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Panel welcomes Ofcom's intention to clarify telephone charges and consolidate Freephone calls

30 April 2013

For some time, the Panel has highlighted that charges for 0800 calls from mobiles particularly affect people on lower incomes, who are more likely to rely on a mobile at home and use it to make calls to essential services.  The panel has also been concerned that calling non-geographic numbers can be confusing and costly for consumers. We’re therefore pleased that Ofcom has announced its intention to implement major changes to how telephone numbers starting with 08, 09 and 118 are charged, which will make the cost of calling businesses and services clearer for consumers.

The regulator has stated that the central measure is designed to tackle consumer confusion about how much it costs to call companies, public bodies and other organisations on numbers starting 08, 09 and 118. Currently, unless using a BT landline, callers to these numbers cannot easily tell how much they will be charged. Under the rules which Ofcom has said that it expects to introduce, consumers will pay a single ‘access charge’ to their phone company for all calls to these numbers, plus a ‘service charge’ to the company or organisation they are calling. Phone companies will inform their customers of their access charge when they sign up to a new service, and it will appear on bills; while service providers will specify the charge for their service wherever they advertise or communicate it. Consumers will therefore be able to understand the exact cost of making the call by adding the access and service charges together.

Ofcom also intends that calls to 080 (Freephone) numbers will be made free from all telephones. At present some phone companies, particularly mobile providers, charge for calls to such numbers

To implement the changes, certain ‘legal instruments’ are required, which have been published in draft form and are available on the Ofcom website.  In addition, there are some aspects of Ofcom’s evidence and analysis which stakeholders had not previously had the opportunity to comment upon which are being presented for stakeholder review.

Ofcom is now consulting on these remaining points and legal instruments and expects to make a statement confirming final decisions by the summer.  The consultation closes on 28 May 2013.



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