/ Money, Technology

0845 call charges still too complex

Phones hanging from cord

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?

Sophie Gilbert says:
17 December 2010

As far as I’m aware it doesn’t cost more to send a letter from Landsend to John o’ Groats than it does to send one from one street to the next, in spite of differing costs to the Royal Mail. Why can’t it be the same with telephone calls?

Roy Hare says:
6 January 2011

Try sending a parcel to John o’ Groats by Parcelforce etc. At the moment Royal Mail do not vary their charges by distance within the UK but would you have thought a few years ago it would make a price difference depending on what size your Christmas Card was?


Whenever I call an 0845 or 0870 number I check to see if there’s an alternative on the website Say No to 0870 (http://www.saynoto0870.com/) – I often find there is. But I am surprised to hear that calling these numbers from a BT landline is sometimes cheaper than those starting with 01, 02 and 03 – I’d definitely like some better communication on what all these calls cost.

Lesley says:
20 December 2010

I have just been on the call centre for Santander an 0844 number and I the choices are indistinct with the result I got through to a message I didn’t need to hear which was repeated to my intense annoyance before they hung up. The complaints page on the bank web page referred me to a page that included boxes that didn’t work and so you couldn’t get past the first page. When I spoke to the operator that i eventually got through to about why they had stopped my access to my online account, she said it was my fault that the pin no. was blocked and I had to wait up to 14 days before it became accessible again. When I protested that it was not and asked to speak to someone higher up she refused to let me. Christmas time, no access to my main online account at a whim of the bank, for no fault of my own, and who is to pay for if it goes into debit during that time because I am unable to keep track of the out automatic outgoings scheduled? I am furious. 14 days before I get a new pin? Ridiculous, especially when its their fault. It won’t be my bank for much longer.

Grumpy says:
22 December 2010

Try 0800 032 4600 for Abbey National / Abbey / Santander – or what ever they’re called this week.


I am a Virgin Broadband and phone customer – simply because the BT local loop was so bad we couldn’t hear people when it rained! I am priority emergency worker and had a guarenteed service and is was still rubbish.
Virgin (NTL- co-axial DSL) no hassles, ever – 10 years.

BUT Virgin charge 10p /min for 0845 calls making them as expensive as 0870 calls (!)

Recently I had to call a number as I could find no alternative (I love Say No to 0870.com)

It cost me £1.30
A call to my daughter mobile phone would cost a fraction of the price – in fact, it did!

Even more annoying – my GP refuses to give up their 0844 number, despite the NHS PCT, and the Government promising to cease using them. I have even asked the surgery manager – who I know and he has refused. Just wait till he needs emergency care

This would be a GOOD WHICH! Follow up STORY.
(0844 not the evil practice manger)


I have had the same experience with my surgery still using 0844 numbers in spite of the Govt. saying they would stop it on the number10 web site

klint says:
21 December 2010

I used to be an RAC member. Their breakdown number is an 0800 number. I rang them and asked if they had a normal geographic equivalent number for breakdown, but they said the 0800 number was the only option. I guess they thought they were doing us a favour by having a “freefone” 0800 number, but in fact it’s the other way around. The smaller breakdown companies, who have an 01xx number, are cheaper to call, as their number is included in free monthly minutes. Don’t RAC realise that by having an 0800 number, not only do we pay a charge, but they pay it too?

Howard Parrett says:
21 December 2010

Like others, I will also use saynoto0870 to try and find a geographic number – as these are included free in my call package.
I would like to see a requirement that where a business, organisation or service supplier gives an 08** number, then they must also give a geographic number as well.
This would allow the caller a choice of numbers to use