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Did you know 0844 numbers can cost double 0845? Don't get fleeced by premium rate calls

Helen Knapman
Senior News Reporter
20 August 2013

The Government is planning a crackdown on calls to premium rate numbers next year, but you should check now which 08 numbers are currently free to call and which will cost an arm and a leg.

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Currently many retailers, doctors' surgeries, energy providers and banks ask customers to call them using 08 numbers. But there's a big difference in how much these costs (see our Free 0800 Calls From Mobiles and Say No To 0870 guides for tips on cutting costs).

0845 numbers, for example, are free to call for up to an hour, during the inclusive minutes of your call package if you're a BT customer. Yet call an 0844 number and you'll be charged up to 5.1p/minute, plus a connection fee of up to 15p.

Plus many consumers don't realise 03 numbers are the same as geographic 01 and 02 numbers. So these are included as part of your landline calls package or mobile allowance and you won't be charged unless you call outside of your package, or you go over your mobile allowance.

Consumer Minister Jo Swinson announced plans earlier this month to stop traders (barring those in financial services and public transport) from using premium rate numbers.

But the directive doesn't have to come into force until June 2014 and even then some companies, including financial services, will be exempt. So here's how much calls to often-pricey 08 numbers really cost, and how you can beat these charges.

Cutting costs

The first step to take is to check whether calls are included in your package. Talk to Argos about a purchase, and you'll have to ring an 0845 number. If you're an EE mobile customer, this'll cost you a whopping 40p/minute.

Yet call from a BT landline and you can talk to Argos for nothing for up to an hour, during the inclusive minutes of your call package.

The tables below round up of how much calls to certain 08 numbers cost from some of the largest home phone and mobile providers. It also shows you can get around costs by using your inclusive minutes if you've got a landline.

How much do calls to 08 numbers cost from landlines?
  Are these inclusive calls? How much do they cost outside of inclusive calls?
  BT Virgin Media BT Virgin Media
Geographic numbers (01,02,03) Yes Yes 9p/min + 15p connection fee Up to 9.94p/min + 15.94p connection fee, or up to 11.24p/call
070 No No Up to 48.51p/min Up to 51.07p/min + 15.94p connection fee
0800 No No Free Free
0808 No No Free Free
0843 No No Up to 5.1p/min + up to 15p connection fee Up to 12.41p/min + up to 15.94p connection fee, or up to 5.1p/call
0844 No No Up to 5.1p/min + up to 15p connection fee Up to 12.41p/min + up to 15.94p connection fee, or up to 5.1p/call
0845 Yes (up to an hour/call) Yes, if you have Talk Unlimited Extra Up to 2.04p/min + up to 15p connection fee 10.22p/min + 11.24p connection fee
0870 Yes (up to an hour/call) Yes, if you have Talk Weekends, Talk Evening & Weekends, Talk Unlimited and Talk Unlimited Extra 9p/min + up to 15p connection fee 10.22p/min + 11.24p connection fee
0871 No No Up to 10.2p/min + up to 15p connection fee, or up to 10.1p/call Up to 14.26p/min + up to 15.94p connection fee, or up to 81.7p/call
0872 No No Up to 10.2p/min + up to 15p connection fee, or up to 10.1p/call Up to 14.26p/min + up to 15.94p connection fee, or up to 81.7p/call
BT prices assume you're a customer with line rental and calls.

How much do calls to 08 numbers cost from mobiles?
Number EE (i) O2 (ii) Three Mobile (ii) Vodafone (ii)
Geographic numbers (01,02,03) Included in call allowance. Outside allowance: 35p/min Included in call allowance. Outside allowance: 35p/min Included in call allowance. Outside allowance: 35p/min Included in call allowance. Outside allowance: up to 40p/min
070 Up to 75p/min Up to 66p/min Up to £1.02/call + 71.5p/min Up to 66.4p/min
0800 Up to 20p/min (iii) Up to 20.4p/min (iii) Up to 15.3p/min (iii) Up to 14p/min (iii)
0808 Up to 20p/min (iii) Up to 20.4p/min Up to 15.3p/min (iii) Up to 14p/min (iii)
0843 40p/min Up to 25p/min Up to 35p/call + 35p/min Up to 35p/min
0844 40p/min Up to 25p/min Up to 35p/call + 35p/min Up to 35p/min
0845 40p/min Up to 25p/min Up to 35p/min 14p/min
0870 40p/min Up to 25p/min Up to 35p/min 14p/min
0871 40p/min Up to 35.8p/min Up to 35p/call + 35p/min Up to 35p/min
0872 40p/min Up to 20/4p/min Up to 35p/call + 35p/min 35p/min
(i) Pay monthly calls only, EE doesn't offer PAYG tariffs. (ii) Both PAYG, pay and go, and pay monthly tariffs. (iii) Calls to certain helplines are free and won't count as part of your allowance.

If you can't beat the fees using your inclusive minutes, there are other nifty tricks you can use. Here are a few:

  • Use the website SayNoTo0870.com to search for an alternative, geographic number for many 08 numbers.
  • If you've a landline, use an override provider. This is a special phone company you can access without changing your home phone provider, 'overriding' the network. You can usually undercut the big providers.
  • If you have to use your mobile, you can cut costs to 0800 numbers by using the 0800Buster or the 0800 Wizard, which provide alternative access numbers.

For more information, see our Free 0800 Calls From Mobiles and Say No To 0870 guides.

What does the Government want?

Under the new rules, the Government says where a trader makes a telephone number available for consumers, it must be one of the following:

  • A geographic number (these start with 01 or 02).
  • A mobile number.
  • A non-geographic number which is free to call. We're awaiting confirmation on whether this means it'll be free from both mobiles or landlines.
  • A number which costs no more to call than the rate for calls to a geographic number. (For example, 03 numbers cost no more than calls to 01 or 02 numbers, and also count towards any inclusive minutes in the same way as 01 and 02 calls.)

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