A last-minute hitch on new rules for 0870 numbers could hit phone users’ pockets.
Telecom regulator Ofcom was due to introduce a free warning in February 2008 on all 0870 calls to say that they cost more than standard rates – up to 35p a minute on mobile networks. This would give consumers the chance to hang up if they felt the call was too expensive.
Under the new rules, any call to an 0870 number that didn’t carry the warning would have to be charged at the standard – lower – rate.
But the introduction of the measures will be delayed beyond the spring following concerns that the changes will affect the automatic dial-out on burglar alarms, many of which use 0870 numbers.
It’s believed some alarms will time out if the automatic call is not answered quickly enough because of the delay of playing a call-cost message; this could cause emergencies to go unreported.
Ofcom said it was assessing the problem and expected the new rules to now come in ‘later in the spring’. The regulator said it was considering ring-fencing this type of emergency call as a special case.
The new rules will also see an end to revenue-sharing on 0870 where the company you’re calling receives money from the phone provider for every call made.
Which? spokesman, Bob Tolliday, said: ‘The new rules will make companies think again about using 0870 numbers for routine customer calls, so the delay is very disappointing.’