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0800 numbers may be free for all and charges for 0845 and other special numbers simplified

Freephone 0800 numbers could be free to all callers and the cost of special numbers such as 0845 and 0870 made easier to understand.

Communications regulator Ofcom wants to shake up the way callers are charged for so-called ‘freephone’ 0800 and 116 numbers and ‘national-local’ numbers starting with 03, 084, and 087.

It could be mid-2014 before the changes take place so that organisations can change their phone numbers and update marketing materials with the correct prices.

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, said: “Consumers are often confused about how much they will pay to call these number ranges. Under our proposals, people will have much clearer information and there will be greater competition on prices.

“By making calls to 0800 numbers free from all phones, we will clear up any uncertainty about making calls, especially from mobiles, to the benefit of consumers and service providers alike.”

British 0800 and pan-European 116 freephone numbers would be free from all UK phone providers, including mobiles – they can cost up to 21p/minute today.

Ofcom's proposals for 0800 call costs

Numbers starting with 03, 084 and 087, which are charged at local rate from anywhere in the UK, would be made up of two fees – and access charge from your phone provider and a charge from the service using the number.

The same system, but with different access charges, will apply to premium rate numbers starting with 09 and 118 directory enquiry numbers.

Ofcom's proposals for 084, 087 and 09 numbers

The changes would mean that current call descriptions which look like this:

“This call will cost you X pence per minute on a BT line, other landline providers may vary and calls on mobiles may cost considerably more.”

Will read: “This call will cost you X pence per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.”

How televoting will look

The Ofcom consultation on Simplifying Non-geographic Numbers – Detailed proposals on the unbundled tariff and Freephone, is open until June 5, 2012.

Ofcom said it hopes to issue a final decision by the end of 2012, and changes will come into force within 18 months, although 08 numbers could be made free-for-all sooner.

The regulator has also promised consultations on 0500, 055/056, 070/076, Higher rate Premium Rate Services tariff, and 118 Directory enquiries numbers.