/ Technology

0800 & 0845 mobile charges are a dog’s dinner

Girl using mobile phone

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?

Comments
Member

We should have one price for all phone calls and let the service providers compete on price of tariffs.

Member
Ian01 says:
28 August 2013

RE: “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.”

I think someone has misunderstood the intention of the “basic rate” clause. This requires businesses no longer user 084, 087 and 09 numbers for customer service. The number must be one beginning 01, 02, 03, 080 or a mobile number. The call price for 084, 087 and 09 calls will be irrelevant.

The reason for the confusion over the price of 0845 calls is simply that although calls to these numbers incur an undeclared Service Charge of 2p/min, some landline operators allow these calls within inclusive allowances, effectively making a loss on every call. They are trying to keep up the pretence that these are cheap calls. BT can afford to do that as they are the largest terminator of 0845 calls and make 2p/min from every such call wherever it originates. Ofcom’s changes will make things very much more clear. Users of 0845 numbers will be required to declare the 2p/min Service Charge.

Users of other 084 numbers will declare a Service Charge between 2p and 7p/min and users of 087 numbers will declare a Service Charge between 5p and 13p/min. It will be very clear that the Service Charge applied to 0845 numbers is no different to the lower end of the range of Service Charges that apply to 0843 and 0844 numbers.

Member
Ian01 says:
28 August 2013

Typo: user -> use.

Member
PedroStephano says:
28 August 2013

This has been a problem for a long time, good to see Which addressing it. As a habit, I don’t dial 0845 or 0870 numbers ever, except when it’s free (I get some free minutes to these numbers on my home landline). When I’m mobile I use websites like saynoto0870.com to look up alternative 01 02 03 phone numbers for the call needed. There are also apps available for smartphones that can offer geographical equivalents for these premium-on-mobile numbers.
The idea of having an 07 number to report lost or stolen is a good one and should be pushed hard.

Member
Peter Morgan says:
4 October 2013

On the other hand, an 03 number would be better than 07, because calling from a landline or mobile could be an “included” call (depending on your calling package).

07xxx is going to be at least 8p a minute from a landline in most cases, and if you’ve lost your mobile, it may well be that you call from your landline 🙂

Member
Ian01 says:
7 October 2013

Calls to 07 numbers count towards inclusive allowances from contract mobile phones. From pay-as-you-go mobile phones, calls to other mobile phones are charged at the standard headline rate advertised for each tariff.

Ofcom is steadily reducing the mobile termination rate. By 2015, the mobile termination rate may be low enough such that some landline operators have call plans where calls to mobile numbers are also counted as inclusive.

Several landline operators already offer inclusive calls to numbers on their own counterpart mobile network. BT offers half-price calls to mobiles on all networks on their BT AnyTime tariff.

Member

I don’t believe there are such things as “free minutes” or cheap calls – it’s all in the price of the tariff or bundle. For the operators it really is a case of what they lose on the swings they get back on the roundabouts. People having both a mobile phone on contract and a landline are probably getting the worst deal but the landline might be necessary for other purposes. So the key to avoiding excessive costs is to optimise use of the landline and have a PAYG mobile for receiving calls and emergencies. PAYG certainly makes you think twice about making calls both in terms of the number of calls and the necessity of each one. Of course, if you want to play games, follow friends, and see what won the one-o’clock at Wolverhampton then there’s a price for those pleasures.

Member

Of course the calls are included in the tariff or bundle fee, John. However once you have paid the tariff you use the time or lose it, so that makes it free of additional charge.

I switched to a phone/Internet bundle that included limited calls to 0870/0845 numbers and limited evening calls to mobiles, which has probably saved me money. Very much against my wishes, I have switched from PAYG to a monthly rolling mobile contract because my work for a charity involves me calling people who cannot give me a landline number. I never called 0800, 0845, etc numbers when I was on PAYG and I have no plans to do so now that I know that they are not included in the “free” minutes on my contract.

Wavechange awards his 2013 prize for obfuscation to those that provide our phone services, to be shared between mobile and landline service providers. 🙁