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Freephone numbers finally set to become free for mobile users

Friday, June 12th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Freephone numbers will be free to call from mobiles as well as landlines as changes to call charges come into effect next month.

From 1 July, numbers starting 0800 and 0808 – which currently incur charges if called from a mobile – will be free from all phones.

Landline and mobile charges for calling numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118 will also be made clearer.

The changes are being made by telecoms regulator Ofcom, which has been working with UK phone companies on the new system dubbed ‘UK Calling’.

Numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118 are often used by businesses, helplines and directory enquiries, competition and voting services.

Every year, callers in the UK spend a total of 250m hours calling these service numbers, spending around £900m between them, according to Ofcom research.

Until now, callers to these numbers have not generally been told by the service provider how much they will be charged.

But from next month, prices will become clearer on telephone bills, in marketing and in advertising.

Charges for service numbers will be made up of a ‘service charge’ set by the company or organisation being called and an ‘access charge’ going to the phone company.

'Understand the cost'

The service charge will have to be displayed wherever the phone number is advertised.

The access charge will be shown on phone companies’ bills and communicated to new customers when they sign up to a contract.

Consumers will be able to understand the exact cost of making the call by adding the access and service charges together.

Currently, the information given to callers is along the lines of:

“Calls cost Xp per minute from a BT landline. Calls may vary from other landlines and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.”

Under the new system, the cost of calls will be explained in a simpler format:

“Calls cost Xp per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.”

Ofcom CEO Sharon White said: “Next month we’ll see the biggest changes to telephone calls in over a decade.

“Together we spend around £900m a year on these calls, so it’s important that people understand the cost before they pick up the phone.

“From 1 July, callers will be able to see how much they’re paying and where their money is going."

She said more information on the charges, and what they mean for consumers, is available on the UK Calling website.

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