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Say No To 0870 Cut call costs to these hideous numbers

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Dialling a number which starts 0870, 0845, 0871 and 0844 should ring alarm bells. They can cost up to 41p/min - far more than a call to a normal 01, 02 or 03 number.

Expensive 08 numbers are everywhere; household names like HSBC and Barclaycard use them. Not only do you have to pay - even if you're calling to complain, the company you're speaking to may be profiting from the call. The good news is the Government is starting to restrict their use, but there are still plenty out there, so here's how to dodge them.

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Update. 084/087 customer service numbers banned - but not at banks. A new Consumer Rights Directive came into force on 13 Jun outlawing the use of 084 and 087 numbers for customer service or complaint lines.

If you've bought a product or service from a company then you should now be able to contact them to discuss it without being charged extra. Firms must now provide and clearly offer either a freephone 080 number or a standard-rate number beginning with 01, 02 or 03.

Who can still charge? Unfortunately, the new rules don't apply to companies providing financial services, so your bank can still use an expensive customer service number. Similarly sales lines and technical support lines aren't affected by the changes.

Non-geographic numbers explained

What are non-geographic numbers?

Non-geographic numbers - that don't start 01 or 02 - have their own special pricing arrangements. Calls to 03 numbers are charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers. However other non-geographic numbers such as those beginning 084 and 087 usually cost more than geographic numbers.

Worse still, the more expensive numbers are often 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 at banks.

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

If your landline provider doesn't include 0870 numbers in its call plans (or you're making a call outside your plan), then depending on your provider calls will cost between 1p and 10.22p/min, plus the provider's standard call set-up fee. Mobile operators charge more - between 5p and 40p/min.
0845
Many small businesses actually pay to have these numbers, enticed by old promises that they would look more professional - without realising their customers have to pay more.

Numbers starting 0845 tend to be around the same price as 0870 numbers from landlines, though more and more providers are including them in their call plans. Calls typically cost between 0.51p and 10.22p/min, plus the provider's standard call set-up fee.

Calling these numbers from your mobile can cost significantly more - as with 0870 numbers, mobile operators charge between 5p and 40p/min.
0843 & 0844
The cost of calling 0843 and 0844 numbers can vary significantly depending on both the provider and the remainder of the number. They're also not included in free call plans, meaning the costs can quickly rack up.

Because of the wide variation in charges for these numbers, it's best to check the exact cost with your provider before making a call.
0871 & 0872
These are premium-rate numbers, often used for special services where providers deliberately get a cut of the call revenue. Again, the cost can depend on the particular number you're calling from, so always check with your provider.

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 suit.

Click below to see a breakdown of what each provider includes with their call plans:

BT

TalkTalk

Sky

Plusnet

Post Office

Primus

Virgin Media

The cost of calling 0845 & 0870 from your landline

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 per minute:

Daytime
Evening
Weekend
Provider/package
0845
0870
0845
0870
0845
0870
BT Unlimited Weekend
2.042p
9p
0.51p
9p
Included
Included
TalkTalk Essentials
11.5p
11.5p
Included
Included
Included
Included
Sky Talk Weekends
6.63p
8.9p
6.63p
8.9p
6.63p
Included
Plusnet Weekends
9p
9p
9p
9p
Included
Included
Post Office HomePhone
8.5p
8.5p
1p
1p
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 - 15p, Sky - 15p, Plusnet - 15p, Post Office - 15p, Primus - 14.5p, Virgin Media - 11.24p. All prices are correct as of 12 June 2014.

The cost of calling 0845 & 0870 from your mobile

Non-geographic numbers aren't included in a standard minutes allowance and tend to cost even more from your mobile, so avoid making calls to them if you can. However if you really need to call while on the move, you can use certain apps to find alternative 'free' numbers (see more below).

This is what it will cost you, per minute, to call 0845 and 0870 numbers from your mobile:

Pay monthly
Pay-as-you-go
Provider
0845
0870
0845
0870
EE
40p
40p
40p
40p
GiffGaff
N/A
N/A
12p
12p
O2
20.4p
20.4p
Up to 25p
Up to 25p
Orange
40p
40p
12p
12p
T-Mobile
40p
40p
40p
40p
Three
5p (1)
5p (1)
35p
35p
Virgin Mobile
41p
41p
41p
41p
Vodafone
14p
14p
14p
14p
(1) If you joined before 18 March 2014 or if you're on Sim-only, it's 20.4p/min on the The One Plan and 35p/min on other plans. All prices correct as of 12 June 2014.

Why do companies use these numbers?

The answer is simple: non-geographic numbers are often revenue makers. A 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 bucks. 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 (although these cost from a mobile - use Skype's app to make free 0800 calls via Wi-Fi).

    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:

  • WeQ4U for iPhone and Android. Available for iPhone and Android, this handy free app allows you to make calls to most 08 numbers using an alternative. It touts a more extensive database of numbers than SayNoTo0870.
  • It will also queue for you if you're on hold with a company and call you back when you get through to an agent so you don't waste minutes waiting. If you don't have a smartphone you can still use the service by following the instructions on its website.

  • 0870 for iPhone. The iPhone version is available from the iTunes App Store for free, and works in much the same way as the SayNoTo0870 site. Version 1.2 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 Google Play Store, 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.

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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