Telecoms regulator Ofcom will today launch a consultation calling for 0800 numbers to be made free from all phones – including mobiles.
According to Ofcom, mobile calls to 0800 numbers can incur charges of up to 21p per minute, despite being free from landlines.
As 15% of households are now mobile-only, many are unable to benefit from ‘free’ 0800 calls while others are often ‘confused’ by the pricing, according to the regulator.
Richard Lloyd, Head of Consumer Action at Which?, said: ‘We agree that 0800 numbers should be free from all phones, particularly given the increasing number of mobile-only homes in the UK.
‘We believe the current chaotic and inconsistent pricing of numbers makes it impossible for consumers to predict the cost of calls so we also welcome measures to simplify the system and increase transparency.’
Call charge confusion
Ofcom’s proposals are part of a wider consultation to tackle confusion over charges to non-geographic numbers. Which? reported the regulator’s concerns in December 2010, and they are now entering a period of formal consultation.
The consultation comes after Ofcom’s campaign to stop ‘bill shock’, after the regulator reported 1.4 million mobile phone contract customers may have been affected by unexpectedly high bills over the previous six months.
Ofcom’s new proposals aim to clarify charges to 08, 09 and 118 numbers, as consumers are currently unable to tell how much they’ll be charged for these calls unless they dial from a landline.
Ed Richards, Chief Executive of Ofcom, said: ‘Consumers are often confused about how much they will pay to call these number ranges. Under our proposals, people will have much clearer information and there will be greater competition on prices.
‘By making calls to 0800 numbers free from all phones, we will clear up any uncertainty about making calls, especially from mobiles, to the benefit of consumers and service providers alike.’
In addition to proposing that freephone numbers (starting 080 and 116) will be free from all telephones, Ofcom is also calling for clarification of charges made to 08, 09 and 118 numbers, ‘unbundling’ call costs so consumers see charges made by the phone provider and the company being called. Existing confusion around 0845 and 0870 numbers will also be addressed in the consultation.