together at all and for those households with no landline and dependent on mobile networks, this is without doubt the poorest in society paying disproportionately again.

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Deb R

Sky TV – as numbers are posted on saynoto0870.com they change them! They don’t transfer if you so manage to get throught to a department on a geographical no but give you an 084 no to call. It’s like an impenatrable barrier of greed.
Apart from using the saynoto0870.com website I also check a company’s website for the number they provide for new customers – quite often a geographical one. Also dialling the no they say to call from abroad can work for some companies particularly insurance companies.

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fonetic

BT is regulated to not make a profit on calls to 084 and 087 numbers. BT has always been the cheapest for calling these numbers. When you call one of these numbers using a BT line, BT passes almost all of the money you paid for the call, on to the terminating telecoms company who may in turn share some of it with the organisation you called.

Other landline operators and all mobiles are unregulated and they add however much they like to the call price. Sky tends to add almost nothing (less than 1p/min). Virgin Media adds a lot (7p/min or more). Mobile operators usually add an extortionate amount (20p to 40p/min).

The regulation placed on BT (the “NTS Condition”) will shortly be removed. BT will then also be able to add an Access Charge for the first time.

At the same time, phone networks will soon need to declare the single Access Charge per tariff for calling all 084, 087 and 09 numbers. This will expose the huge markup that some operators charge. It might lead to a price reduction when calling from a mobile.

In any case, many organisations will be moving to 03 numbers, as using 084 and 087 numbers will become illegal for many businesses under the new Bill on Consumer Rights that is about to pass through Parliament.

Wherever you see an 084 or 087 number listed, try ringing the 03 equivalent. If it has been activated, it will be charged at the same rate as calling an 01 or 02 number. If your phone package has “inclusive” calls to 01 and 02 numbers, those inclusive minutes also apply to all 03 numbers.

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fonetic

RE: “HMRC Tax Credits have changed their number to 0844″

HMRC have, in fact, changed to 0300 and 0345.

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nfh

Article 21 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights states:

“Member States shall ensure that where the trader operates a telephone line for the purpose of contacting him by telephone in relation to the contract concluded, the consumer, when contacting the trader is not bound to pay more than the basic rate.”

Unfortunately the government has decided to delay implementing Article 21 until June 2014, unlike Article 19 (for card surcharges) which will be implemented by the end of 2012. Another problem is that Article 3 exempts certain industries from complying with Article 21, e.g. healthcare, gambling, financial services and passenger transport services. This means, for example, that banks and airlines will be able to continue using rip-off 0844 numbers. Perhaps Which can lobby the government to implement Article 21 early (like Article 19) and not to grant any exemption to specific industries.

The full text of the directive is at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:304:0064:0088:EN:PDF

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jackdaww

nfh

the government – and ofcom – are complicit in this scam.

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mj811

There is also another type of number to be aware of,(and one that I recently found out to my cost when booking a holiday on Teletext Holidays). These are called “like a mobile” numbers and are deliberately designed to mimic a mobile number, because most people get free calls to mobiles as part of their call allowance they are happy to call these numbers expecting them to be within their allowance. However they are premium numbers where the call charge depends on the last 2 digits of the number.

They are

07404
07405
07417
07424
07438
07440
07466

Thanks

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fonetic

Also beware of numbers allocated to CI and IOM. They are not usually inclusive calls.

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val

If a company has an 087 or 084 number I look for an alternative on saynoto 0870. If there isn’t an alternative I will try and email instead. Failing these I will not buy from them and only contact them if they’re available during my freetime calls (0844 is not included). My GP allows online booking so I rarely have to use his iniquitous 0844 number.

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fonetic

Some landline packages may include calls to 0845 and 0870, though this option might not last for much longer.

Other numbers such as 0843, 0844, 0871, 0872 are never inclusive. In those cases try ringing the 03 equivalent on the off-chance it has been activated. 03 numbers are charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive minutes in call packages.

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jackdaww

0844/0845/0870 etc are revenue sharing numbers where the caller pays more and the callee takes a cut.

they are opaque – unclear – they dont have to say what the calls will cost

they are a blatant ploy to extract money from unwitting or vulnerable phone customers with no benefit accruing to them.

if when challenged they say – oh its a “local call” – that is deception and fraud.

use the saynoto0870 website to find a geographical or sometime free 0800 number.
use the international number if its different – prefix with 141 for hmrc and others who object.
email them or send a message from their website if you can.
boycott them if you have the choice – take your business elswhere
point out the scam to your friends – and also vulnerable/elderly people you know..

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jackdaww

i have looked through my files on banks, building societies (mutuals), financial products, insurance

utilites eg fuel , electricity, water, phones

government departments eg hmrc, dhss, dvla

supermarkets tesco .

all these use 084x / 087x revenue sharing numbers.

so the practice is very very widespread , almost UNIVERSAL.

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PeterW

It is time for a fundamental change to make charging more transparent to the consumer.

These days nearly all phones have a display screen which is capable of showing a few lines of information.

It should now be made a legal requirement on all telecoms companies to display – for ALL calls made – something like the following on the callers’ phone:

“You have dialled: [e.g] 0207 333 4567
This call will cost [5] p a minute
To avoid this charge hang up now”

Of course the phone companies would resist and this change could only be imposed by Government. Which? could usefully apply some pressure. This kind of innovation ought to be popular with voters!

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richjenn13

I have been using the excellent 18185.co.uk service for many years, [and saved a small fortune doing so].
This company always tells you when you dial any number how much a minute it will cost you before connecting you – so you can hang up if you want – and know in advance what you are paying.

I still believe stongly that 0845 and 0870 etc etc numbers are scourge of modern telephony, but at least if it was a requirement that ALL companies provide a tariff announcement service for every call, it would become more transparent, and make it clear to all of the phoning public how much extra we are paying for the nonsensically named “Lo-call” numbers, and the straightforwardly rip-off premium numbers [which is what 0870/1 numbers are].

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nhspatient

I have confirmed that the BBC are keen to cover the general issue of rip-off telephone numbers as part of the Rip Off Britain pop-up shop in Gateshead on Sat / Sun 16 / 17 June.

As well as GPs and other NHS providers, this includes HMRC, the DWP benefits agencies, banks, airlines, most call centres and even problems with formally recognised “Premium Rate Service” providers.

Anyone who wants to attend and is happy to be filmed talking about how they have been ripped-off with “an expert” should contact the BBC, via the programme website, as soon as possible.

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Mike

I have a telephone tariff under which local and national calls result in no further charge. I am highly suspicious of the 084- and 087- numbers suspecting that the organisations that use them receive commission from the telephone companies. I therefore try to avoid them as much as possible but am finding it increasingly difficult.

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nhspatient

Mike

Your suspicions are fully justified. The telephone company originating calls to 084 and 087 numbers, pays on a “enhanced termination fee” of between the equivalent of 2p and 10p per minute. The user benefits from this either by a reduced (or zero) cost for use of the line as well as a cash-back (revenue share). In some cases the originating telephone company recovers this money from its customers in general (e.g. BT collects the money for calls to 0845 numbers out of its Call Plan subscriptions, so it can make these calls inclusive), but generally the cost is passed on to the caller – often with a sizeable mark-up..

There is more on this at www,fairtelecoms.org.uk.

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G

My understanding is that telecomms providers can charge what they like on 0870 and 0845 as they are unregulated. Some choose to include the call charge in a tariff cost , but will still charge you a connection fee.
The 0843 and 0844 number ranges were released as regulated numbers as the telecomms provider can only charge you the pence per minute that the number was set up on. E.g. 084412345 could be set up on 3 pence per minute and that is the maximum you will be charged.
I personally don’t have an issue with dialling 0844 numbers if I am receiving a service. Its either that or premiums and costs are increased in other ways.

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fonetic

Rather than specific number ranges, it is the BT call prices for 084 and 087 numbers that are regulated and all other operator prices that are unregulated.

In choosing an 084 or 087 phone number number for their organisation, all such users impose a Service Charge on all callers (currently up to 5p/min on 084 numbers and up to 10p/min on 087 numbers – the exact amount depends on the first six digits of the phone number). This Service Charge is collected by the originating telecoms company and passed to the terminating telecoms company who may then go on to share some of it with the called party.

Except for 0845 numbers called from a BT line within an inclusive call package (where BT subsidise the Service Charge), the price for calling an 084 or 087 number is always the same or more than the Service Charge that originating network has to pass on to the terminating network. BT is currently regulated to charge no more than the Service Charge, which they pass on. Other operators can add whatever they like.

0870 is currently regulated (since 2009) such that no revenue share is allowed. 0870 is included in call packages unless the phone network opts out. Several landline networks and all mobile networks opted out. Revenue share will return to 0870 next year.

0845 currently has a revenue share Service Charge of about 2p/min. Even so, 0845 numbers are inclusive in BT landline packages due to a historical “accident” on BT’s part. BT subsidises these calls.

It is unlikely that 0845 and 0870 will remain inclusive once BT is allowed to add an Access Charge and once 0870 returns to revenue sharing. However, it won’t matter all that much as most businesses should by then have migrated to 0345 or 0370 numbers as required by the Bill on Consumer Rights that’s just about to pass through Parliament.

Hello everyone, you asked us to name and shame the big companies that use expensive phone numbers and praise the ones that don’t. So we’ve done just that for banks, insurers and energy providers. You can find this latest issue of Which? magazine, or in the following Conversation:

‘Stop charging loyal customers more to call your company!’ http://conversation.which.co.uk/money/premium-phone-numbers-loyal-customer-services/

Come and join in.

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richjenn13

One of the great problems that this can of worms of differing prefixes causes is that one is often unsure what any call is going to cost.
I have been using the excellent 18185.co.uk service for many years, [and saved a small fortune doing so].
This company always tells you when you dial any number how much a minute it will cost you before connecting you – so you can hang up if you want – and know in advance what you are paying.

I still believe stongly that 0845 and 0870 etc etc numbers are scourge of modern telephony, but at least if it was a requirement that ALL companies provide a tariff announcement service for every call, it would become more transparent, and make it clear to all of the phoning public how much extra we are paying for the nonsensically named “Lo-call” numbers, and the straightforwardly rip-off premium numbers [which is what 0870/1 numbers are].

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fonetic

0845 numbers haven’t been “local”, “lo-call”, “low call” or any other such similar designation since 2004.

0870 numbers haven’t been “national rate” since 2004. The prices for geographic (01 and 02) calls were de-regulated long ago (and nowadays, 01 and 02 calls usually fall within an inclusive call bundle for most people).

0843, 0844, 0871 and 0872 have never been local or national rate. They are revenue share numbers and work exactly the same way that 09 premium rate numbers work (albeit with a smaller Service Charge).

Anyone still making “local” rate or similar claims for 084 and 087 numbers is in breach of Trading Standards regulations. Additionally, the Advertising Standards Authority can also take action.

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LincsLass

Just tried to call Halifax Customer Relations on their local Leeds Number-just got a number unobtainable signal from the two numbers i tried. So 0845 for 20 minutes…this rip off really annoys me.

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leon

robbers

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Ribs aka

I fully support any actions to break up or streamline premium call numbers. However, why are we as customers being charged a fee for doing business with any retail or other company?! If this is customer service, well then that speaks volumes. Coming from the US I found it a rather shocking practice, as most businesses then provide 0800 free numbers (some even allow you to ‘call collect’ – or reverse charges), all to facilitate new or continued business. Why should we even need to find an alternative number or ‘cost analyzer’ in the first place?

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nhspatient

Ofcom is indeed moving to ensure that the “Service Charge” element of the cost of calling all “premium call numbers”, including 084, is made clear. There is however a further move, to which Which? has failed to draw attention, although I have sought to do so in the conversation at http://conversation.which.co.uk/money/premium-phone-numbers-loyal-customer-services/.

The Department for Business is currently consulting on proposals to implement the EU Consumer Rights Directive (see http://www.bis.gov.uk/Consultations/consultation-implementation-consumer-rights-directive). This includes a provision to prohibit use of telephone numbers which are subject to a “Service Charge”. The scope of this provision is open to consultation – the fair telecoms campaign will be doing all we can to ensure that it covers as many businesses and service providers as possible.

Our hope is that an awareness of this regulatory provision will help to stimulate a culture change, perhaps ahead of its implementation. Even though government bodies and agencies, e.g. HMRC and DWP, and NHS providers will not be covered, they will be hard pressed to justify the imposition of a Service Charge which is prohibited for customer contact with businesses.

The UK environment is a little different to that in the US, as most people pay no call charge to call “normal” (01/02/03) numbers. This makes the extra revenue for the telephone companies earned from use of 080 numbers unnecessary (in most cases).

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Sarah

I had to contact the jobcentre to change my appointment. They now use an 0845 number and i cant phone my branch direct. As cant afford a landline i had to use my mobile. Spent 60 pence them was but off just as someone answered. Not including there numbers as free or cheap hits vulnerable people hard.

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Rach

So after booking a holiday with teletext holidays direct on Monday, I’ve received my invoice. I was advised that the £337 each that me and my friend paid includes transfers. There is only 1 transfer on the invoice not 2. I rang Thursday evening when I got home from work. Now I dnt have a landline at the moment as its not cost effective for me till my contracts are up on my mobile and mobile broadband. 35p/min to be placed on hold for 40 minutes and then be cut off. I emailed instead as I can’t really afford another £14 for nothing to wake up to a delayed delivery notification. So here I am, hand forced to call again when they open at 9am to get my holiday sorted, and no doubt another long call that I can barely afford. It’s disgusting

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Alen Alderton

it is absolutely disgusting that we the consumer are ripped off in this way and the government has done nothing of significance to change it. here is a link to a petition that will be sent to the UK Government that could force all companies to add geographical numbers to any other number they use, that way we consumers have a choice as to how much we spend on a call to a company, please sign this link that is on a government site. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/39860

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nhspatient

Alen

The fair telecoms campaign shares and seeks to reflect your disgust, however we note that Ofcom and the government are in the course of doing something about it.

Ofcom introduced the 03 range for those who need the features of non-geographic numbers, but do not wish to impose a Service Charge on callers. Ofcom will shortly be announcing details of the regulations which will require the value of the Service Charge to be declared wherever it applies. Implementation of the provisions of the Consumer Rights Directive will prohibit use of 084/087/09 numbers in many cases.

HMRC is in the course of moving all of its numbers from 0845 to 03 – this will be completed by “the end of the summer”. We oppose the demand of the e-petition that each of these should have a geographic alternative, as this is clearly unnecessary. Likewise, we argue that the DWP agencies, and other public bodies, should follow the HMRC lead. We wholly disagree with the suggestion that 0845 numbers should be retained by public bodies.

Whilst we fully expect “consumer choice” to be the watchword in this Conversation, we are opposed to public bodies and their contractors (e.g. NHS GPs) offering inferior access options through geographic numbers. We do not believe that NHS patients should “get what they pay for”, that is not the basis on which the NHS exists.

Where the provisions of the Consumer Rights Directive apply, consumers will be denied the opportunity to pay for an expensive first class telephone complaints service, as an alternative to that which is provided without a Service Charge. I understand that you and other consumer activists may oppose this lack of consumer choice (of “how much we spend on a call to a company”), however we believe that the principle of fairness is more important in this case.

David – fair telecoms campaign

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fonetic

Yes, I’d rather see companies retain the call queueing and other features and move completely from 084 and 087 numbers over to 03 numbers than offer in parallel an 01 number that is always engaged.

03 numbers benefit more callers as they are also inclusive in call packages on mobiles and landlines wherever 01 and 02 numbers are inclusive.

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Jonathan

While 03 numbers finally seem to be a fair version of a non-geographic number, in reality 01 and 02 numbers are also non-geographic these days – in the world of Voice-over-IP (VoIP) Internet telephony, the majority of big businesses and many small ones route their call centre phone calls via the internet.

It is not uncommon for an 0207 number to connect you directly to a call centre in India or where ever – not via a ‘call divert’ feature, but by simply having a VoIP system logged in in India to provide the end-point for that number. It’s likely that if you call an 0207 VoIP number that your provider will initiall switch your call through to a London-based telephone exchange, by that exchange will know it’s a virtual number and then connect your call to the internet to be recevied by who-ever in the world is registered and logged in to that number.

In essence, there is absolutely no reason why an 03 number would be better than an 01/02 number in terms of being engaged. It is not the number which makes a difference, it is whether or not the company you are calling is using the right equipment to provide call queuing features and whether they actually have enought people to answer the calls.

Personally, I’d give a big vote to outlawing all non-geographic numbers. They are not only a big rip-off for consumers but a gimick to make business owners believe that having a local number is somehow unprofessional or limiting. I know a few who insist on operating an 0845 number because they’ve been duped into believing that it enhances the credibility of their business.

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David - fair telecoms campaign

Jonathan is correct in stating that some blocks of 01/02 numbers are technically “non-geographic” whilst appearing to be geographic.

This conversation is primarily about cost – so we must be clear that this is determined by the number, regardless of where the call is physically terminated.

We cannot support Jonathan’s suggestion that all premium rate services and 0800 numbers be outlawed. It also seems unnecessary to always know where someone you are talking to is located. On a personal basis, I am more concerned about the cost (if any) and quality of a telephone conversation than the digits of the number and other irrelevant issues.

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Jonathan

Sorry David of Fair Telecoms Campaign – I didn’t mean to include 0800 and true premium rate services in my ‘should be outlawed’ statement – only the likes of 084x and 087x
And yes, it’s very important to make clear that 01/02 numbers will cost the same regardless of where they terminate. My point was mostly in response to what ‘fonetic’ said about preferring an 03 number with a queuing system as opposed to an 01 number that is always engaged – i.e it need not be like that at all.

Free 0800 numbers are a sore point for me as being a Vodafone customer I am charged 14p/min (soon to RISE to 20.4p/min) for calling them. In fact, I have now registered with 18185 so I can use my inclusive minutes to ring 18185′s geographic access number and then ring the 0800 number for free – but it shouldn’t have to be like this.

Unfortunately, since adopting 18185 as a strategy for saving on non-geographic costs I have discovered that they do not recognise/support calling 0844/0843 numbers so I have to pay 35p/min to call such numbers – this will also rise to 40p/min on 28th June as part of Vodafone’s price hike on domestic calling charges to subsisidise their meager cuts to European roaming prices. (I’ve been a Vodafone customer since the late 90′s but I’m about to use my right to cancel and go elsewhere – this price hike is not the only reason but its most certainly a catalyst).

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wavechange

Could you give me a brief explanation of why you think we need any phone numbers that could result in a caller being charged more than for calling an 01 number, David? If there is a need to pay for a service then that can be done by card or other means. As you know only too well, having premium numbers has allowed consumers to be exploited for years.

I acknowledge that you know more about this than I do, but I would like it to be illegal to incorporate any form of service charge on top of the cost of making the call.

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william

@Jonathan, can you give examples of which companies use 0843 numbers. as I’m only aware of them being used by scam sites which put them forward as other companies customer service numbers ( and there are alot of those in the internet) :(

Energy companies mostly have 0800 numbers yet you’ll find websites listing 0843 number for them still. Even the muppets at ITV news were listing 0843 numbers for them and its taken me 3 months and 8 emails to get them to correct it.

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Jonathan

@william – Kindertons Accident Management: 0843 509 4900
The irony is that I was a witness to a road accident recently and they wanted me to call them to give a statement to help their client – so as a nice person who is offering his time to help a completely innocent vehicle owner claim against a drunk driver who smashed into his parked vehicle late at night, I am expected to pay premium rates!

In fact I was unaware until looking at this today that 0843 slips into Vodafone’s 35p/min band along with 0870 and *not* in the 14p/min band with 0800/0845. It was all rather convenient for this company that on each attempt to call them I had to listen to a list of about 8 options, then hold, then wait in a queue and was then cut off each time someone answered. Eventually I called successfully using a landline at work but not until I had spent at least £2 trying to call them!

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william

Ah ok, thanks for the reply, and I can feel your pain from here.

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David - fair telecoms campaign

Wavechange’s question about the benefits of including service charges as part of the cost of a telephone call, rather than a separate arrangement raises interesting points.

Some services delivered by telephone have to be paid for – e.g. chat lines, competitive directory enquiry services, information services (e.g. horoscopes) and assistance services beyond the scope of normal customer service. There is obviously a convenience in the caller paying for these according to the duration of the call and through their telephone bill. It is also arguable that there should be the opportunity for some to obtain a modest subsidy of the cost of handling telephone calls at the expense of the caller (i.e. through low-rate service charges – up to 13p per minute on 084/087 numbers – the higher rates on 09 numbers would generally be paying for the service provided in full).

Two developments should alleviate most concerns about the present arrangements. Firstly, traders who offer telephone contact will be required to offer “basic rate” numbers (i.e. with no service charge) to customers. Secondly, all Service Charges will have to be declared by the provider of the service – the amount added by the telephone company, to give the total call cost, being declared separately.

Notwithstanding failure to comply and particular improprieties, I believe that if a service is offered at a declared price so that the prospective customer knows what they are choosing to buy and what they will be charged, one cannot raise any general objection. I believe that, when faced with the requirement to declare the service charge, most present users of 084 numbers will desist. This is what has, in part, driven the government guidance and the drafting of the regulation on traders. We will see more over the next twelve months before the “unbundled tariff” comes into effect and following its implementation.

If the present abuse of expensive numbers is not largely eliminated by this move, then we will need to think again. Ofcom will however need very strong evidence to provide a basis for withdrawing a facility that is widely used and seems to have merit.

I hope these comments are helpful.

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Paul Kupham

I have just been charged 9 pounds to ring HsBC bank and then Credit Experia. These calls were both less than 20minutes. This extremely unfair since membership has to be cancelled by telephone with Credit Expedia it cost me 9 pounds in call charges to do it. Why are companies allowed to charge and still share revenue for telephone calls with these numbers. the numbers were 0844 and 0845 numbers.
There should be some control over this. the calls are made regarding bank accounts here in UK they are diverted to call centres with staff paid minimum wages often in countries out of the tax juristiction of the UK. There is a lot of money being made by banks and companies out of normal people in this way and minimum tax is probably being paid on it. How come if i default on my poll tax i will get a letter threatening a visit from the Balifs in one month (if i was on holiday even) . yet all the time these phone scams are going on and millions is being paid. i have to make business cals at work to banks during day time and i cant use the office phone for private calls. this is out of order 9 pounds for such short calls and even 10 per minute if you do use a landline.

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Paul of Laxey

In my view the worst thing about these numbers is the time you can spend ‘on hold’ paying xxp per minute to listen to music and messages such as ‘your call is important to us’

Yesterday I was on hold for 15 minutes at 10p per minute, I then gave up.

Opodo have a premium rate number of £1.00 per minute for techincal problems with their Website. So they charge you £1.00 per minute for their problems.

If there is no one to answer the call, keep the ringing tone on the line, that way the customer only starts paying once the call is actually answered. In my view that should be law,

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Vivid images

The likes of 0891 0845 etc charge your mobile even if you don’t answer it. WHY?

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wavechange

I don’t believe this is true.

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Vivid images

Wavechan,went into EE this morning (Friday)and asked them why they charge even if I don’t answer it,there reply was,it’s the connection to your phone. I told them it was a disgrace and time to get rid of it.next time you receive one of these calls,check your phone calls,it has phone to your own.If you still don’t believe it,go into your mobile operator and ask them why they charge.

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wavechange

Can you find anything about these charges online and post a link, please? There is plenty of information about charges for receiving calls when abroad.

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Vivid images

I am unable to find anything online,However I am not here to argue with you. If you don’t believe it,fine. I know the likes of EE charge for unanswering 0891 numbers etc. They have told me themselves.

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David - fair telecoms campaign

If there is any serious basis for this remarkable allegation, then the fair telecoms campaign will be determined to see it properly investigated and stopped.

There is no reason why either party should be charged for an unanswered telephone call. A (voice) call is only made when it is answered, either in person or by some automated mechanism.

Informal comments made by representatives, perhaps based on a misunderstanding, do not count for anything. Charges on a mobile phone bill for incoming calls, regardless of the source, must be improper, except when roaming overseas.

If anyone has any relevant information on this matter, please contact the fair telecoms campaign.

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Vivid images

David,the charges made for unanswering a phone call are dispicable. I,myself would love to hear from anyone with any relevance to this matter. As you say,it is a remarkable allegation and I could barely believe it myself but it is very true.

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val

I use 18185 for most of my calls, but they have stopped supporting numbers beginning 03, and it’s proving impossible to contact them to ask why. This means I would have to use BT at exorbitant cost, so I just don’t call them. If I can find an email address I use that instead. Anyone else had this experience?

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