Personal Numbering - Guidance on the acceptable use of 070 numbers

Published: 6 September 2016
Last updated: 16 March 2023

Ofcom has produced these guidelines to provide range holders with further clarification on what it considers to be acceptable use of 070 numbers. They do not fetter Ofcom's discretion in dealing with future cases involving the use of the 070 range. (Revised 27 February 2009)

Comments on these guidelines are welcome and, if appropriate, may be reflected in any future revision.

This guidance provides further clarification on what Ofcom considers to be acceptable use of 070 numbers. It does not replace the National Telephone Numbering Plan, nor Condition 17 of the General Conditions, but provides additional guidance for range holders and their sub-allocatees in response to recent cases and enquiries about whether a particular service is acceptable.

This guidance covers:

  • The National Telephone Numbering Plan
  • Responsibility for sub-allocated numbers
  • Acceptable use of 070 numbers
  • Criteria for assessing appropriate use

The National Telephone Numbering Plan (‘the Plan’) states that there are two essential requirements re use of 070 Telephone Numbers:

  • Part B1 prohibits the adoption or use of telephone numbers except in accordance with the relevant designation of those numbers in Part A of the Plan. Part A1 states that 070 is set aside for Personal Numbering Services, which are defined in the ‘Definitions and Interpretation’ section of the Plan; and
  • Part B3.2 further states that those adopting Personal Numbers must not share with End-Users any revenue obtained from providing a Personal Numbering Service (End-User is defined in Part 1 of the General Conditions - see paragraph 8 below).

Condition 17.8 of the General Conditions states that:

“The Communications Provider shall take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that its Customers, in using Telephone Numbers, comply with the provisions of this Condition, where applicable, and the provisions of the National Telephone Numbering Plan.”

Specifically, we would expect that before making their network and/or services available to sub-allocatees, 070 allocatees would carry out the following due diligence process:

  • collect and maintain information such as the full address of the sub-allocatee, the registered name and company of that company (if a limited company), the name and address of each of the directors, the name of the director with primary responsibility for the personal numbers, the name of the person responsible for the day-to-day operation of each personal number, and phone, email, and fax details for those named persons enabling contact to be made with any of them at all necessary times;
  • make sufficient inquiry so as to satisfy themselves fully that the information supplied to them by service providers is accurate. In undertaking these inquiries, 070 allocatees must obtain clear evidence, in particular in respect of the identity of the people named above;
  • retain the information collected and the records of the inquiries made and responses to those inquiries and a copy of all evidence obtained, and make those records and copies available to Ofcom upon being directed by Ofcom to do so; and
  • bring the Numbering Plan and General Condition 17 to the attention of their sub-allocatee.

The due diligence process is separate from the Consumer Protection Test (CPT) guidelines published by Ofcom on 30 September 2008 that are designed to ensure that numbers are not allocated to those companies or individuals that cause serious or repeated harm to consumers. However, in carrying out due diligence to ensure compliance with GC17, PNS providers should give due regard to the under assessment and number refusal lists on our website.

In order to limit the administrative burden of the due diligence process, the above guidance only applies to where revenue payments will or have been made.

To allow a reasonable time for 070 allocatees to carry out their due diligence process, communications providers have 18 months before the above guidance applies to existing customers, i.e. until 28 August 2010.

The 070 range shall only be used for Personal Numbering Services, which are defined as services “based on number translation that enables End-Users to be called or otherwise contacted, using a single Personal Telephone Number, and to receive those calls or other communications at almost any Telephone Number, including Mobile Numbers”. A Personal Number is also defined in the Plan as a Telephone Number “assigned by a Personal Numbering Service Provider, which allows a Subscriber to receive calls or other communications at almost any Telephone Number, including a Mobile Number”.

Previously the Numbering Conventions had stated that 070 numbers were "suitable for users who habitually move location", but as this was not a requirement or prohibition, it does not appear in the Plan. Additionally, the length of time for which an 070 number is active is not a relevant consideration in deciding whether or not it is a legitimate Personal Numbering Service.

Recent examples of services that may not fit the traditional mode of Personal Numbering, but which Ofcom considers to be legitimate Personal Numbering Services include:

  • 070 numbers allocated to users of Internet chat rooms who want to talk to new acquaintances without divulging their real phone numbers;
  • 070 numbers allocated solely for the purpose of selling, eg, a car through a magazine; and
  • 070 numbers allocated to hospital patients so that they can have their own number for the duration of their stay (but not where a generic 070 number is used that requires further PINs – see para 17 below).

In the course of investigations, Ofcom has identified the following key criteria which it considers are shared by all Personal Numbering Services. These criteria will be considered when establishing whether a service being offered on an 070 number is properly considered to fall within the definition of Personal Numbering Service for the purposes of the Plan.

(A) The Personal Numbering Service benefits the person being called

End-User is a term defined in the General Conditions, but for the purposes of Personal Numbering, it is the person being called, and not the caller, that is relevant. Personal Numbers can be used to offer a variety of services. What these different services all have in common is that they offer a service to the person being called.

Services which allocate 070 numbers with the intention that the calling party sets the number to be called, rather than the receiving party, may not therefore be Personal Numbering Services. If the End-User is not aware that he or she has been allocated an 070 number, benefit does not accrue to the person being called but to the caller and this is not an acceptable use of the 070 range as defined in the Plan.

(B) The End-user must be in charge of the destination number

Although Personal Numbers were originally designed for people who habitually move location this is not an essential characteristic (see para 10 above).

However, what all Personal Numbering Services have in common is that it must be the called party who decides which destination the 070 number is routed to. Additionally, if the service that is being offered is the facility to be reached at any chosen destination then the End-User must be in charge of changing as well as allocating the destination number. This follows on from Criteria A, above.

The End-User cannot be in charge of their number if that number can also be used to contact, eg through a switchboard, another End-User. Therefore requiring the addition of a PIN or the stating of a name, to either a human or automated switchboard operator or through a menu selection of some sort, amounts to offering a generic service that may not be Personal Numbering. Such generic services must be offered on other number ranges.

(C) Promotional material

Promotional material must reflect the key characteristics of a Personal Numbering Service as set out above.

For example, it is not acceptable to promote 070 numbers as a way of making (as opposed to receiving) international calls. Such services must be offered on other number ranges.

Promotional material or instructions for use may determine whether a particular service constitutes a Personal Numbering Service. In other words, the difference between appropriate and inappropriate use may hinge on the way it is advertised.

If the service has the functionality to be used as a Personal Numbering Service, but users are not aware of this functionality, then they will not be able to use it as such. It may not therefore be considered a Personal Numbering Service. If the service is designed for people who move location, for example, service providers must ensure that instructions for changing the destination number are clear and that every customer receives them.

(D) Management of Personal Numbers

The use of 070 numbers for administration of individuals' Personal Numbers may not constitute a Personal Numbering Service in itself.

It is not acceptable for service providers to use a single, generic 070 number (ie where everyone dials the same 070 number to access the service) for allocation or management (ie changing the destination number) of other 070 numbers. For generic access to a Personal Numbering Service, an 070 number should not be used. Other ranges (08, or 09, depending on price point) or geographic numbers should be used. This is because the benefit (ie, being able to receive a Personal Number or change a destination number) accrues to the calling party and not the End-user. While it may be argued that the End-user has control over the destination number - the other of the key criteria - Ofcom does not consider that the range holder or sub allocatee should also be the End-User of an 070 number.

However, Service Providers may enable each customer to manage his 070 number (ie changing the destination number) by calling the same 070 number, ie his individual number. In this case, the calling party and the End-User are actually the same person. Therefore the benefit of this service does accrue to the End-User of the number, and the End-User is in control of the number. As it meets both of the criteria above, Ofcom is likely to consider that this use constitutes an element of a legitimate Personal Numbering Service.

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