This consultation concerns 0500 Freephone numbers and Ofcom's proposal to withdraw this number range from use. Our proposal, if implemented, will affect communications providers ('CPs') and service providers ('SPs') that currently use 0500 numbers. The 0500 range has been closed to new allocations since 1997-98.
On 23 October 2012 we published a consultation in which we proposed the withdrawal of the 0500 number range ('October 2012 consultation'). This was part of our programme of work to address concerns we had identified in the provision of non-geographic call services ('NGCS'). In response to stakeholder comments on the proposed approach for this withdrawal we have decided to reconsult on an alternative approach which would allow a migration path to a dedicated alternative 080 sub-range for users of affected 0500 numbers.
In the October 2012 consultation we set out the history and current market context of the 0500 number range, the legal framework governing its provision and operation, and our assessment of the policy options available for the future of the 0500 range: to maintain the status quo; to align 0500 with 080 as free-to-caller when 080 becomes free-to-caller; to cap charges to 0500 numbers from mobile phones; and to withdraw the 0500 range.
We explained that withdrawing the 0500 range was our preferred policy option because we considered that, on balance, this would offer the greatest net benefit: reducing consumer confusion, securing best use of telephone numbers and enhancing the clarity and simplicity of the new regime (080) for the benefit of consumers and businesses. The consultation invited stakeholders to comment on our assessment criteria for the analysis of options for 0500, the analysis itself, the proposal to withdraw as well as issues of implementation.
We noted in the October 2012 consultation that, in assessing options for the 0500 range, we had assumed that our preferred option for the 080 range would be implemented, namely that the 080 range would be made free-to-caller by all CPs; if we did not implement those proposals for 080, our proposals for 0500 may need to change and we would review our proposals for 0500 to determine if they should be revised or be subject to further analysis. However, this uncertainty has now been resoved in our final NGCS statement ('2013 NGCS statement'), published on 12 December 2013, where we have required that calls to 080 and 116 numbers be free-to-caller from 26 June 2015.