0845 and 0870 I don’t think so

Regular readers of my other blog Miss Inexperience will be au fait with the concept that I live on a boat. As a direct consequence of living on a boat my main phone is … yep you guessed it, a mobile.

Screen Shot 2012 09 25 at 21 10 21My mobile contract is with t-mobile UK (soon to be everything everywhere) which means that if I wanted to I could pay an extra £2.50 per month to get 30 minutes of “free” calls to 08 numbers or I can struggle on using saynoto0870.com to attempt to locate geographic numbers (01 or 02 numbers), other peoples land lines or swallowing the cost of ringing the euphemistically named “lo call” numbers only to spend quite a lot of money hanging around listening to poor quality music in order to talk to say … my insurance company (MCE insurance only list 0844 and 0871 numbers on their site, as do e bike) or fabulously my GP Surgery (the offender has now gone back to a geographical number presumably as a direct result of customer feedback).

Calling a non geographic number from a mobile costs, we all know that, what it is difficult to find out is how much it costs. No where on the t-mobile website is it actually listed, instead there is a page where you can type in your non-geographic number (070, 08, 09, 116 or 118) and a captcha and find out what it will cost you to call that number (if you happen to have a computer with internet access at the time). As an example here’s the main contact number for MCE insurance with the costs for ringing it from a t-mobile phone:

Screen Shot 2012 09 25 at 21 45 57

While I was playing with the form I decided to check an 0800 number, this is the one to call if you need to claim Job Seekers Allowance (which you can do for free from the job centre or a public call box if you can find such a thing and it’s clean enough for you to feel you can use it). It seems from this that T-Mobile have finally acquiesed and made 0800 numbers free, although I notice my current contract is excluded from this. I hope when I renew it they will waive the 7.4p per/minute charge or I might think about not renewing my contract after all.

Screen Shot 2012 09 25 at 21 57 51

Skippy as readers of his blog will know, is with O2 (poor O2 is all I can say to that), so for comparison I went looking for the equivalent tariffs on his network. This is what I came up with:

Screen Shot 2012 09 25 at 22 14 42

As you can see there is no mention of 0845/0844 numbers on there, but I do find this format easier to understand (and considerably more useful) than t-mobile’s take on it. According to OfCom calls to 0843 and 0844 numbers which are used by businesses for sales, enquiry and customer service lines as well as some pay-as-you go internet access services should cost:

between 1p and 13p per minute for landline customers. Calls from mobile phones are typically
charged between 15p and 41p per minute, depending on the provider and the number called.

0845 numbers are slightly cheaper varying from 1p to 10.5p per minute from landlines to between 12p and 41p per minute from mobiles. While 0870 numbers vary massively even from landlines

Calls from some fixed networks cost no more than a geographic rate call (01 or 02, between 2p and 10p plus a call set-up fee in some cases) and may count towards any inclusive minutes in the same way. Calls from other fixed networks typically cost up to 10p per minute. From some mobile networks calls typically cost between 12p and 41p per minute.

Recently some other providers have also included calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers in call packages, making them free at certain times of the day.[1]

So, what is the advantage of having a non-geographic “lo call” number in the age of the mobile phone?
Anyone? No, I didn’t think so. In fact if you search the OfCom website for “0845 numbers” or “non-geographic numbers” you will find a lot of evidence that the general public are most unimpressed with them, so why are they hanging on when people don’t like them? Well, people don’t like automated call handling systems either but there doesn’t seem any likelihood that we’ll be getting rid of those in a hurry either. So, are non-geographic numbers really that much of a problem?

Well yes, actually they are. They are when you have an accident, and need to claim on your insurance and have to spend over half an hour on the phone to the insurance company (quite a large proportion of that on hold), or when you have to ring the RAC (which you’re inevitably going to be doing from a mobile). The extortionate charges for calling these numbers is ridiculous (yes, I know that the out of allowance call rate for geographic numbers (01/02 numbers) is similar, but the difference is the ability to bundle them. Calls to non-geographic numbers (not premium rate numbers if you want to ring those that’s you’re own problem, I’m talking about the numbers for service providers) are to my knowledge outside the scope of all mobile phone contracts inclusive minutes. Some of this is a problem of mobile phone companies charging unfairly for use of their services, but that’s a whole other blog post. In the mean time it is possible for companies to circumnavigate this problem by always providing an easy to find geographic alternative to their “lo call” number.

The continuation (perpetuation) of “lo-call” rate numbers could be down to the fact that these numbers are “revenue sharing” where part of the call cost is paid to the recipient of the call (the way these numbers are administered is due to change in 2013). Whatever the reason behind their perpetuation in a world where there is no difference between the cost to call a number within your area code and a number outside it, they seem like an extremely unfair way of generating extra money from a consumer who has no choice but to call because they require the service that is being provided (i.e. insurance) and who cannot vote with their feet because they are only calling because they have to and not because they are trying to buy something from the company in question.

I don’t have an answer to this other than to say please, give us a geographic alternative.

[1] data from Number Crunching: How much does a phone call really cost? [PDF], (prices correct as of 18-07-2012)

4 thoughts on “0845 and 0870 I don’t think so”

  1. “my insurance company (MCE insurance only list 0844 and 0871 numbers on their site, as do e-bike) or fabulously my GP Surgery (the offender has now gone back to a geographical number presumably as a direct result of customer feedback).”

    Your GP surgery changed to an 01, 02 or 03 number because their GMS contract was amended in April 2010 banning the use of numbers where callers pay more than calling a geographic number.

    “It seems from this that T-Mobile have finally acquiesed and made 0800 numbers free, although I notice my current contract is excluded from this.”

    Generally, 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers are not free from a mobile. A short list of these numbers are free from mobiles because they have been individually negotiated.

    Ofcom propose that all 080 numbers become free from mobiles in 2014.

    “As you can see there is no mention of 0845/0844 numbers on there”

    They come under “UK voice calls” at 35p/min, even though the revenue share they pay out is less than 3p/min for 0845 numbers and is only 0.5p to 5p/min for 0844 numbers and depends on the exact number called.

    “So, what is the advantage of having a non-geographic ‘lo call’ number in the age of the mobile phone?”

    0845 numbers were “lo-call” numbers, but only from landlines and only until 2005. Since then, there has been no tie with “local rates”. There has never been any such tie as far as mobile phones are concerned.

    Nowadays, these are simply revenue share numbers, as are the rest of the 084, 087 and 09 numbers.

    “So, are non-geographic numbers really that much of a problem?”

    They are, but Ofcom introduced 03 numbers in 2007 to sort out these problems. 03 numbers are charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers and included in call packages. Revenue share is not allowed.

    Businesses have been slow to swap but the Consumer Rights Directive must be passed into law by mid-December 2013. It will force many of them to make the move. It requires that callers “pay no more than the basic rate” to contact companies about faults, renewals and other such customer service functions. It will force many companies away from 084 and 087 numbers and on to geographic-rated or free numbers.

    “The continuation (perpetuation) of ‘lo-call’ rate numbers could be down to the fact that these numbers are ‘revenue sharing'”

    084 and 087 numbers persist, but they haven’t been “lo-call” since 2005. They are revenue sharing numbers.

    Once Ofcom’s “unbundled tariffs” are implemented in 2014, users of these numbers will have to declare the Service Charge that applies, and phone companies will have to declare their Access Charge.

    Forced to declare it, many companies will no longer be able to justify the “revenue share” Service Charge (which has always been there, but hidden away within the total call price) and will move to geographic-rated or free numbers.

    1. Your GP surgery changed to an 01, 02 or 03 number because their GMS contract was amended in April 2010 banning the use of numbers where callers pay more than calling a geographic number.

      That’s interesting I assumed there had to be a reason why they had suddenly changed back. Sadly, the change, doesn’t make them any more likely to actually answer the phone, it just means I’m not paying so much for the privilege of not having my call answered.

      Ofcom propose that all 080 numbers become free from mobiles in 2014.

      Useful to know I will keep an eye out for how much wriggling they attempt in order to avoid giving this service to everyone.

      They are, but Ofcom introduced 03 numbers in 2007 to sort out these problems. 03 numbers are charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers and included in call packages. Revenue share is not allowed.

      I am increasingly seeing 03 numbers around the place, it’s good to see them catching on but a pity that it has taken so long for companies to realise that charging their customers more than they need to to contact them, and then leaving them on hold for large periods of time is bad plan.

      Once Ofcom’s “unbundled tariffs” are implemented in 2014, users of these numbers will have to declare the Service Charge that applies, and phone companies will have to declare their Access Charge.

      Forced to declare it, many companies will no longer be able to justify the “revenue share” Service Charge (which has always been there, but hidden away within the total call price) and will move to geographic-rated or free numbers.

      I really hope you’re right about this.

  2. In recent weeks, thousands of businesses have changed their 084 and 087 numbers over to new 034 and 037 numbers to comply with Regulation 41 of the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013. The deadline was 13 June 2014.

    Although the new rules do not cover the financial sector, many banks are also making this change. The FCA will be bringing in regulation in 2015.

    Several phone companies managed to stall Ofcom’s plans for free calls to 080 numbers from mobiles. This will now take effect on 26 June 2015. The “unbundled tariff” system for calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers takes effect the same day.

  3. In support of “Clear Call Rates for Everyone”, which must be implemented on 26 June 2015, Ofcom’s website detailing the “unbundled tariffs” system for calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers can be found at http://ukcalling.info/

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