your phone bill
by CCE and
When do you
start paying for a phone call?
phone bill may include charges for calls to customer service centres
and other locations where you are held in a queue for a time. If
you are concerned about such charges and want to manage your call
costs better it is useful to know when call charging begins so you
can decide if you want to continue a call or put the phone down
and try again later. Call charging starts when a call is first answered.
If it is not answered, there will be no charge.
is a call answered?
for a phone call start when the call is first answered. As
well as the person you are calling picking up the phone, a
call can be answered in a number of ways:
you hear an automatic voice message (eg from answering machines
or voicemail) saying, for example, you are held in a queue*
you hear a fax machine or a computer modem (this will sound
like a series of elongated high pitched screeching sounds)
you have an Internet connection and you dial your Internet
services provider (ISP), you are charged from when the ISP
answers the phone line, even if the ISP subsequently fails
to provide an Internet connection eg if you enter the wrong
is a call not answered?
is not answered, and so you do not incur any charges, if the
first and only thing you hear after you have dialled the number
ringing tone, or
engaged tone, or
‘out of service’ announcement, or
- A number
unobtainable tone, or
announcement that specifically says that you have not been
charged (eg a changed number announcement). This could follow
a ringing tone.
if the organisation or person you are calling is often difficult
to get hold of, you may wish to remain in the queue, incurring call
charges, rather than ringing back later. This is because queues
answer calls in order of call arrival. If you dial again, you go
to the back of the queue and may incur another minimum call charge.
However the queue may be shorter if you ring back at a less busy
you call freephone numbers, beginning with prefix 0500 or 0800,
from fixed link phones, then you do not incur a charge. This is
not always the case, however, for calls from mobile phones to freephone
What to do
about charges for calls which appear to be unanswered
you think you have been billed for calls which have not been answered
you should contact the telephone company billing you for the call.
If the organisation you called gave a misleading announcement as
to whether you were being charged you should complain to the organisation
responsible for the announcement.
There is a voluntary
code of practice for organisations who operate call answering systems
which gives detailed guidance on appropriate response messages and
procedures. The code is available here.
When do you
stop paying for a phone call?
charging ends when the telecoms company disconnects the call. This
is usually but not always when the caller hangs up and the call
appears to end.
- Voice calls The caller originating the call must hang
up for the call to end. The person receiving the call may hang
up, but this will not end the call unless the originating caller
also hangs up. Only when the originating caller hangs up then
will call charging end. You should always check you've replaced
the receiver correctly. If you have any concerns that your call
has not ended, you should check that you have a dial tone - this
indicates the previous call has ended.
(If you have been following the steps to contact Oftel and this
FAQ has not helped then proceed to Step
- Internet calls It is possible to shut down the Internet
Browser on a PC and still remain connected to the Internet. If
the Browser is shut down it may appear that the connection to
the Internet has also been closed. However, this may not immediately
be the case as it often takes a few seconds for the connection
to close. For Windows 95, 97 and NT applications, you should look
for a small symbol at the bottom right hand corner of the screen,
of two PCs with a line linking them. This symbol indicates that
the Internet connection is still being made and therefore still
incurring call charges. By clicking on the monitors symbol you
will then be given the opportunity to disconnect from the Internet.
If you are ever in doubt as to whether you are still connected
and want to disconnect, you should simply remove the PC modem
cable from the telephone wall socket.