Main Points Covered:
What are 0800 Numbers?
Before July 2015, calling a UK 0800 number was only free from landline phones. Mobile phone callers were charged for the 0800 call by their provider. This led to accusations of unfair practice and raised questions as to whether an 0800 number could be accurately called a true “freephone” number.
After conducting various studies into the usage of non-geographic numbers, Ofcom finally recognised the unfairness of charging mobile calls to 0800 numbers, leading to the launch of its “UK Calling Initiative” in July 2015. Since then, greater transparency has been brought to the 0800 number market. Mobile callers can now ring 0800 numbers without being charged extra on top of their mobile plan inclusive minutes.
For mobile phone users, one of the most positive aspects of the new rules introduced by Ofcom on 1st July 2015 was knowing that calling an 0800 number from a mobile phone was now free. There had been a lot of confusion about this before the new rules were introduced.
Confusing phone number prefixes
Have you ever decided not to ring an unfamiliar-looking number because you weren’t sure how much it would cost (particularly from a mobile phone)?
Yes I’m sure we’ve all done it, and for good reason. There are so many different phone numbers around now – 0800 numbers, 0870, 090, 020… that keeping tabs on how much they cost to call can be confusing.
Let’s quickly recap how things worked before the July 2015 Ofcom changes
The information you used to see about the cost of calling a service often looked something like this:
This made it hard to know what the call would cost or where the money from your phone call was going.
How it has worked from 1st July 2015 onwards
From 1st July 2015, the cost of calling service numbers was split into two clear parts:
- An access charge: This part of the call charge goes to your phone company, charged as pence per minute. They will tell you how much the access charge will be for calls to service numbers. It will be made clear on bills and when you take out a contract.
- A service charge: This is the rest of the call charge. The organisation you are calling decides this, and will tell you how much it is.
Let’s take an example…
And let’s say the service charge for a particular number you want to call is 20p per minute. In that case, you would see information like this:
“Calls cost 20p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.”
In this particular example, the call would cost 20p per minute (the service charge), plus 2p per minute (the access charge). So the call would cost you 22p per minute.
These rules will apply to all consumer calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers across the UK, delivering clearer call rates for everyone.
Calls to other numbers – those beginning 00, 01, 02, 03, 05 or 07 – are not affected.
Are 0800 numbers free to call?
As we said earlier, the cost of calling 0800 numbers from mobile phones has been a particular bone of contention for some time.
Previous studies found that telephone users were sometimes confused about how much it costs to call service numbers, and who receives the money. This means people lacked confidence in these numbers, and sometimes avoided using them. This had a detrimental impact on various helplines and charities that used these Freephone numbers, such as Action on Hearing Loss or Age UK, as well as Government services such as Jobseeker’s Allowance.
The good news is that, from 1st July 2015, all calls to these and other Freephone numbers (which begin 0800 or 0808) were made free for consumers to call from all mobile phones, just as they generally were from landlines.
How to buy an 0800 Number for your business
If you want to buy an exclusive 0800 Number for your business, you need to consider a number of things.
Do you want just a basic 0800 number where you can forward calls on to your landline or mobile? Or would you prefer a premium or memorable 0800 number to help your business stand out and make it easier for customers to remember?
Also, do you want a pay-as-you-go 0800 number, or would you benefit from a bundled package which includes a number of minutes of incoming calls for a set fee?
Whatever type of 0800 number you need for your business, we’ve got a range of freephone options to suit you. Check them out here.
Do the new call charges apply across the whole of the UK?
Yes, they apply across the UK. This does not include the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, which have their own structure for these calls.
What if I’m calling from a business phone?
The new rules apply to calls made from residential lines and consumer mobile phones. Phone companies continue to have flexibility over how they charge for these calls from business phones.
So if you’re calling an 0800 or 0808 number from a business phone, such as a Hosted PBX system, you should check with your provider whether there will be a charge.
What if I’m calling from a payphone?
The new access and service charges do not apply to calls from payphones, as these are charged differently. It may not be possible to call all service numbers from payphones – particularly those that have a higher cost per minute, or those with a higher one-off service charge.
Are text messages affected?
No, the new rules do not affect the cost of sending text messages.
I’ve heard that some companies will have to offer a contact number charged at basic rate. How does that fit in with the new call regulations?
The Government introduced new legislation affecting companies such as airlines, train operators, and major high street and online retailers who offer phone helplines to customers who have purchased their products. These parties must ensure that such customers are offered a ‘basic rate’ contact number. Basic rate means a number which costs the same as a standard ‘geographic’ call (like an 01 or 02 number), or a standard mobile rate, or else is free. This change is separate from the UK Calling changes, which were led by Ofcom.
Are telephone numbers changing?
The new arrangements do not require any telephone numbers to change. None of the companies offering services on service numbers are required to change their number. Of course, businesses and public organisations remain free to move to a new number if they wish.
Do I need to make any changes to my phone or the package I am on?
No. Your telephone provider will advise you of your access charge for calling these numbers.
Why doesn’t Ofcom ban non-geographic numbers, or force companies to use ordinary geographic numbers?
Companies and public bodies are free to choose which kind of telephone numbers they use to be contacted. Ofcom does not have powers to require organisations to use particular numbers. Ofcom does encourage public bodies to consider using 03 numbers, which cost no more to call than a normal geographic number.
Where can I find the cost of calls to numbers before I call them?
The service charge will be communicated by the organisation which is using the number to provide a service.
The access charge will be included in your phone company’s pricing plans, as well as on phone bills.
Exactly how will my phone company communicate the access charge?
Phone companies are required to publish access charges in a way that is prominent and readily accessible to customers. That means on your phone company’s website, in its published price lists, on bills and in any advertising and promotional material which refer to call pricing. When a new customer takes out a contract, the phone company they are signing up with must inform them about the access charge.
Phone companies are also responsible for informing consumers whether charges for calls to service numbers are included within bundles of inclusive calls or inclusive call minutes.
Will the access charge always be the same, regardless of which telephone or mobile company I use?
Access charges are set by each telephone company, and communicated by them to their customers. You may wish to compare access charges between providers and for the different call plans a provider offers.
Although the access charge may vary between providers, it will always be the same for calls you make to the affected numbers within your call plan. Some providers may also choose to offer call plans which include some of these charges within their inclusive call packages.
You can find out the access charge for this number – which is the rest of the call cost – from your phone company. Choose a provider from the list below to be directed to their pricing page: