A new telephone service offering help and advice to people suffering an electricity power cut will use the number 105, Ofcom has announced.
The helpline is being developed by the UK's electricity industry for launch in April 2016. It will provide a single telephone number for people anywhere in Britain to contact their electricity network operator to report a power cut or safety concern, or receive reassurance during a blackout.
Energy Networks Association (ENA), which is planning the service as the body representing the UK's energy supply industry, requested a three-digit number for the service from Ofcom, which manages the UK's telephone numbers.
Following consultation, Ofcom has concluded that a three-digit number would be appropriate for the new service, and has decided to make the number 105 available as requested by ENA.
In today's decision, Ofcom notes that electricity is regarded in UK law1 as one of the "essentials of life". It also notes that potential callers to the new service, who may often be in darkness and without power, may find it difficult or stressful to have to look up a number. The number for the new service therefore needs to be as memorable as possible.
Only numbers that begin 10x or 11x can be designated as three-digit numbers for new services. Some are already in use, such as 101 (police non-emergency) and NHS 111; others are set aside for use by phone companies. Today's allocation of the number 105 leaves a further 13 three-digit numbers available for future allocation.
Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom Group Competition Director, said: "The new helpline will provide clear value to members of the public, often in difficult and stressful situations where it may be hard for a caller to look up a long number.
"Three-digit numbers are memorable and quick to dial, and we are pleased to make available the new number 105."
According to industry research2, most people are unaware that power supply problems should be reported not to their electricity supplier, but to their local 'electricity network operator' - one of the companies that collectively run the electricity networks that serve England, Scotland and Wales.
This problem was highlighted during severe storms that affected the UK in the winter of 2013/14. These caused electricity disruptions for 750,000 homes, with telephone calls about the resulting problems peaking at 800,000 in the month of December 2013.
Today, each electricity network operator has its own 11-digit contact number, making it hard for people to know which number to phone to report an incident or seek urgent advice - especially during a power cut, when lights and internet access are often unavailable. This led the Government and ENA to plan a single-number service.
The new helpline will use the single telephone number 105 to connect callers, wherever they are based, to their local electricity network operator.
The Government's Department for Energy and Climate Change is working with ENA and the electricity network operators on plans for an awareness campaign that will promote the new helpline. This would also explain that the service is not intended as a substitute for the existing 999/112 service in cases of emergency.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004.
2.Research by ENA found that only 11% of those surveyed could correctly attribute the role of the electricity network operator. Most (45%) would contact their electricity supplier in the event of a power cut or safety concern.
3.ENA intends for the new service to be free to callers and available across England, Scotland and Wales from launch. Northern Ireland is served by one electricity network operator (Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE)) and therefore the confusion arising from the regional approach to power supply from different operators in England, Scotland and Wales does not exist in Northern Ireland. There are no plans for NIE to change its fault reporting number to 105.
4.Three-digit numbers. Only numbers that begin 10x or 11x can be assigned because a leading digit '0' signifies national or international dialling, and leading digits '2' to '9' are used for local dialling of geographic numbers without the area code. The numbers 12x to 19x have been set aside for uses such as 123 (speaking clock) and numbers specific to a phone company (for example, many use 150 as a contact number for customers)." Following the designation of 105, the 13 three-digit numbers still available for allocation are: 102, 103, 104, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 113, 114, 115, 117 and 119.
5.Ofcom has a duty under section 63(1) of the Communications Act to ensure that the best use is made of telephone numbers, and to encourage efficiency and innovation for that purpose. Ofcom also has a general duty under section 3 of the Act to further the interests of citizens and consumers in relation to communications matters.