Tuesday, 22 March 2011
OFCOM plans are under consideration to allow freephone 0800 numbers to be free from mobile phones as well as landlines, meaning that customers making calls on a mobile will have the same benefits as customers phoning on a landline.
As it stands, calls that are made to a 0800 freephone number from a BT standard landline are free for the person making the call. This has long been considered a huge benefit to both a company and a customer, as it encourages the customer to pick up the phone and make that initial enquiry without leading to a huge phone bill at the end, meaning everyone’s a winner. Everyone except people calling from a mobile phone, which in today’s busy world is often most people. A call to a 0800 number from a mobile phone still attracts a relatively high call charge.
In fact, OFCOM's researchers have released alarming statistics regarding the call costs from mobile phones to a 0800 number. In 2009 alone, people in the UK paid a staggering £1.9 billion calling 0800 numbers from mobile phones. The average cost to call a 0800 number from a mobile phone was a cool 40 pence per minute. Yet how many of us phone a company from our mobiles during our lunch break because we can’t use the phone at work for personal calls? How many businessmen out of the office need to phone a company from their mobile? How many people use their hands free kit to phone a company whilst driving home before the company closes at 5.30? Mobile customers are losing out by having to pay a high price that landline users don’t, and companies are losing out because mobile users are put off calling them at these prices. They are losing a vast section of their potential market.
OFCOM has therefore recently published proposals whereby all calls to 0800 numbers will be free whether they are made from a landline or a mobile phone. This will be music to the ears of all mobile phone owners. There are several websites that exist purely to make public the "real phone number" behind 08 prefix numbers, which are also referred to as non-geographic. Examples of such websites include 0800Buster and SayNoTo0870. Such is the desperation out there, so this is clearly an issue which needs to be addressed.
The UK's telecoms watchdog has also stated that it wants to simplify non-geographic number pricing as it feels that there is a huge amount of confusion surrounding phone numbers that start with these prefixes starting with 03, 08, and 09. Non-geographic numbers have a tarnished reputation since the "Ant and Dec" scandal and OFCOM seems to be keen to clean up the mess. Anyone who watches TV shows where the public has a phone vote (X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing) will be aware that an effort has been made to make clear to the public what the costs will be.
OFCOM's chief executive, Ed Richards, stated: "There is clear evidence of widespread uncertainty and confusion about the cost of calling these numbers. Consumers need to have far more transparency about the price they are going to pay for calls so that they can make more informed choices and so competition can work more effectively. Making 0800 free from a mobile and giving people clarity about what they are paying for will improve transparency, improve competition and enhance trust in these important services."
David Clarke, Director of DBS Telecoms and an 0800 number expert welcomed Ofcom's proposals, saying: "I am pleased to see that Ofcom proposes to simplify the 0800 and 0845 number pricing structure - it can only be good for our industry" he commented. If, after a consultation period, the proposals are accepted then new 0800 number rates would be introduced over the coming 24 months.