Many UK phone users find service provider call charge policies unclear. The cost of calling the 08 numbers used by utilities, health services and other bodies seems to be particularly confusing. According to a survey commissioned by Ofcom an average of 15% of phone users did not know the costs of (four or more) calls made to 08 numbers over a three month period.
Another interesting fact the researchers discovered is that over three-quarters of phone users did not check price details when they were unsure about the call cost; they simply went ahead and made the call. One reason why so many callers are seemingly indifferent about the costs is that only a quarter of those surveyed said they could always easily find call charge information.
The Campaign for Clear Call Charges
The results of Ofcom’s consumer research into non-geographic call services contributed to their decision to launch a call charges clarity campaign. In partnership with landline and mobile service providers Ofcom wants to make sure that customers are fully aware of charges for 08, 09 and 118 calls before they use the services. They also want to publicise the fact that the 0800 and 0808 number are going to be free from the summer of 2015; whether the customer calls from a landline or mobile they will not be charged. Ofcom hopes that “these changes will be very significant for UK telephone customers, and are designed to help build consumers’ confidence in using the full range of phone services.”
Helping the Public Understand Call Charges
As a first step in taking the mystery out of service call charges, Ofcom have set up a new website: http://www.ukcalling.info/. Visitors can read here about these latest changes in service call number billing. At present the charges are often presented in vague statements such as, “Calls cost 20p per minute from a BT landline. Other landlines may vary and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.”
From next summer call charge information is going to be broken up into the access charge paid to the service provider per minute of call time, and the service charge set by the organisation who owns the service number. Customers must be told the service provider access charge when they sign their phone contracts. The service number operators will be obliged to include phone service charges in their advertisements. This should make it much easier to work out in advance the cost of these calls.
Meanwhile, the UK Calling Info Website includes a useful interactive guide to current charges. All you need to do is enter the first few digits of the service number and click GO to get this information.