Dialling a number starting 0870 or 0871 should ring alarm bells as well as the phone. While named "national" call numbers, they're more akin to premium rates, costing up to 10p/min, massively more than a normal call. This is our two-step cost cutting plan.
And it's needed. These 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 will still profit from the call.
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Non-geographic numbers - numbers that don't start 01, 02 or 03 - have their own special pricing arrangements. They are invariably more expensive than standard calls, and worse, are usually excluded from "free calls" packages. There are four main offenders:
- 0870 'National Call'. Can cost up to 10p/min
On BT's standard package, calling an 0870 number on a weekday costs the same as calling a landline, 7.95p/min (plus a call connection of 13.1p per call). For other providers it can cost over 10p/min if made outside your calling plan.
Quick costs (daytime, if not on an anytime call plan): BT 7.95p/min, TalkTalk 7.95p/min, Virgin Media 10.22p/min, Sky 7.95p/min
- 0845 'Lo-Call'. Can cost up to 10p/min
Don't confuse Lo-Call with local. Numbers starting 0845 aren't as cheap, though are now more frequently included in "free calls" packages. 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.
Quick costs (daytime, if not on an anytime call plan): BT 2.04p/min, TalkTalk 7.95p/min, Virgin Media 10.22p/min, Sky 6.63p/min
- 0871. Can cost up to 14p/min
Dialling 0871s can cost up to 10p/min. They're premium rate numbers often used for special services where providers deliberately get a cut of the call revenue (see the International CallChecker for how you can use them to get cheaper international calls).
Quick costs (daytime, if not on an anytime call plan): BT 10.21p/min, TalkTalk 10.22p/min, Virgin Media 14.26p/min, Sky 10.21p/min
- 0844. Can cost up to 12p/min
With numbers starting 0844 the price is fixed, at between 1p and 8p/min. Though cheaper than 0871, 0844s are still not included in free calls packages, meaning the costs can quickly add up.
Quick costs (daytime, if not on an anytime call plan): BT up to 7p/min, TalkTalk up to 10.22p/min, Virgin Media up to 12.41p/min, Sky up to 7p/min
While these are the four biggies at the moment, that's not to say they're the only ones. There's also 0843 and 0872 to watch out for in future. More info will be included on these as they become more prominent.
For years the answer to this question for all but a few niche mobile phone tariffs was invariably "no". Yet this changed when BT added both 0870 and 0845 numbers to its free call packages, and others followed:
- What does BT include? 0870 and 0845 numbers in its call packages. Outside of inclusive allowances, the calls are charged at the same rates as standard landline calls. The changes don't affect 0843, 0844, 0871 and 0872 numbers, which remain excluded from all call packages, and can cost just as much, or more.
- What does TalkTalk include? Exactly the same as BT on its Essentials tariff. Outside of inclusive allowances, calls cost 7.6p/min (plus call connection fee).
- What does Sky include? 0870 numbers only. Outside of inclusive allowances, the calls are charged at 7.95p/min (plus call connection fee), the same as any other landline call. The changes don't affect any other 08-prefixed numbers.
- What does Plusnet include? 0845 and 0870 calls made between 7pm and 7am on Monday-Friday and anytime Saturday or Sunday are free.
- What does the Post Office include? 0845 and 0870 numbers are free from 6pm to 6am during evenings and from 6pm on Fridays to 6am on Mondays at the weekend.
- Any exclusions? Yes: all exclude 0870 internet service provider connection calls, or indirect access calls (where you call through to another phone provider, as with CallChecker numbers).
|BT Unltd Weekend||7.95p||2.04p||7.95p||1.05p||0.51p||1.05p||Included||Included||Included|
|Sky Talk Freetime||7.95p||6.63p||7.95p||Included||6.63p||Included||Included||6.63p||Included|
A call connection fee will also apply. BT 13.1p, Sky 12.5p, 18185 5p, TalkTalk 13.1p.
All prices are correct as of 26 Sept 2012.
The answer is simple: Non-geographic numbers are often revenue makers, so it's unsurprising many high street names, including Sky, Argos and even Carphone Warehouse, issue them.
A five second "0870 numbers" Google search reveals all; telecom providers offer, “0870 numbers that earn you 1.5p per minute” A simple calculation based on this is all too revealing; a big company with 3,000 daily daytime callers, each holding for 10 minutes, would generate over £150,000 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 0870/1 number, they're supplied with sophisticated high tech call handling and routing technology, and the provider gets the revenue. So the real question is, ‘how much would that service have cost otherwise?”, as that's their real profit.
0870 can be worse than premium rates
While premium rates are more expensive, at least they're transparent as they're required to inform you of the tariff. More importantly, premium rates' much tighter regulation means they can't leave you on hold, racking up the cost. Yet the 0870 regulations are flaccid, so they can and do keep us on hold, boosting their profits.
If provider doesn't include calls to 0870 or 0845 numbers, or you need to call outside your inclusive free time, there's a way to dodge the numbers altogether: 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 numbers come in two main types:
Most big companies have a range of numbers. 0870s are commonly for complaints and enquiries, while sales lines are cheaper or even free (i.e. putting complaints off and encouraging sales). So dial the sales number and ask 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 (and mobiles).
The problems with this service: As SayNoTo0870 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.
Get it on your mobile
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.
Route the call through BT
If you pay line rental to BT, and another company for your calls (what's known as 'carrier pre-select') you may be able to route specific calls through BT to take advantage of its prices, regardless of your calls provider. Simply dial 1280 before the number you wish to call and you should be making a call through BT.
As even the basic BT package (which you pay for line rental) includes free weekend calls, that means these 0870 and 0845 calls are free at weekends via BT. Yet it does stipulate you need to make one chargeable call per month through BT to get an automatic upgrade. So, dial 1280 and call a friend quickly before hitting the 0870 numbers. Outside of the weekend you'll pay BT's standard rate, up to 7.95p/min if you dial the 1280 number, which is often still the cheapest.
IMPORTANT. BT has told us that this is still possible, but some forum users have claimed the 1280 route no longer works. It's important you check with your provider (both line rental and carrier pre-select provider) before attempting this.
Sadly if your main provider has switched to BT's wholesale arm, this ends their customers access to BT calls. Currently only Sky's revealed its switchover, and BT's unable to give up any other company names due to commercial confidentiality agreements.
As a rule of thumb though, if you get a separate bill from BT, chances are you can use 1280 to get cheaper calls. Though always do a test call first, then go through the bill when it comes to check it works.
If you dialled 1280 before calling 0870 and yet been charged at your provider's standard rate, then do please post in the 0870 discussion, to help us build a list of 1280-exempt providers.