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Ofcom to overhaul non-geographic call charging

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The UK’s telecoms regulator has confirmed plans to overhaul charging mechanisms for some non-geographic number ranges, with the aim of making it clearer to consumers.

Ofcom has revealed plans to regulate the way that the 08, 09 and 118 number ranges are charged in order to ‘tackle consumer confusion’ about the costs of calling these numbers.

In the plans laid out by Ofcom, businesses will be forced to tell customers how much they will be charged to use these numbers in the attempt to make the costs more understandable to consumers. Consumers will also pay a single ‘access charge’ to their phone company for all calls to these numbers plus a ‘service charge’ to the company or organisation they are calling.

As it stands, calls to these numbers from both mobiles and landlines can be substantial, including the freephone numbers such as 0800, with these charges often being unclear to consumers. Ofcom now want to simplify the way these calls are charged and to make these charges more transparent. They also plan to make 0800 numbers free to call from all phones.

Ed Richards, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Consumers need to have far more transparency about the price they are going to pay for calls so that they can make more informed choice and so competition can work more effectively.

‘Making 0800 free from mobiles and giving people clarity about what they are paying for will improve transparency, improve competition and enhance trust in these important services.’

To comply with legal guidelines and because of the fundamental restructuring of call charging that this will require, the plans will undergo a review until the end of May and then telecoms companies will be given 18 months to implement the changes.