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Phone Call Charges To Become Clearer

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Ofcom have recently announced that the cost of calling businesses and services will become clearer for consumers under major changes to telephone charging.

A simpler pricing structure will be introduced for telephone numbers beginning 08, 09 and 118. Calls to freephone numbers are to be free from mobile phones as well as fixed lines.

These steps are being taken to help eliminate caller confusion about how much they should expect to pay to call public services organisations, businesses, and other organisations on telephone numbers that begin with 08, 09 and 118. These numbers, commonly known as ‘non-geographic’ service numbers have a wide range of uses such as banking, customer services, horoscopes, information lines, chat lines and directory enquiries.

New Charging Structure

At present, unless callers are using a BT line to call non-geographic numbers they are not normally told how much they would expect to pay. Under the new measures, phone users calling these numbers will be informed of the cost split into an ‘access charge’ to their phone company, plus a ‘service charge’ to the business or organisation whose number they are calling.

Telephone companies will set their access charge and be responsible for informing new and existing customers of how much the access charge is.

Business and organisations using non-geographic numbers will be responsible for informing customers of how much their service charge is wherever they advertise or otherwise communicate the service.

Calculating Costs

Consumers will be able to calculate the cost of a call by adding the access charge to the service charge. This will allow them to compare the charges of different phone and service providers more simply. Changes are expected to come into effect next summer (2015) to allow time for the businesses that use non-geographic numbers to adjust.

At the moment, when a caller dials a non geographic number, they are given information such as:

“Calls cost XX pence per minute from a BT line. Calls may vary from other landlines and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.”

Once the new scheme is introduced, the announcement is expected to change to:

“Calls cost XX pence per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.”

Transparent Pricing

Clearer phone charges and other measures being introduced are designed to make pricing more transparent and to improve consumer confidence in non-geographic services which will lead to increased usage.
Currently, calls to Freephone (0800, 0808 and 116) numbers which are usually free from landlines can be charged in excess of 25p/min by mobile networks. These calls will become free from mobile phones too.
The scheme also includes a cap on Premium rate charges. This will help to protect consumers from rogue operators who have imposed very high charges in the past.

0845 Changes

Changes to 0845 charges will also be implemented; this has been a cause of consumer confusion in the past. These numbers used to be tied to the cost of a geographic call but will, in future be charged like any other 084, 087 or 09 number with the cost of calling being split into an access and a service charge.

Use Of 03 Numbers

Companies that wish to offer a geographic-rate number will have the option of using numbers beginning 03. Public bodies are being encouraged to use 03 numbers by Ofcom. These cost the same as calling geographic (01 or 02) numbers, and are included in inclusive minutes or discount bundles.

Changes will be implemented in 18 months times and Ofcom is already consulting with the industry to prepare for the changes.

For Ofcom’s full statement and further information, please go to:

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/simplifying-non-geo-no/final-statement



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