UK communications regulator Ofcom is working with fixed-line and mobile network operators to inform consumers about forthcoming changes to telephone call charges.
Calls from UK mobile phones to 0800 and 0808 ‘free phone’ telephone numbers will be free to all customers from next summer. Some networks currently charge for these calls. In addition, call rates to other numbers that begin with 08, 09 and 118 will be clarified for fixed-line and mobile customers.
A six-month marketing campaign using the headline ‘UK Calling’ will be launched in January 2015. Information will also be provided on bills, by text messages and via social media. BT, EE, Kingston upon Hull operator KC, O2, Sky, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone are all supporting the campaign.
In addition, an information website at ukcalling.info has gone live this week.
The exact date when the changes come into effect is due to be confirmed later this year; 26th June 2015 has previously been proposed.
Under Ofcom’s new rules, consumers calling 08, 09 and 118 numbers will be told there is an ‘access charge’ going to their phone company and a ‘service charge’ set by the organisation they’re calling. Individual phone companies will set their access charge and promote it to customers.
It means that messages such as “calls from mobiles may cost considerably more” will disappear. Instead, customers will be told “calls cost [xx] pence per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge”.
Ed Richards, Chief Executive of Ofcom, said “For a long time there has been a lack of transparency in the cost of calling 08, 09 and 118 numbers. The existing rules are no longer serving the interests of consumers, or indeed phone companies. 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. From next summer, service numbers will be advertised much more clearly, and phone bills will look a little different. We want telephone users to be comfortable with the changes, so we’ll be working closely with phone companies and consumer groups to get the message across as clearly as possible.”
Operators aren’t obliged to offer the same rules to business mobile phone users, although Ofcom expects them to do so.