Which? reveals most hated phone numbersStudy: 49% of people actively avoid calling 0870

23 October 2008

New Which? research shows that many people actively avoid calling revenue sharing and premium rate phone numbers, according to a Which? survey of attitudes to phone numbers among more than 2,000 Which? members. 

Revenue sharing phone numbers - which include 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871 - let organisations that use them share revenue from customers calls. They are almost always more expensive to call - from both landlines and mobile phones - than numbers starting 01 or 02. Many companies use them for customer service and support phone lines, and even some government departments still use them. 

Premium rate numbers start 09 and are the most expensive type of number to call.

Phone numbers you avoid

The Which? survey, conducted in August 2008, reveals that:

  • around half of Which? members avoid calling 0870 and 0871 phone numbers
  • 23% and 22% shun 0844 and 0845 phone numbers respectively
  • more than 60% avoid premium rate 09 phone numbers

03 phone numbers

In 2007, telecoms regulator Ofcom introduced 03 – a non-geographic code that costs the same as 01/02 geographic numbers. Some organisations – including the BBC and the Driving Standards Agency – have switched their 0870 contact numbers to 03.

There have been concerns raised that low awareness and trust of 03 numbers might put customers off calling them. But the Which? survey shows that while only a third of you have heard of 03, just 8% avoid using such a phone number. 

It’s evident, though, that knowledge of 03 numbers needs to improve. Just 24% of survey respondents correctly stated that 03 costs the same as the 01/02 geographic dialling codes – 10% think it costs more, 4% less and 62% don’t know.

Stop the phone number rip-off

Which? telecoms expert Ceri Stanaway says: 'It's clear from Which?'s research that low awareness of the 03 dialling code shouldn’t deter organisations from using it. 

'It's not fair for organisations to make money out of customers who are calling in about a problem with a service. We think all organisations - in particular government departments - should switch their customer service and support phone numbers from expensive 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871 and 09 phone numbers, and use 03, 0800 or 01/02 codes instead – or at least as an alternative phone number.

'Unfortunately, not all organisations see it this way and many still use revenue sharing phone numbers such as 0845 and 0870.'

Which? publishes its 01 geographic phone number alongside an 0845 number (it doesn't receive any revenue from the 0845 phone number, but it offers the choice because for a minority of people 0845 is cheaper than a geographic number).

For more on what different types of phone number cost to call, which companies are still using revenue sharing phone numbers, and how to avoid being ripped off, take a look at the Which? guide to expensive phone call charges.

If you're thinking of changing your phone service, the Which? review of phone bundles from companies like TalkTalk and Virgin Media can help.