Financial News

  • 13 December 2013, 9:11

Premium Rate Call Charges Capped In Shake-Up

Freephone numbers will be free from mobiles and premium rate call charges are to be capped, the telecoms regulator has announced.

The reforms will not come into effect until June 2015, to give providers time to introduce the changes, but Ofcom said they would ensure clearer costs and intensify competition to bring down charges.

It highlighted confusion surrounding costs to lines starting 08, 09 and 118, which are used by the likes of banks, directory enquiry firms and entertainment services.

Ofcom said that currently, unless a customer was using a BT line, callers to such numbers were not generally told how much they would be charged.

The new rules will mark an end to warnings on adverts that "calls may vary from other landlines and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more".

Users will now be told in advance what the "access charge" to their phone company will be, alongside the "service charge" to the company or organisation they are calling.

Ofcom cited an example of the new cost description message as: "Calls will cost x pence per minute, plus your phone company's access charge."

That access charge would be made clear to customers in their phone provider's billing structure, Ofcom said.

The watchdog confirmed freephone numbers would mean free for mobile users as well as those on landlines.

It said the service charge for premium rate numbers would be capped, helping to protect consumers from the risk of rogue operators imposing extremely high charges in future.

Ofcom also said it was addressing confusion around 0845 numbers - often linked to the cost of a geographic call - with charges broken out into separate access and service charges.

The changes, the regulator said, would be explained in a planned national communications campaign.

Ed Richards, its chief executive, said: "These changes will be the biggest for UK telephone customers in more than a decade.

"We expect them to restore people's confidence in using phone services, and to increase competition.

"Freephone will mean free for all consumers, and the cost of calling other services will be made clear. Telephone users will be able to see how much they're paying, and where their money is going."