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Telephone Numbers and Charges

Aug 05 2015

Telephone Numbers and Charges

Relevance:                   All firms.

Action required:           Ensure customers do not suffer excessive charges when contacting the firm.

We have recently alerted firms to the changes required to complaint handling procedures and indicated that we would address certain areas separately and in more detail.

This notification relates to the telephone numbers that callers can use to contact the firm, for any purpose, be it to discuss new/existing covers or to lodge a complaint.

The FCA has stated that “We will introduce rules to ensure that firms must provide only telephone numbers which cost consumers no more than the ‘basic rate’ when calling about a contract already entered into with that firm (for example to make changes to a policy or account), as well as to complain.”

These new rules coincide with changes demanded by Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. 

Ofcom has stated that from 01 July 2015;

  • landline and mobile charges will become clearer for calls to numbers starting 084, 087, 09 and 118, while Freephone will become free from mobiles;
  • prices will become clearer on telephone bills, in marketing and in advertising under changes known as UK Calling;
  • charges for service numbers will be made up of an ‘access charge’ going to the phone company, plus a ‘service charge’ set by the company or organisation being called.
  • separately, the service provider – the party being contacted – will specify its service charge wherever it advertises or communicates the phone number.; and
  • from the start of next month Freephone numbers (beginning 0800 and 0808) will become free for consumers to call from mobile phones, just as they generally are from landlines.

Therefore, with effect from 26 October 2015, firms have to ensure that the numbers they provide meet the “basic rate” requirement.  The FCA has indicated that the “basic rate” constitutes ‘the simple cost of connection and must not provide a firm with a contribution to its costs or revenues’.

Helpfully, the FCA has provided some guidance on what this means:

Examples of numbers which would meet this requirement are:

  • geographic numbers or numbers which are always set at the same rate, which usually begin with the prefix 01, 02 or 03;
  • calls which can be free of charge to call, for example 0800 and 0808 numbers; and
  • standard mobile numbers, which usually begin with the prefix 07, provided that the firm ordinarily uses a mobile number to receive telephone calls

Numbers which would not meet the definition of basic rate are:

  • premium rate numbers that begin with the prefix 09;
  • other revenue sharing numbers in which a portion of the call charge can be used to either provide a service or make a small payment to the firm, such as telephone numbers that begin with the prefix 084 or 0871, 0872 or 0873; and
  • numbers that begin with the prefix 0870 as the cost can be higher than a geographic cost and will vary depending on the consumer’s telephone tariff

Where necessary, firms should update numbers that are advertised, e.g. on literature and websites.  Where there are ‘legacy numbers’ listed, for example on cards issued to customers, firms are expected to find solutions to ensure that consumers calling those numbers are redirected to new numbers which comply with the new rules.

The complete Policy Statement and Final Rules can be found using the following link:

Chapter 3 covers the matter of “Call Charges”.

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