What is happening
What was wrong with the old system?
Service numbers are used by telephone callers for a range of things, from finding out information to banking, directory enquiry and entertainment services.
Research found that telephone users were sometimes confused about how much it costs to call service numbers, and who receives the money. This means people lacked confidence in these numbers, and sometimes avoided using them.
Has the overall cost of calls changed?
Freephone numbers, starting 0800 or 0808, are now free for consumers to call from all mobile phones and landlines.
For numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118, the new system makes the cost of calls clearer than at present. The actual cost of each call is determined by the level of the access charge set by your phone company, plus the service charge. There may be some changes to the cost of individual calls, as telephone companies adapt to the new charging system.
Do the new rules apply from mobiles and landlines?
Yes, they apply to calls to service numbers from both mobiles and landlines.
Do the new rules apply across the whole of the UK?
Yes, they apply across the UK. This does not include the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, which have their own structure for these calls.
What if I’m calling from a business phone?
The new rules apply to calls made from residential lines and consumer mobile phones. Phone companies continue to have flexibility over how they charge for these calls from business phones.
What if I’m calling from a payphone?
The new access and service charges do not apply to calls from payphones, as these are charged differently. It may not be possible to call all service numbers from payphones – particularly those that have a higher cost per minute, or those with a higher one-off service charge.
Are text messages affected?
No, the new rules do not affect the cost of sending text messages.
When did the changes happen?
All the changes happened on 1 July 2015. There was an information campaign, UK Calling, to make telephone users across the UK aware of the changes in plenty of time.
I've heard that some companies will have to offer a contact number charged at basic rate. How does that fit with UK Calling?
The Government has introduced new legislation affecting companies such as airlines, train operators, and major high street and online retailers who offer phone helplines to customers who have purchased their products. These parties must ensure that such customers are offered a ‘basic rate’ contact number. Basic rate means a number which costs the same as a standard ‘geographic’ call (like an 01 or 02 number), or a standard mobile rate, or else is free. This change is separate from the UK Calling changes, which were led by Ofcom. Find out more.
Which numbers are affected?
The cost of calling service numbers starting 084, 087, 09, and 118 has been made clearer. The cost of these numbers has been split into two pieces: the access charge and the service charge. Calls to landlines and mobiles are not affected. Neither are calls from payphones, international calls, or calls to the UK when roaming overseas.
Are telephone numbers changing?
The new arrangements do not require any telephone numbers to change. None of the companies offering services on service numbers are required to change their number. Of course, businesses and public organisations remain free to move to a new number if they wish.
Do I need to make any changes to my phone or the package I am on?
No. Your telephone provider will advise you of your access charge for calling these numbers.
Why doesn’t Ofcom ban non-geographic numbers, or force companies to use ordinary geographic numbers
Companies and public bodies are free to choose which kind of telephone numbers they use to be contacted. Ofcom does not have powers to require organisations to use particular numbers. Ofcom does encourage public bodies to consider using 03 numbers, which cost no more to call than a normal geographic number.
Where can I find the cost of calls to numbers before I call them?
The service charge will be communicated by the organisation which is using the number to provide a service.
The access charge will be included in your phone company’s pricing plans, as well as on phone bills. You will be told the access charge when you take out a new phone contract. Your phone company will be able to tell you what the access charge will be. You can then add this to the service charge, which should be advertised wherever you see the number. The total cost of the call is the access charge plus the service charge.
Exactly how will my phone company communicate the access charge?
Phone companies are required to publish access charges in a way that is prominent and readily accessible to customers. That means on your phone company's website, in its published price lists, on bills and in any advertising and promotional material which refer to call pricing. When a new customer takes out a contract, the phone company they are signing up with must inform them about the access charge.
Phone companies are also responsible for informing consumers whether charges for calls to service numbers are included within bundles of inclusive calls or inclusive call minutes.
Will the access charge always be the same, regardless of which telephone or mobile company I use?
Access charges are set by each telephone company, and communicated by them to their customers. You may wish to compare access charges between providers and for the different call plans a provider offers.
Although the access charge may vary between providers, it will always be the same for calls you make to the affected numbers within your call plan. Some providers may also choose to offer call plans which include some of these charges within their inclusive call packages.
Will the service charge always be the same, regardless of which telephone provider I use to the call the number?
Yes. Unless you are a business customer, the service charge to call a particular number will be the same no matter which telephone or provider you call from. The service charge is set by the organisation you are calling.
Who takes the money from the cost of calling a service number?
Various parties may do so: your telephone company, the organisation you are calling, and the company responsible for routing or connecting the call. After the UK Calling changes, you will be able to see how much money is going to your phone company (the access charge), and how much is the amount set by the organisation you are calling (the service charge).
What is happening with Freephone calls from mobiles?
Calls to numbers beginning 0800 or 0808 have been made free from consumers’ mobiles and landlines, making things much clearer.
Will 0500 Freephone numbers become free to call from mobiles?
0500 numbers are not part of these changes and calls from mobiles to these numbers may still be charged for. Ofcom has decided that the 0500 number range will be withdrawn from use in 2017.
What is UK Calling?
UK Calling is the name for the changes that have made telephone charges clearer, and the information campaign to communicate them. The campaign was led by Ofcom, the communications regulator, working together with major phone companies.
Where can I get more information?
On the website, ukcalling.info, or by speaking to your telephone company.
Who is calling?
You can check at Who Called Me UK website.