Do you know how much you pay to call an 0845 number from your mobile phone? No? Nor do I. And do you assume, as many people would, that calling an 0800 number is free from a mobile? Well, usually it isn’t.
Mobile charges are a dog’s dinner. This became apparent to me when my daughter told me she’d paid more than £20 to report a friend’s mobile phone lost by calling the ‘lost or stolen’ helpline of her friend’s network – this was an 0845 number. Leaving aside that this took three calls and a good deal of discussion, the experience raised two questions…
How much does it cost to 08 numbers?
How does anyone on a mobile know what they are paying to call this sort of number? And are mobile operators making it easy to report that you’ve lost your phone? It’s likely you’ll be calling from a different network or a landline, so providers should take account of this when setting up a ‘lost or stolen’ helpline.
On the first question, telecoms watchdog Ofcom says people don’t know what they pay from a mobile. That’s not surprising when 0845 numbers get advertised (as T-Mobile did in this case) as ‘at local rates’. That is meaningless for someone on a mobile.
From a BT landline, calling an 0845 number for five minutes would cost just over 25p if the call wasn’t part of your package and calling an 0800 number would be free. But calling from a mobile can cost far more; from an Orange mobile, for example, calling an 0845 number could cost up to £2 for five minutes, calling an 0800 number that isn’t a charity could be up to £1.75. Why so costly?
Ofcom says that it used to cost mobile networks more than landline providers to handle these calls but ‘costs have fallen significantly over the years’. This makes me wonder if I sometimes pay over the odds.
New premium rate rules
New draft rules propose banning companies from charging you more than the ‘basic rate’ of a phone call to contact its helpline about something you’ve bought. This is good, but if you call from a mobile it’s likely 08 calls aren’t part of your package so, despite being saved from premium rates, you may still be charged. Ofcom is looking to make 0800 calls free from everywhere, including mobiles, and to make 0845 call costs clearer at last. Let’s hope it will.
To see how easy it is to report a mobile lost or stolen, we looked at the helplines. Most were 08 lines (not helpful if you call on a mobile). The rest were 07, so are covered by inclusive minutes in a mobile package.
Mobile phone theft is rising. I’d guess that many victims are young people and the first thing they do is borrow their friend’s mobile to report the phone missing. So why can’t all those offering 08 numbers offer an 07, too?