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Cost of phoning TV and radio shows to be made clearer - Ofcom

Monday, April 27th 2015 by Dean Reilly

The cost of taking part in phone voting on TV and radio programmes is to be made clearer, it has been announced.

Telecoms regulator Ofcom said that from 1 July, the cost of entering competitions or casting votes on TV and radio programmes will be simpler and easier to understand.

Broadcasters often invite viewers to interact with shows by using phone numbers starting 084, 087 and 09.

Yet the cost of engaging in this way with programmes like Big Brother, The X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, can vary considerably. While some calls only cost a few pence, others could cost more than £2 per minute.

To make call charges for TV or radio consumers clearer, anyone offered the chance to interact with such numbers must be shown an ‘access charge’ which goes to the phone provider, and a ‘service charge’ which is set by the broadcaster.

'Other landlines may vary'

Under the current system, viewers and listeners are often presented with information like: “Calls cost Xp from a BT landline. Other landlines may vary and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.”

Under the new system, the wording will be similar to: “Calls cost Xp plus your phone company’s access charge.”

Ofcom ruled that both landline and mobile phone companies must give customers a single access charge for 084, 087 and 09 numbers, with details of the price clearly stated on bills and when a customer takes out a new contract.

The regulator hopes that viewers and listeners can then work out the exact cost of calling a TV or radio show.

The changes will also apply to businesses, organisations and premium services that use 08 and 09 numbers.

'Biggest changes to phone calls'

Ofcom said the clarification of call charges forms part of the biggest change in phone calls in more than a decade.

On the same day as the TV and radio call changes come into effect, calls to Freephone (0800 and 0808) numbers will also change – becoming free from all consumer landline and mobile phones.

It's estimated that the new charges will affect 175m numbers in the UK.

Ofcom and UK phone companies, working together under the banner UK Calling, will today launch a series of radio adverts explaining the new charging system, followed by newspaper ad campaigns.

Major landline and mobile phone providers are also sending out leaflets about the changes to millions of customers who still receive paper phone bills.

Ofcom CEO Sharon White said: “In July we’ll see the biggest changes to phone calls in over a decade, affecting 175m phone numbers.

“The changes are important for people who enjoy interacting with their favourite shows, but also for everyone calling companies and organisations on 08, 09 and 118 numbers.

“People can look out for more information from their phone company, or visit the UK Calling website.”

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