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Say No To 0870

Cut call costs to these hideous numbers

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 - but you can slash the cost to zero.

These expensive numbers are everywhere, whether it's a customer service or information line from a bank, energy company or travel firm. Not only do you have to pay - even if you're calling to complain, the company you're speaking to may profit from the call.

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 - which are typically used as customer services or information lines - 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 How much they cost
0870

These are typically used by organisations as customer service lines. While they cost between 1p and 10.22p/min, plus a call set-up fee on a landline (5p to 40p/min on mobile), several landline include 0870 in 'inclusive' call plans.

0845

They tend to be similar in price to 0870 from landlines, though more providers include them in call plans. Calls typically cost between 1p and 10.22p/min, plus a call set-up fee on a landline. Calling from your mobile can cost significantly more - between 5p and 40p/min.

0843 & 0844

Costs can vary significantly depending on both the provider and the remaining digits in the number. They're not included in call plans, though. Because of the wide variation in charges, check cost before calling.

0871 & 0872

These are premium-rate, where providers deliberately get a cut of call revenue. Again, cost can depend on the number, so always check first. Services on these numbers are regulated by PhonepayPlus.

Do 0870 and 0845 count as "inclusive" calls?

0870 and 0845 numbers are NOT currently included in inclusive minutes with the major mobile networks but some landline providers do include them.

For years, calls to these numbers were largely not considered "inclusive". But when BT added both 0870 and 0845 as inclusive numbers to call plans in Jan 2009, many others followed. Here's how they treat 'em.

BT

TalkTalk

Sky

Plusnet

Post Office

Virgin Media

The cost of calling 0845 & 0870 from a 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 4.032p 9p 1.021p 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 7.5p 7.5p 1p 1p Included Included
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 - 12p, Virgin Media - 11.24p. All prices are correct as of 22 Aug 2014.

The cost of calling 0845 & 0870 from a 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 20.4p 20.4p 20p 20p
(1) Price for newer plans only; if you joined on a 24-month contract before 18 Mar 2014 or if you joined on Sim-only before 15 Jul 2014, it's 20.4p/min on the The One Plan and 35p/min on other plans. All prices correct as of 22 Aug 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.

How to 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 iPhone or Android 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 '18185 (you'll need an account with them) 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.