The price consumers pay to call 08, 09 and 118 numbers is to be made clearer, which Ofcom says could in turn drive call costs down.
The regulator also intends to make all calls to 080 "freephone" numbers genuinely free to call from all telephones. Some phone companies, particularly mobile providers, currently charge for calls to these numbers.
Ofcom has today launched a consultation on the finer details of its proposals, but it has confirmed the plans will be put into place, though they are still months away. In the meantime see our 0800 buster and Say no to 0870 guides to cut costs.
On chargeable calls, the telecoms regulator is planning to split costs to into two separate bands. Overall price won't change, but the way it is displayed will.
- One will be a flat fee paid to your phone company. This will be the same for ALL non-geographical numbers.
- The other will be a charge to the company or organisation you are calling.
- Phone companies will tell customers of their charge when they sign up to a new service, and it will appear on bills; while service providers will list their charge wherever they advertise or communicate their service.
- Consumers will have to add these up to know exactly what they'll pay for the call.
The regulator is also going to consult on whether to set a cap of £3/per minute (for those charged per minute) and £5 per call (for those with a single connection charge) on the price firms charge for calls to 09 and 118 premium-rate numbers.
The move is designed to tackle confusion about how much it costs to call companies, public bodies and other organisations on non-geographic numbers.
Ofcom says as well as making call charges clearer, it's likely the change will also push costs down. It says if people can easily compare prices, it will encourage both phone companies and service providers to compete over rates.
Before the changes come into force, Ofcom has to consult on the final details, the results of which are expected this summer. Firms will then have 18 months to implement the new rules.
Beat high call costs
You can usually find geographical numbers beginning 01 or 02 when calling companies.
These are not only far cheaper, but usually form part of inclusive call allowances meaning you're not charged extra.
The website Saynoto0870.com lists many of these alternative numbers.
If calling an 0800 number from a mobile, you can also use the 0800 Wizard app which finds geographical numbers.
If you don't have a compatible smartphone it has an online version, while there is also 0800buster.co.uk.