The cost of many calls to 084 and 087 numbers has actually gone up as Ofcom rules which are intended to make pricing more transparent come into effect, MoneySavingExpert.com is warning.
A massive boon of the changes being brought in by the communications regulator Ofcom is that mobile users will be able to call all 0800 and 0808 numbers for free – see the 080 numbers free to call from mobiles MSE news story for more on this.
But as part of the telecoms shake-up, Ofcom is also splitting the cost of calling 084, 087, 09 and 118 prefixes – typically customer helplines, chat lines, competitions and directory enquiries – into two parts:
- Access charge: This is charged per minute by your provider to connect your call (see the table below for a break down of these charges from the major providers).
- Service charge: This is charged by the organisation you're trying to call - they must clearly state the charge wherever they advertise or promote these numbers.
By adding the two together, you can work out how much you'll pay for the call. See our Say No to 0870 guide to cut costs now, and our Cheap Home Phones guide to see if you can slash call and line rental costs.
Currently you pay part of the cost to the provider and part to the company you are calling, but this is lumped into one sum, so you don't know exactly how the costs are split. The new rules are intended to make the cost of calling more transparent, after Ofcom research found users are often confused about how much they pay to call service numbers.
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Many people will end up paying even more
However many providers have used the change as an opportunity to hike prices – and with the service charge added in as well, for many, the cost of calling these numbers is set to rise.
For example, EE currently charges 40p/minute to call 0845 and 0870 numbers – from tomorrow, it'll charge 44p/minute for the access charge alone, so its users will find the calls more expensive even without factoring in the service charge.
How much will 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers cost?
|Provider||Home phone access charge||Mobile access charge|
|Virgin Media (iii)||10.25p/minute||36p/minute|
|Vodafone||9.5p/min||23p/minute but 45p/minute from 10 August|
|The access charge can be waived if numbers are included or free within a bundle, but this is down to the individual provider. There are no caps on access charges. (i) BT says customers on its low-income tariff will not pay the access charge for any call. (ii) EE offers an 084 and 087 add-on for £3/mth so customers can pay a 1p/minute access charge to these numbers, though the service charge is on top. Orange and T-Mobile are part of the EE group. (iii) Virgin Sim-only customers on a £10/month+ plan receive free inclusive calls to 0845 and 0870.|
|084||Add up to 7p/minute|
|087||Add up to 13p/minute|
||Add up to £6/call or £3.60/minute, depending on how the call is charged|
||Unknown - no service charge cap for 118 numbers|
Some home phone providers axing free 084 and 087 calls
In another blow to consumers, on Wednesday some of the major home phone providers are also axing inclusive calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers as part of their packages. Here's what you need to know:
|Before 1 July 2015||From 1 July 2015|
Beat the charges
Steve Nowottny, consumer and features editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, says: "Ofcom has claimed that millions of users will benefit from clearer call charges being introduced on 1 July, and it's great that we'll see more transparency over charges and Freefone numbers will become free to call from mobiles.
"But worryingly, from 1 July many users are also going to end up paying even more to phone already-expensive 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers, thanks to providers ramping up prices at the same time.
"More than ever, users should try to minimise their use of pricey 084 and 087 numbers – websites such as SayNoTo0870 and various mobile apps can offer alternatives. Failing that, it's worth noting that access charges vary hugely between different providers.
"If you know you're likely to make 084 and 087 number calls, it may be worth factoring those differences in when choosing a provider – and also check if your provider offers add-ons that would cut the cost of those calls."
Should you have to call a premium rate number?
Remember, under the EU Consumer Rights Directive, which came into force on 13 June 2014, if you call a retailer or provider about goods or services you've already bought, you will pay no more than the price it costs to call geographic numbers (beginning 01, 02, 03).
However, providers and retailers are still allowed to use premium rate numbers for new customers, and these rules for existing customers don't apply to financial services.
That said, in December last year as part of its move to improve complaints handling processes, financial regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) proposed that financial services firms should no longer be able to make customers use premium rate numbers such as those beginning with 0845 and 09.
At the time, it said it wasn't fair that consumers often have to use expensive phone lines when calling firms to ask for help or to complain. It launched a consultation on its proposal and says the outcome is likely to be published in the "next few months".
Ofcom adds that government departments and banks are moving away from premium numbers towards those starting with '03'.
Additional reporting by Nick Durrant.