Mobile phone problems Premium rate phone numbers

Premium rate numbers

It's very important to understand how premium rate phone numbers work, especially when using a mobile phone.

Calling a premium rate number from a mobile is generally more expensive than from a landline phone. Most mobile contracts include some free phone calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers. 

But phone operators don't always make it easy to find out how much they charge to call different types of number. To help you we've summarised UK call charges for the most commonly called numbers so you know how much you're likely to pay to call them.

Read our best mobile networks advice guide to see which of the networks score highest for customer satisfaction.

Mobile phone charges jargon buster

Inclusive call minutes

Mobile and home phone packages often include a certain number of 'free' calls to 01, 02 and the newer 03 phone numbers. 'Free' mobile and landline minutes always exclude premium rate 09 phone numbers and calls to 0844 and 0871 numbers, and often exclude 0845 and 0870 - with a few exceptions.

BT, for example, includes 0845 and 0870 phone calls at the weekend as standard with the entry-level BT 'Unlimited weekend plan', and may include 0845 and 0870 phone calls at other times if you have a more expensive home phone package. But it doesn't include 0844 or 0871, which are used by many companies as customer contact phone numbers.

Virgin Media's 'Talk Anywhere' home phone call bundles include a fixed number of minutes to non-geographic numbers as well as 01, 02, 03, mobile and international phone numbers, but qualifying tariffs aren't that cheap (starting at £9 plus line rental for 200 minutes).

Geographic phone numbers

A geographic phone number, such as 0161 for Manchester, tells you which part of the country you're dialling. Geographic numbers always start 01 or 02.

Non-geographic phone numbers

These phone numbers include 03, 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871. Non-geographic phone numbers aren't tied to a geographic location, so you can't tell where in the country you're calling. Large organisations like them because they can use one phone number for all customer communications, which won't have to change if they move office location.

Phone call connection fee

As well as the per-minute cost of your phone call, you may have to add a call connection fee for every non-inclusive call.

Revenue-sharing phone numbers

Organisations can share the profit they make from your call to 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871 numbers with the home phone or mobile network provider. With landline calls, this share can be up to 4p a minute at peak rate.

Expensive and cheap phone calls

01/02 cost

These two codes are used for everyday local and national calls (calling your neighbour or a relative in another part of the country, say). They are included in any free or discounted minutes on your home phone or mobile contract.

If you don't have inclusive 'free' minutes for these, you'll typically pay around 5p or 6p per minute (ppm) peak and around 1.5ppm off-peak from landlines. Virgin Media charges 5p or more per minute for off-peak calls that aren't included in your monthly phone contract.

Most landline phone contracts include free weekend phone calls to 01 and 02 phone numbers. Pay-as-you-go mobile phone rates to 01 and 02 numbers range from around 5ppm to 20ppm.

03 cost

03 is a non-geographic phone code that was introduced in 2007. 03 phone numbers numbers are not revenue sharing and cost the same to call as 01 or 02 phone numbers.

0500 cost

Calls to 0500 numbers are free from landlines, but typically cost between 15p and 30p a minute from mobiles and are not included in 'free' mobile minutes.

07 cost

An 07 number followed by any digit except '0' is usually a mobile phone number. Calls from pay-monthly mobiles to other mobiles are usually included. Calls from pay-as-you-go mobile phones typically range from 5ppm to 20ppm, though cross-network calls (where you're calling someone who doesn't use the same mobile provider as you) may cost more.

The cost of calling mobiles from home phones varies by network, but calls to mobiles cost 7.5ppm (off-peak) or 12.5ppm (peak) from a BT landline.

070 cost

Watch out for 070 codes. They look like mobile phone numbers, but can cost up to 50p a minute. 070 phone numbers are intended to act as a forwarding service – known as personal numbers, they divert calls to the owner's location.

However, because they are easy to mistake for mobile phone numbers, some criminals use them to try to con you into calling them and making money out of it. If you receive a missed call on your mobile from an 070 number, do not call it back – it is likely to be a scam.

0800/0808 cost

Calls to 0800/0808 numbers are known as Freephone and are free to call from UK landlines.

But, despite the name, mobile operators typically charge between 15p and 30p a minute to call 'Freephone' numbers. Calls to 0800/0808 numbers are rarely included in 'free' mobile minutes.

0844 cost

0844 is a revenue-sharing number that is rarely included in 'free' or discounted minutes. Calls to 0844 phone numbers cost up to 5p a minute from a BT landline at all times of day, and up to 40p per minute from mobile phones.

Depending on your mobile network, call charges may be higher on pay-as-you-go (PAYG) than on a pay-monthly contract.

0845 cost

Many providers charge more for 0845 than 01/02/03 phone calls. For example, unless you have one of its 'Talk Anywhere' bundles, Virgin Media charges 10ppm at all times of day.

There are some exceptions. BT includes 0845 phone calls in any 'free' contract minutes, and charges 0.5ppm (off-peak) or 2ppm (peak) for non-inclusive 0845 calls. These charges are actually cheaper than calling 01 or 02 phone numbers.

Mobile call charges to call 0845 numbers range from 15p to 40p per minute. Depending on your mobile network, call charges may be higher on pay-as-you-go (PAYG) than on a pay-monthly contract.

0870 cost

Some, but not all, landline providers include this potentially revenue-sharing number in 'free' or discounted call minutes. BT, the Post Office, Sky and TalkTalk all include it.

Non-inclusive landline phone calls on 0870 typically cost between 4.5p and 10p per minute for daytime calls. Virgin Media charges 10ppm during the evening too, though most other providers offer cheaper evening calls.

Mobile costs range from 15ppm to 40ppm. Depending on your mobile network, call charges may be higher on pay-as-you-go (PAYG) than on a pay-monthly contract.

0871 cost

Typical phone call costs are higher for revenue-sharing number 0871 than 0870 – up to 10ppm from a BT landlines at all times. 0871 is rarely included in 'free' or discounted phone minutes.

Call charges are typically around 35p a minute on mobile networks. Depending on your mobile network, call charges may be higher on pay-as-you-go (PAYG) than on a pay-monthly contract.

09 cost

Phone numbers starting 09 are charged at a premium rate, and are the most expensive type of phone number to call. Premium-rate 09 phone numbers are often used for TV phone-in quizzes, which at least you have a choice whether to call or not. But alarmingly some companies use them for technical support.

The most you're likely to pay from a BT landline is £1.50 a minute or a call, but charges for calling premium-rate phone numbers from a mobile phone can be much higher.

Premium rate number misuse

There are lots of rules around premium-rate numbers to avoid misuse. If you've been incorrectly charged for premium-rate services you didn't sign up to, contact premium-rate regulator PhonePayPlus.

Which? Legal Service may be also able to offer advice. 

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