Ofcom announces changes to non-geographic numbers | DMA

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Ofcom announces changes to non-geographic numbers

Ofcom has confirmed that it will introduce unbundled tariffs for 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers and calls to 080 and 116 numbers will be free for consumers from summer 2015. Read on to find out what your business needs to do ahead of the implementation date.

Background to changes
Ofcom has been carrying out extensive consultations on the way non-geographic numbers are charged and issues surrounding the cost to call 080 and 116 numbers from mobiles. Ofcom identified the number ranges (084, 087, 09, 118, 080 and 116) as needing reform because consumers lack awareness of how the pricing works while businesses have little control over the pricing, which gives them no incentive to address any issues with them.

080 and 116 numbers
These will become free to call from any telephone, whether fixed line or mobile. This means that members currently using a 080 number will have to factor in the extra cost of covering calls from mobiles into their budgets or decide whether they wish to continue to use a 080 number.

Non-geographic numbers
Ofcom will introduce unbundled tariffs for 084, 087, 09 and 118 ranges from Summer 2015. There will be two parts to the charge a consumer makes to their telephone company:

(i) The Access Charge which is paid to the phone company who originates the call
(ii) The Service Charge which will be paid to the phone company terminating the call, which can also be shared with the service provider, ie the company providing a service using that number.

This will mean that consumers will know how much they are paying their telephone company and how much is passed to other organisations involved in the call.

To ensure transparency, there will be rules on the structure of the access and service charges so consumers understand and remember them.

These will include:

  • One access charge per tariff package for calls to all unbundled non-geographic number ranges.
  • A simple “pence per minute” rate set for the access charge
  • A single service charge for each individual 084, 087, 09 and 118 number when called from all fixed and mobile phones
  • Caps on the maximum rate of the service charge depending on the number range (except for 118 numbers). So, for example, numbers in the 084 range will have a cap of 7p (inc VAT) and the 087 range will have a 13p (inc VAT) cap
  • Telephone companies must publicise the amount of the service charge for each tariff package they offer
  • Companies and service providers must include their service charge whenever the number is shown, so in any advertising and marketing materials for example

The changes should provide significant benefits to consumers with clearer prices, increased competition between telephone companies and potentially service providers, which should increase customer confidence in these numbers. Increased consumer confidence should encourage businesses to use these services for their customers and develop new and beneficial services to consumers.

What should business do now?
DMA members who use these numbers need to understand how these changes will affect them. They need to find out the service charge that will be applicable to the numbers they already use and decide whether to keep those numbers or move to ones with a different service charge. This information should be available to service providers later this year.

Members will also need to review all literature and advertising/marketing materials where the numbers are stated to ensure they are communicating the charges clearly.

The recommended wording is:

“Calls will cost Xp (or a per-minute description), plus your phone company’s access charge”

Ofcom will be launching a new website in July 2014 (UK Calling – Clear call rates for everyone) which will have details on the proposed changes, with pages on the cost of calling, Freephone and FAQs. There are also pages for industry. Members are advised to go to the website, when live, to find more information on the changes.

Janine Paterson, Solicitor & Legal Manager, DMA

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