Five questions about: freephone numbers


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The Independent Online

Ah, you’ve written about this before. Freephone numbers cost a packet from mobiles, don’t they? 

That’s true, but it’s set to change under new proposals. The telephone regulator Ofcom has demanded that freephone numbers should be free of charge from wherever you call.

Brilliant! Is this happening in time for Christmas?  

Sadly, no. It will be in the next 18 months, Ofcom said. But it will then mean calls to 0800, 0808 and 116 numbers will always be free. That means calling such numbers from your mobile won’t land you with an unexpectedly huge bill.

Is that all that Ofcom is planning to change? 

No. It’s also making other changes. A key new rule will mean future callers to 08, 09 or 118 numbers will be told how much their call will cost, broken down into an access charge and an additional service charge. That change is being made to ensure you know how much a call will cost you.

What about expensive helplines?

 Ah. Consumer minister Jo Swinson had some news about that this week: she’s banning them.  To be exact, the expensive helpline numbers operated by airlines, train operators and major high-street and online retailers will be banned, with pressure being put on the Financial Conduct Authority to stop banks and other finance firms forcing consumers to use high-cost customer service numbers.

This all sounds like great news. What’s the catch? No catch.

The new helpline rules should come in from next June and will mean you’ll no longer have to pay more than the basic rate when you call helplines to complain about a faulty microwave or incorrect train tickets. You’ll have to wait 18 months for the freephone rules to be introduced, but by summer 2015 the UK should be a cheaper place to make calls to businesses, and it will be much easier to understand the cost.

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