Are you ready for Ofcom's UK Calling?


Date: 22 June 2015

Business telephone{{}}The cost of phone calls is changing from July. In fact, this will be one of the biggest changes to the cost of UK telephone calls in a decade.

Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, is calling the change 'UK Calling'. Is your business ready for it?

The confusing cost of calls

Last year, most businesses that serve consumers were banned from providing after-sales support via certain types of telephone number, including numbers starting 0845 and 0870.

However, many consumers are still forced to call these numbers. And there's considerable confusion about what they actually cost. People often end up facing unexpected bills, especially from mobile phones.

There's a plethora of numbers that start 08. What's more, people often don't realise that some numbers starting 07 are not mobile numbers, but are premium rate lines.

The latest changes plan to address this confusion.

The confusing cost of calls

From 1 July 2015, the cost of calling numbers that start 084, 087, 09 and 118 will be made up of two parts:

  1. An access charge: this goes to the phone company. It will be clear on bills and should be easy to understand when consumers take out a contract.
  2. A service charge: this is the rest of the call charge. The organisation being called decides how much this is. It must make the cost clear to consumers.

This change means consumers will be able to see how much money the organisation they're calling is making from the call. And that lets them decide whether they want to call – or, indeed, do business with them at all.

These rules will apply to all consumer calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers across the UK. It does not apply to old 0500 numbers.

The changes do not affect calls to ordinary landline numbers (01, 02, 03), mobile numbers (07), international calls, calls from payphones, or calls to the UK when roaming overseas.

In addition, all freephone numbers (starting 0800 or 0808) will be free to call from mobiles and landlines.

What you need to do

If your business uses one of the affected numbers, speak to the company that supplies it. They should be able to confirm the service charges you will face. You could end up with a higher bill than at present, particularly if you use an 0800 number.

The changes mean that now is a good time to think about whether you want to keep using these numbers, or if you'd prefer to switch to geographic numbers starting 01, 02 or 03.

You should also review all marketing literature, including websites, TV and radio adverts, point of sale materials and packaging.

If any of these materials show a number beginning 084, 087, 09 or 118, you must ensure that your service charge is clearly displayed.

As always, the rules say that ignorance is no excuse for not complying. You can get more information at Ofcom's UK Calling website.

© 2015 Dave Millet, from Equinox.

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