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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 5 Mar 2021

How to avoid costly calls

Non-geographical numbers are often more expensive to call than 01 and 02 numbers. Our guide gives you the lowdown on ways to avoid expensive phone numbers.
Which?Editorial team

1 Use the overseas number

If you want to avoid expensive non-geographical numbers when calling a company, check whether the organisation you want to call has a 'calling from overseas' number (look out for a number that starts +44).

Calling from overseas numbers are likely to be standard 01 or 02 numbers which will be cheaper to call than 0870 or 0845 numbers. 

Just replace +44 with '0' to call the number from within the UK.

Key Information

Costly calls for helplines prohibited

The new Consumer Contracts Regulations prohibits helpline phone charges in excess of the basic rate for calls by existing customers to the retailer or trader about products purchased. 

Find out more about our Costly Calls campaign and how we achieved our goals. 

2 084, 087, 09 or 118 numbers

Premium rate call charges to lines beginning with 084, 087 09 or 118 are made up of two parts - access charges and service charges.

The access charge part of the call goes to your phone company and is charged as pence per minute.

Your phone company should tell you how much the access charge is for calls to customer service numbers and information lines. It should be made clear on bills and when you take out a contract.

The rest of the call charge is made up of the service charge. The cost of this is decided by the company you are calling and they must tell you how much this is.

All telecoms firms will have to provide the cost of their individual access charge on bills and customer contracts.

This means that consumers using an 084, 087, 09 or 118 number should be told: ‘Calls will cost x pence per minute, plus your phone company's access charge’.

Calls to 080 numbers are free-to-caller from a landline or mobiles.

3 Alternatives to costly calls

  1. Many companies will have alternative numbers to call that are not so costly. For example sales numbers will often be cheaper than complaints phone numbers. You can visit the ‘Say no to 0870' website for details of alternative numbers you can call. 
  2. You can check the official company website for an updated numbers. Many companies have changed their numbers and updated their websites but some paperwork, email templates, signage and livery may still be displaying an older number.
  3. Where an 084 or 087 number is shown it may be outdated and you can try calling the matching 034 or 037 number. If it works, your call will be cheaper.