Over the past 18 months, the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom has been working hard to simplify the costs associated with calling premium and freephone numbers from a mobile device.
Today, it has published new proposals which will abolish fees for 0800 numbers and remove additional costs associated with UK, mobile and international calls, making it easier and cheaper for people to call businesses, Government agencies and vote on their favourite TV shows.
Ofcom is worried that while BT places limits on calls to most numbers, mobile providers have been charging additional fees and thy have been slowly increasing over time. Considering a freephone number is free on a landline, mobile subscribers are still being charged.
Under its new proposals, Ofcom is looking to make calls to 080 and 116 numbers free to call from all telephones and roll out a new pricing structure for calls to numbers beginning with 08,09 and 118. The proposal will require the charges made by phone companies and by the company that’s being called to be stated clearly.
Finally, Ofcom is attempting to reduce the confusion around 0845 and 0870 numbers and reinforce the use of the 03 range, with many UK consumers unaware that the number costs the same as a geographic call.
If passed, companies will be asked to use the following terminology when disclosing the cost of calls:
“This call will cost you X pence per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.”
The regulator intends of making the final decision on the new rules by early 2013 and it expects there to be an 18-month transition period to assist consumers and businesses.
The changes will affect virtually every company in the country to a greater or lesser extent. There will need to be changes to telephone billing systems, the way numbers are presented in marketing material, choices of number ranges to use and telephone contracts with consumers.
We need to ensure that there are no unnecessary costs to consumers or companies or losses of services. And importantly, we need to make sure all our changes are understood by everyone.