23 April 2009
New Ofcom rules should soon make it cheaper to call 0870 numbers.
The measures - which will come into effect on 1 August 2009 - will also give consumers a much clearer idea of how much it costs to call these numbers.
0870 numbers are used by many businesses and organisations to provide a wide range of information and advice including many customer service lines.
But consumers are often charged more for calling these numbers than they would if they called a 'geographic rate' (01, 02 or 03) number.
And because they cost more, businesses and organisations are also able to take a cut of the call charges - a practice known as revenue sharing.
However, the new rules will encourage communication providers to stop charging higher prices for calls to 0870 numbers from fixed lines and mobiles than calls to 'geographic rate' numbers.
They will also be encouraged to include 0870 calls in call packages on the same basis as geographic calls.
Communications providers that want to continue charging for 0870 calls at rates above those for geographic numbers will be bound by strict rules about how prices are publicised on websites and in promotional material at point of sale.
They will also be responsible for making sure their customers know how much they will be charged for calling an 0870 number.
Communications providers will not be allowed to advertise 0870 numbers as 'national rate' unless they are charging at geographic rates.
If they do not comply with these rules, they could be subject to enforcement action including possible fines.
Ofcom's new rules should also effectively end revenue sharing on 0870 numbers.
Ofcom welcomes steps that some fixed line companies have already taken to include calls to 0870 numbers in call packages and reduce their prices.