At last UK telecoms regulator Ofcom is putting consumer interests before those of the telcos and stepping in to regulate some of their more devious pricing practices. From Summer 2015 Ofcom is making changes to save consumers money and make some of the more opaque call charges clearer. Despite Ofcom reorganising phone numbers some years ago into the 01 to 09 ranges it has been far from clear to consumers what they will pay to call many numbers, especially in the 08 range where they are rarely included in call bundles.
Ofcom has mandated that mobile calls to ‘free to call’ 0800 and 0808 numbers will be free from all mobiles, as well as landlines. Currently only giffgaff (an innovative O2 MVNO) and Three (on some tariffs) offer free calls. Historically other mobile operators have used 0800 calls as an extra source of revenue by charging for them outside call bundles or making them inclusive for an additional fee. As a giffgaff user I’ve saved a lot over the years calling 0800 numbers for free.
Charges for calling other 08, 09 and 118 numbers will also be more transparent. In the future the charge will be comprised of two elements; an access charge and a service charge. The access charge will go to the consumer’s phone company and will be made clear on bills and contracts. The service charge will be the rest of the call charge, determined by the organisation being called and displayed by them. Consumers will no longer be faced with confusing messages like ‘Calls cost 20p per minute from a BT landline. Other landlines may vary and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more’.
It’s good to see Ofcom taking a more consumer centric approach to pricing.