Think about the last time you called your bank, broadband or utilities provider – did you consider the dialling code first? More importantly did you know how much you’d be charged to call it?
We’ve just investigated call waiting times for the UK’s largest providers to see how long it takes to speak to someone.
We found overall average wait times to be under two minutes, but times for individual calls could be much longer. BT, Scottish & Southern and Lloyds all had one call that lasted at least 10 minutes.
The thing that really struck me, though, wasn’t the wait times themselves but the variation in dialling codes. Not to mention the differing costs to call these numbers depending on your phone provider (and if you’re calling from a landline or a mobile). Both factors make it difficult to work out how much you’ll end up paying.
0870 numbers not always most costly
You’d think you were safe dialling a 0800 number, but if you have to make the call on your mobile you’ll be charged. And it’s not cheap. The main mobile providers charge up to 25p a minute to call an 0800 code – this means a 10 minute call could set you back £2.50.
There may even be some surprises if you call from your landline. We also found that 0845, 0870 and 0844 – the traditional villains of the phone number world – are not always the most expensive numbers to call.
Yes, it’s generally true that you can expect to pay more to call these numbers than those starting with 01, 02 or 03 but it doesn’t always work out this way. BT actually charges less per minute to call an 0845 number than an 01, 02 or 03 code if you’re making a daytime call and you don’t have a calling plan.
Tackling calling confusion
I don’t know about you but I find all this makes predicting the cost of a call rather difficult to say the least. It’s good to hear announcements from Ofcom this week around tackling consumer confusion over call charges. It’s just made a number of proposals with the aim of making non-geographic number pricing clearer and more transparent, which would include making 0800 numbers free from mobiles.
The regulator’s also proposing that the price of a call should be presented to consumers in two parts when they’re choosing offers and bundles. First, they should show the phone company’s charge and then the charge made by the business or organisation being called.
Anything that makes this area clearer and more transparent is a good thing, and we’ll be working closely with Ofcom to ensure this is the result. But do you think these proposals go far enough to help you understand what you’re paying when you dial?