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.
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