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Say No To 0870 Cut call costs to these hideous numbers

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Dialling a number starting 0870, 0845, 0871 and 0844 should ring alarm bells as well as the phone! These numbers can cost up to 16p/min - massively more than a call to a normal 01, 02 landline or 03 number.

08 numbers are everywhere; household names like Currys, Vodafone and Barclaycard all use them. Worse still, it often means if you call to complain, the company you're speaking to may be profitting from the call. The good news is they're going to be banned in some cases from June 2014. But it won't apply to all numbers - so you should still be careful.

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New. Government launches premium rate number ban. From June 2014 a new Consumer Rights Directive will end expensive premium 084 and 087 numbers for customers calling airlines, train operators and major high street and online retailers - good news if you're calling customer service helplines to complain.

As it doesn't come in yet, the rest of this guide shows you how to beat these naughty numbers. See MSE news: Goverment premium rate number ban.

Non-geographic numbers explained

What are non-geographic numbers?

Non-geographic numbers - numbers that don't start 01 or 02 - have their own special pricing arrangements. While calls to 03 numbers are charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers, other non-geographic numbers such as those beginning 084 and 087 are always pricier than calls to geographic numbers.

Worse still, the more expensive numbers are usually excluded from landlines inclusive call plans. These are the main offenders:

Number
What's it used for, and how much does it cost?
0870
0870 numbers are used by many businesses and organisations to provide a wide range of information and advice, including many customer service lines.

After regulator Ofcom made changes in 2009 to the way these numbers are charged, several landline providers have included 0870 numbers as part of their "inclusive" call plans.

For those that don't (or if making a call outside of your call plan), calls cost between 2p and 11p/min, plus the provider's standard call set-up fee.
0845
Sadly many small businesses actually pay to have these numbers, misled by old promises that they “look more professional and attract custom”, without realising that these days their customers have to pay more.

Numbers starting 0845 aren't as cheap as 0870 numbers, though more and more providers are including them in their call plans. Calls typically cost between 1p and 11p/min, plus the provider's standard call set-up fee.
0843 & 0844
Though cheaper than other non-geographic numbers, 0843 and 0844 numbers are not included in free calls plans, meaning the costs can quickly add up.

Calls are charged between 0.5p and 13p/min plus the provider's standard call set-up fee.
0871 & 0872
These are premium rate numbers which are often used for special services where providers deliberately get a cut of the call revenue.

They cost between 1p and 16p/min, plus the provider's standard call set-up fee.

Services provided on these numbers are regulated by PhonepayPlus to provide additional protection for callers.

Are they considered "inclusive" calls?

For years, apart from a few niche mobile phone tariffs, calls to these numbers were not considered "inclusive". But when BT added both 0870 and 0845 as inclusive numbers to its call plans in Jan 2009, a lot of the other home phone providers followed.

Here's a breakdown of what each provider includes with their call plans:

The cost of calling 0845 & 0870 outside your call plan

If your provider doesn't include 0845 and 0870 numbers in its call plans, or if you're calling outside of your call plan, here's a breakdown of what you'll be charged:

Daytime
Evening
Weekend
Provider/package
0845
0870
0845
0870
0845
0870
BT Unlimited Weekend
2.042p
8.41p
0.51p
1.11p
Included
Included
TalkTalk Essentials
8.41p
8.41p
Included
Included
Included
Included
Sky Talk Weekends
6.63p
8.41p
6.63p
8.41p
6.63p
Included
Plusnet Weekends
8.41p
8.41p
8.41p
8.41p
Included
Included
Post Office HomePhone
7.5p
7.5p
Included
Included
Included
Included
Primus Line Rental Saver
8p
8p
8p
8p
8p
8p
Virgin Media Talk Weekends
10.22p
10.22p
10.22p
10.22p
10.22p
Included
A call connection fee will also apply per chargeable call: BT - 15p, TalkTalk - 13.87p, Sky - 13.87p, Plusnet - 13.87p, Post Office - 12p, Primus - 13.4p, Virgin Media - 11.24p. All prices are correct as of 21 Aug 2013.

Why do companies use these numbers?

The answer is simple: Non-geographic numbers are often revenue makers, so it's unsurprising many household names, including Barclaycard, Vodafone and Currys, use them as customer support lines.

A Google search of "buy 0844 numbers" reveals all; telecom providers offer companies numbers which can "make a 2p per minute rebate".

A simple calculation based on this shows that these numbers can earn companies big revenues. Imagine they receive 3,000 callers a day, each calling for 10 mins. That would generate the company £219,000 over a year.

The "we aren't paid when you call" excuse

Some companies deny they profit, with cleverly worded, “we're not paid when people call our numbers” disclaimers. This usually means that in return for using an 0870/0871 number, they're supplied with high tech call handling and routing technology, and the provider gets the revenue.

Fight back against 0870 & 0845 costs

If your provider doesn't include calls to 0870 or 0845 numbers, or you need to call outside of your call plan, there are ways to dodge the numbers altogether.

SayNoTo0870.com

Often, companies have geographic (01, 02 or 03) numbers that will enable you to reach the same place. The website SayNoTo0870.com has a searchable "alternative number" database to help you work around the charges.

These alternative numbers come in two main types:

  • Alternative departments. Most big companies have a range of numbers for different departments. Numbers starting 0870 are often used for customer services complaints and enquiries, while sales lines are cheaper or even free 0800 numbers.

    Try dialling the sales number and asking to be put through to the relevant department.

  • The "calling from overseas" route. Many companies list standard numbers as an alternative that may be dialled when you're overseas.

    Use these numbers from the UK simply by replacing the +44 prefix with a 0 (eg +4420 7123 XXXX becomes 020 7123 XXXX). Some companies have wised up to this though, and block access to their dedicated overseas numbers from UK landlines.

Problems with SayNoTo0870. As the site is crowd sourced, there's nobody verifying that the numbers submitted are genuine. This means there are quite a few dud numbers listed. Even worse, willfully fake ones could be posted by scammers, so be extra careful if using it for a sensitive number (i.e. your bank's).

Furthermore, SayNoTo0870 uses adverts straight from Google to help fund it. Sadly Google automatically places ads to match the site content; paradoxically meaning that 0870 providers are often advertised on the site. Luckily the ads rotate so many people won't see this, but if you do, you now know why.

Mobile apps to combat 0870/0845 costs

There are now some clever third-party mobile programs which can search for alternative geographic numbers when you're on the go:

  • 0870 for iPhone. The iPhone version is available from the iTunes App Store* for 69p, and works in much the same way as the SayNoTo0870 site. Version 1.1 supports copy and paste, and will tell you whether it found a cheaper number before putting you through, but if no alternative's available you'll still pay full price.

  • SayNoTo0870 for Android. A similar app for Google Android phones is also available from the Android Market, and doesn't cost a penny. It'll tell you whether an alternative number's been found and let you decide whether to use it or the original pricier one.

While feedback has been very positive so far, using these applications is at your own risk; we can't accept responsibility should an issue arise.

If there's no alternative number, the next step is to cut the cost of calling 0870s. The first rule is try not to call from your mobile, as that can seriously cost. But depending on your provider, home phone costs can be little better. Thankfully, by dialling prefix numbers before calling, you can shave more than a third off the price.

Override the cost

Use an ‘override provider'; a special phone company you can access without changing your home phone provider, thus ‘overriding' the network and you can usually undercut the big providers.

All you need do is dial a prefix or access number, and then call the 0870 number. Virgin Media costs 10.22p/min yet use override provider '1899' and you'll pay only 3p per minute with a 5p connection charge. The UKCallchecker provides a list of the cheapest providers for calling 0870 and 0845 numbers and is updated every day.

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