Millions of telephone users across the UK will benefit from clearer call charges being introduced next month by Ofcom.
From 1 July, landline and mobile charges will become clearer for calls to numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118, while Freephone will become free from mobiles.
People use these ‘service numbers’ every day for finding out information, contacting a business or helpline, or using competition, directory-enquiry, entertainment and voting services.
Every year, callers in the UK spend a total of 250m hours calling these service numbers, spending around £900m between them, according to Ofcom research.
Until now, callers to these numbers have not generally been told by the service provider how much they will be charged.
But prices will become clearer on telephone bills, in marketing and in advertising from 1 July, under changes known as UK Calling.
From 1 July, charges for service numbers will be made up of an ‘access charge’ going to the phone company, plus a ‘service charge’ set by the company or organisation being called.
Phone companies will be responsible for setting their access charge, making it clear to consumers on their bills and informing new customers of the charge when they sign up to a contract.
Separately, the service provider – the party being contacted – will specify its service charge wherever it advertises or communicates the phone number.
So consumers will be able to understand the exact cost of making the call by adding the access and service charges together. They will also be able to compare the prices of different service providers more easily, and also choose a provider with a competitive access charge when signing up to a new landline or mobile deal.
What callers will see
Currently, callers are given information such as:
“Calls cost xp per minute from a BT landline. Calls may vary from other landlines and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.”
Under the new system, the cost of calls will be explained in a simpler format such as:
“Calls cost xp per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.”
Freephone will mean free
Also as part of UK Calling, from the start of next month Freephone numbers (beginning 0800 and 0808) will become free for consumers to call from mobile phones, just as they generally are from landlines.
Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “Next month we’ll see the biggest changes to telephone calls in over a decade. Together we spend around £900 million a year on these calls, so it’s important that people understand the cost before they pick up the phone.
“From 1 July, callers will be able to see how much they’re paying and where their money is going. The website ukcalling.info has more information on the changes, and what they mean for you.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. Source (all figures): Ofcom Telecoms Market Data Updates 2014.
2. The UK Calling changes will apply to calls made from all residential landlines and consumer mobile phones.
3. Advice for consumers on the current cost of calls is available on the UK Calling website.
4. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications, wireless communications and postal services.
5. For further information about Ofcom please visit: www.ofcom.org.uk. Ofcom’s news releases can be found at media.ofcom.org.uk