From 1 July 2015 new Ofcom rules mean that all calls from any provider to 0800 or 0808 will cost the caller nothing. That is not to say they will be free to the receiver. The firm offering the number will still pay for the call. To avoid that cost many firms are expected to replace 0800 with 03 numbers. They are charged the same as 01 and 02 numbers and are included in many monthly inclusive ‘bundles’ so effectively cost the caller nothing anyway.
Other firms will move 0800 numbers to 084 or 087 numbers. The charges for those are also being changed from 1 July so that the cost to the caller will be made clearer - though not necessarily cheaper.
In future, the charge will be in two parts
- Your phone provider will make what is called an ‘access charge’. That will be a per minute charge for all numbers that begin 084, 087, 09 or 118 which will be stated on every bill.
- The number you are calling will also make a per minute ‘service charge’ for the call. That will be stated in every advert or written communication about the service. If it is not then report them to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Phone providers have now announced their access charges which vary from 5p to 44p a minute. For landlines TalkTalk charges 5p a minute, BT 9.58p, VirginMedia 10.25p, and EE 11p. Charges from mobiles are much higher. TalkTalk mobile charges 20p a minute. Vodafone 23p until 10 August when it will rise to 45p, O2 25p, Virgin 36p, and EE 44p a minute.
The service charges will vary but are capped at 7p a minute for 084 numbers and at 13p a minute for 087 numbers. 118 calls are not capped but will be much more expensive. And 09 numbers can charge up to £3.60 per minute and a single call can cost at least £6. 09 offers ‘specialist services’ including horoscopes, advice, and sex lines.
Some financial firms which are still offering 084 and 087 numbers must tell you from 1 July what the service charge will be in any published material that refers to them. You may find that substituting a '3' for the '8' will get your though at normal call rates.
Ofcom tells me that it expects some mobile providers to muddy the transparent waters of the new simpler prices. Or, as they might put it, engage in imaginative competitive deals. The providers making the higher access charges are expected to offer customers the choice of paying an extra fee to access 084 or 087 numbers with no service charge. EE has already announced an 084 and 087 add-on. By paying an extra £3 a month you get up to 300 minutes of calls to 084 and 087 numbers at no extra charge.
BT is joining in the complexification by continuing to include 0845 and 0870 numbers it its inclusive bundles so they will be free for the hours the bundle covers. But beware – other 084 and 087 numbers are not included in that deal.
The freephone changes do not apply to 0500 numbers which may still be expensive to call. They will be phased out in 2017.
More details on all the changes at UK Calling Info
1 July 2015