Non-geographic numbers are those phone numbers which are not linked to a specific location. They include 03,05, 07, 08, 09, 116 and 118, and are widely used by business, central and local government, charities and statutory bodies for a variety of activities ranging from information and helplines to voting in TV game shows.
This is a large market which is regulated by Ofcom. In 2009, consumers paid around £1.9 billion for calls to these numbers and they accounted for 12% of the total call traffic volume. Currently, for most numbers there is a limit on how much BT can charge for calls. Other providers are not restricted as to how much they can charge but in many cases landline providers set their call charges around BT’s prices.
Although there is extensive use of these numbers, research by Ofcom has shown that many people are confused about what non-geographic numbers can be used for and particularly how much calls to them cost. This is partly because each phone company sets its own prices and information on pricing can be difficult to find and complex. This complexity also means that it is difficult for the organisation being called to let consumers know how much they will be charged for contacting them.