The cost of calling 0870 numbers is to be cut to the same price as national landline rates, the telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced.
As well as slashing the price of 0870 numbers – which typically cost around 8 pence per minute from a landline – Ofcom has ruled that businesses will no longer be able to take a slice of the revenue from 0870 calls.
Under the new rules, calls to 0870 numbers will have to cost the same or less than national rate numbers – which cost around 3p a minute – unless firms warn customers at the start of the call that the prices will be higher.
However the changes are not due to come into force until at least the end of 2007.
Which? Senior Researcher Ceri Stanaway said: ‘Which? has long highlighted concerns about the cost of calling 0870 numbers and we welcome Ofcom’s move to protect consumers from unfair charges. We hope that the new rules will discourage companies, and in particular public bodies, from revenue sharing and reduce costs for consumers.
‘But Ofcom’s changes are a long way off yet and only time will tell if they go far enough. There’s no guarantee that companies will be willing to give up revenue sharing, and because of that consumers still won’t know for sure how much an 0870 call will cost before they dial.’
The premium rate watchdog Icstis has also been given extra powers to regulate all calls made to 0871 numbers and all adult phone services.
Currently Ictsis has the power to regulate all premium-rate services – those normally advertised on the 090 dialling code – costing more than 10p per minute.
ICSTIS Director George Kidd welcomed the move to reclassify O871 numbers as premium rate: ‘This is positive news for the public. We want consumers to be able to use all, not just most, 0871 services with confidence.
‘We feel sure that our independence, speed of action and our ability to act against the minority who cause harm, combined with our readiness to work on appropriate safeguards with all those affected by the changes, will help us achieve this.’