Calls to 0800 telephone numbers could be free from all phones, including mobiles, under new proposals published today by regulator Ofcom.
It can currently cost up to 21p a minute to call the majority of what many consider to be freephone numbers from a mobile.
Ofcom also wants to clarify exactly what you'll be charged for calling 08, 09 and 118 numbers to end consumers' confusion.
People use these numbers to call customer service lines, to vote on TV shows and for directory enquiries.
Even government departments, such as HM Revenue & Customs and NHS Direct, use these non-geographical numbers that can cost a bomb and which generate cash for those firms and departments.
Here is exactly what Ofcom proposes:
- Freephone numbers to really be free from all phones. This includes calls to numbers starting 080 and 116.
- Giving consumers a better idea of the cost of 08, 09 and 118 numbers, which can vary wildly. The price will be listed as a service charge (which is largely the profit the call recipient makes) plus your network's charge. Users still need to know their network charge, so this won't be a clear tariff of prices.
Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, says: "Consumers are often confused about how much they will pay to call these number ranges. Under our proposals, people will have much clearer information and there will be greater competition on prices.
"By making calls to 0800 numbers free from all phones, we will clear up uncertainty about making calls, especially from mobiles, to the benefit of consumers and service providers alike."
Ofcom expects to have the rules firmed up in early 2013 and implemented 18 months later, so any changes are still over two years away.
Beat high call costs
You can usually find geographical numbers beginning 01 or 02 when calling companies.
These are not only far cheaper but usually form part of inclusive call allowances meaning you're not charged extra.
The website Saynoto0870.com lists many of these alternative numbers.
If calling an 0800 number from a mobile, you can also use the 0800 Wizard app which finds geographical numbers.
If you don't have a compatible smartphone it has an online version, Skycomuk.com/0800wizard, while there is also 0800buster.co.uk.