We're talking telephone numbers

Calling 0831 or 0991? It could cost more than you think,

Mobile phones and pagers were popular presents last Christmas. But under the wrapping can lie a gift with hidden costs. Leaving aside the price of making a call from a mobile phone, a five-minute call to someone's mobile, on a weekday, can cost almost pounds 2, and a call to a pager more than 50p.

Anyone ringing an Orange or One 2 One phone is in for a particular shock. From 19 February, the cost of calls to these mobiles from an ordinary phone will almost double, to 30p per minute during the day and 20p per minute on weekday evenings.

The new prices were announced the week before Christmas, when many presents were already under the tree.

The mobile phone networks claim they were making a loss on calls from fixed phones and point out that their phones still cost less to call than rivals Cellnet or Vodafone (37.5p a minute on weekdays). However, users may feel entitled to be upset, given that cheaper incoming calls might well have been a reason for choosing a particular phone.

Mobile phones are just one of a growing band of special-tariff numbers that can inflate normal phone bills. And such is the plethora of new services on the market that it is not always easy to spot which are the expensive numbers: BT's published list is five pages long.

National Phoneday two years ago made some headway in helping to highlight potentially expensive numbers by giving an extra 1 to all standard phone numbers. But even so, there are exceptions. Some pagers have ordinary sounding numbers, but extraordinary costs: 015231 numbers cost 54.99p per call; 014263 cost 24.68p.

Phoneday did little to distinguish free, low-cost and premium lines. BT's free and reduced- rate numbers are reasonably well known (0800 and 0345, respectively), but more telephone firms are entering the market, each with their own numbers for free or low-cost calls.

Personal numbers - which track down subscribers wherever they are - also underline the confusing range of prices. Mercury's recently launched Call Direct (0541), costs the national long-distance rate to call. Competitors operating personal numbers starting with 07 cost far more. Some cost 16.7p per minute peak rate, some 30p and some 41.05p; and the numbers themselves are hard to tell apart.

Elsewhere, large companies such as the insurer Equitable Life are switching their publicly published numbers to the 0990 or 0541 codes. This brings advantages to companies by simplifying their administration but not to callers. Call an 0990 number and you will pay the long-distance rate, even if the company has its offices in the next street.

The long-distance charges differ from phone company to phone company, and are higher from payphones, mobiles or using chargecards.

There are other traps for the unwary. Advertisers have to state if a number is premium rate,

but it is usually in small print. The 0990 code - 8.79p per minute peak, the UK national rate - is very similar to premium rate 0991. One wrong digit could prove expensive: 0991 calls are 149.99p a minute at any time.

There are further pitfalls calling and using mobile phones. Vodafone and Cellnet answer automatically if a phone is out of reach, and callers pay to get this response. Free-call numbers are not free from all mobiles. And if your mobile fails, some networks' customer service numbers are on mobile codes that are free from the handset but at the full rate from an ordinary phone.

This week, Oftel, the telecoms regulator, is expected to announce proposals that will improve the situation. According to its consultation documents, ordinary numbers (geographic in the jargon) will start 01 or 02, mobiles, pagers and personal numbers will start 07, free, local and national rate calls 08, and premium rate codes 09. But some will not change until 2001, though Oftel will be encouraging premium rate numbers to move to 09 as soon as possible.

The phone companies accept that the current situation leaves much to be desired. "We sympathise with customers," a BT spokesman admits. "It can be confusing, and it is something the industry should look at."

At the same time, the companies are asking for the new system to be introduced slowly so they can move customers over to it gently. The prognosis of many is that confusion will worsen before it improves, as old and new numbers run side by side.

IT'S DEAR TO TALK

Mobile phones Cost to call per minute

0958, 0973, 0976 30p peak, 20p off-peak, 10p weekend

0831, 0370, 0378 37.5p peak, 25p off-peak, 12.5p weekend

Orange and One 2 One are slighly cheaper to call than Cellnet or Vodafone

Pagers

014264 8.23p peak, 3.95p off-peak, 3.29p weekend

014266 24.675p at all times

015231 54.99p peak, 34.9p off-peak

Premium rate

0898 49p peak, 39p off-peak and weekends

0891 50p peak, 45p off-peak and weekends

0991 149p at all times

Personal numbers

07000 16.71p peak, 9.85p off-peak and weekends

07050, 07060 41.05p peak, 28.32p off-peak

National-rate calls (long-distance charge regardless of call distance)

0990, 05415 8.79p peak, 7.29p off-peak, 3.29p weekends

Low-cost/low-rate calls

0345, 0845 3.95p peak, 1.65p off-peak, 1p weekends

Freephone

0800, 0500, 0321 Company with the number pays all the cost

All prices include VAT. Call BT on Freephone 0800 800 891 for a free copy of "The Call Price Leaflet for Residential Customers".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal

I had dinner with the pensions minister Steve Webb this week. There was a wide-ranging discussion about the new pensions freedoms starting in April, and changes to the state pension. Crucially, I also got to ask Mr Webb whether he had any plans to have another look at the injustice that is frozen pensions.

Number of serially under-performing investment funds has increased by a fifth, survey reveals

The new Spot the Dog survey shows that even famous fund managers, holding billions of pounds of our money, can make mistakes

Mark Dampier: We always bring down Britain. But there's plenty in the tank

While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market

If you haven’t switched supplier or tariff in the last 12 months then you could almost certainly save money by doing so

There are easier ways to save hundreds on your energy bills

A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier

Worse hit are loyal customers with long-standing accounts – their loyalty is rewarded with lower interest rates than more recently-launched accounts

Savers are being let down by banks and building societies, says Financial Conduct Authority

Regulator’s investigation into the market found that around £160bn was held in easy access savings accounts that pay interest lower or equal to BoE base rate

What to do if you're facing repossession: However far you fall, you're not on your own

Helen Fisher had to become a 24-hour carer, and then she faced repossession. But going to the right places for help changed everything, writes Simon Read

Simon Read: Information is power. And it's in the wrong hands when people are cold-called by companies that know they're in debt

In debt? You're likely to be targeted by unscrupulous companies that hope to profit from your misfortune. They may try to pretend to be your friend by offering what they call "help" – but almost certainly that help will come with a cost and leave you worse off than you were before they got in touch.

Mark Dampier: So you've got pension freedom... will it end up as a cold shower?

In less than three months' time radical changes to pensions will take effect, providing investors with more freedom. Yet for those who prefer to make their own investment decisions, the choice of funds available is overwhelming. And an income drawdown account is also not particularly easy to manage.

The move marks the culmination of a long campaign by debt charities and insolvency firms and follows a call for evidence launched by the Minister last August

Bankruptcy rules to change, Business Minister announces

The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000

Three-quarters of parents say being unable to afford to heat their home adequately is hitting the health of their children

Family well-being and health hit by heating costs

A shock report reveals that fuel poverty is affecting desperate families – and their children

Many people have no understanding of pensions

Are you ready for pensions reforms?

Most people are too confused to know how to use their pensions for a secure income

At a rate of 7.5 per cent, the wind is blowing behind ethical investors

A new initiative has financial and ethical virtues, says Simon Read
Ticket to cry: many passengers have been penalised with exorbitant and unnecessary rises

Simon Read: Inflation is riding the slow train. So why have we been given a one-way ticket to travel on the fares express?

I struck a chord with many of you when I wrote a piece earlier this week about rising train fares. It seems there is an army of travellers who feel they've been ripped off by increased transport costs.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

    Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

    £25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

    Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea