People spend £250 million a year ringing ‘freephone’ numbers, according to research

Ringing 0800 and 0808 numbers will finally be free, and other charges will become a lot more clear, under new Ofcom rules.

Despite being referred to as freephone numbers — and not usually being charged from landlines — many run up huge costs ringing 0800 and other numbers. But the changes force service providers to make calls to all 175 million "freephone" numbers actually free.

They also clear up costs around numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118.

Ofcom's research found that callers in the UK spend 250 million hours calling these numbers every year, costing around £900 million.

The cost of these calls was often unclear, the regulator said, with service providers failing to warn consumers how much they would be charged for making them.

From today, calls to service numbers will be made up of an access charge which will go to the provider, plus a service charge set by the company or organisation being called.

Telecoms companies will be responsible for setting the access charge and will have to make it clear to consumers how much they are paying on their bills.

They will also be required to inform new customers of the charge when they sign up to a new deal.

Mobile users have previously been forced to pay for calls to 0800 numbers, despite them being labelled "freephone" numbers and costing nothing from landlines.

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said: "UK Calling is the biggest change to telephone calls in over a decade.

"Together we spend around £900 million a year calling service numbers, so it's important that people understand the cost before they pick up the phone.

"Callers will be able to see what they're paying and where their money is going."

Additional reporting by Press Association