Non-geographic telephone numbers in the United Kingdom

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Non-geographic numbers (NGNs) are telephone numbers not assigned to a geographic location. The owner may forward their NGN to any geographic, mobile, or international location. Call costs depend on the prefix of the number called, not on the final destination. In the 1980s and 1990s, calls to NGNs were charged such that the caller was not financially disadvantaged. However, since deregulation of the telecoms market in the UK, call prices to geographic numbers have reduced and in many cases become part of an inclusive calls package. With those changes, calls to NGNs became substantially more expensive than calling geographic numbers. Additionally, BT call prices for many NGNs are currently capped by regulation. Calls from BT cost no more than the "premium", whereas other landline providers and mobile operators add their markup. Users of NGNs often advertise only the capped call price levied by BT, meaning that the true cost paid by non-BT customers and by mobile users isn't advertised to many callers. Mobile users have always been heavily disadvantaged when calling 08 numbers.

Prefixes[edit]

Different prefixes have different costs for both the user and caller. Where the call is completely free to the caller (rather than simply inclusive within an allowance) the user pays extra to cover the costs not met by the caller. However, most non-geographic prefixes charge the caller extra and this "premium" or "enhanced termination rate" is passed on to the terminating telecoms company to pay for call routing to the final destination with any excess being paid out to the called party in a "revenue share" arrangement. Hundreds of UK companies offer NGNs for sale or rent. Some also offer switchboard and call centre equipment in a package deal where some of the revenue derived from calls subsidises those costs. Revenue share is banned on several prefixes, including 03 (UK wide), 0870 (NTS) and 070 (PNS).

While all 084, 087 (except 0870) and 09 numbers charge a "premium" to the caller, numbers starting 0871, 0872, 0873, 090, 091 and 098 are covered by additional Premium Rate Services (PRS) regulation, generally have the highest costs, and are heavily regulated by PhonepayPlus. New "adult" services (SES) must use 098; legacy 0908 and 0909 numbers also carry these services.

Numbers which begin 084 and 087 generally cost more than calling an 01 or 02 geographic number from a landline, are rarely included in "inclusive" minutes call packages, and cost up to 45 pence per minute from mobiles.

The call price for 084 and 087 numbers must not be described as "local rate", "lo-call" or "national rate" as these terms ceased to have any meaning in the UK in 2004.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12] At that time, discounted "per-minute" costs for calls to local geographic numbers were scrapped, replaced with one rate for all calls to UK geographic numbers regardless of distance or location. Additionally, most providers started offering packages that gave inclusive free calls to 01 and 02 numbers anywhere in the country (some providers excluded Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man). Within a few years, packages with inclusive minutes became the standard offering, but 084 and 087 numbers are not included in the deal (except for 0870 on some landlines from 2009, and 0845 on some BT deals).

With the increased price differential, the use of non-geographic telephone numbers in the United Kingdom has been a major cause of bill shock. Pollster YouGov found that 49% of mobile users have been surprised to see how much they have been charged for calling non-geographic numbers and 90% believe organisations should make the cost of these calls clearer.[13] According to Ofcom,[14] UK consumers paid around £1.9 billion for calls to non-geographic numbers in 2009.

Introduced in February 2007, numbers which begin 03 are, by law, charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers whether you call from a landline or from a mobile, and are included in "inclusive" minutes call packages. This means that from most landlines and from contract mobiles, calls to 03 numbers are effectively "free" (up to the end of the inclusive minutes allowance). In June 2014, the Consumer Rights Directive will make it illegal to use "numbers that cost more than the basic rate" for customer services and complaints.[15][16][17] Many current users of 084 and 087 numbers will have to move to their 034 and 037 equivalents or to 01 or 02 geographic numbers or to new 030, 033 or 080 non-geographic numbers.

After sustained abuse and various scams, telephone numbers beginning 070, 0871, 0872 and 0873 came under the strict regulation of PhonepayPlus, the premium rate services regulator, in 2009, joining the existing regulatory system for 09 and 118 numbers.

Numbers beginning 0500 or 080 are free to call from a landline, but usually cost from about 10 pence to 35 pence per minute from mobiles. There are proposals to make these calls free from mobiles in the future.[18][19][20][21][22][23]

Following their success in TV voting on shows like BBC One's The Voice UK,[24] voice short codes are now being used as an alternative to non-geographic numbers. Voice short codes enable businesses to provide greater transparency on call rates, as the rate is fixed irrespective of which network is being used to make the call.

When advertising an 084 or 087 number, current rules state there must be a warning that calls may cost more than geographic rates. Most of the companies complying with the rules simply show the cost of calling from a BT landline and add the words "other providers and mobile operators may charge more". However, ever since the telecoms market was opened up to competition, price caps have applied to BT call pricing. At present, it is true to say that most other providers "will", not "may", charge more. Additionally, with less than one-third of landline calls now originating from BT phone lines, BT prices are no longer "typical" of what people are actually paying. Ofcom have proposed changing the way that call prices for 084, 087 and 09 numbers are conveyed, with the called-party having to declare the level of their "service charge" or "premium", and the callers telecoms company having to state their "access charge".

Typical usage and costs[edit]

There are a variety of prefixes, each with specific usage and pricing regimes.

Prefix Cost information Typical usage
030x
033x
034x
037x
03 numbers must (by law) cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers. This applies to all operators (including inclusion in any 'free minutes' from landlines and mobile phones). 030x numbers are for use by government, councils, public services, health organisations, non-profit organisations, and charities.
033x numbers are for use by any organisation.
034x and 037x numbers have been assigned by Ofcom for organisations wishing to migrate from the equivalent 084x and 087x number ranges.
0500 Free from landline.
Varies from mobiles, but generally from 10p to 25p/min. Calls to specific charities and helplines are free from most mobiles.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36]
These are older Mercury (now Cable & Wireless Worldwide) 9-digit freephone numbers. Since 1999, no new number ranges beginning 0500 have been allocated. New freefone number ranges begin either 0800 or 0808 with 10 digits. The called party pays for the call.
055
056
The rates of calling these numbers are generally unknown, although they are charged by BT at around 5p/min. These numbers are generally used by companies that use a VoIP telephony service.
070 Varies but generally a premium rate and never included in call packages. These are premium rate numbers known as 'follow-me' or 'personal' numbers; formally, Personal Numbering Service (PNS). They are controversial as they can be confused for mobile numbers, and therefore the cost of calls to them may not be apparent to callers until they receive their bills. Ofcom looked at moving this range to the 06x range to avoid such confusion[37] but eventually abandoned the idea.

070 numbers no longer permit revenue share and since 2009 have been regulated by PhonepayPlus.

076 Varies, but generally a premium rate and never included in call packages. These are pager or vodafone landline numbers. They are two types:

Fixed call cost pagers (CPP - calling party pays) where the subscriber pays a fixed rate for their service and thus the caller pays a premium fixed rate (some operators charge a fixed rate plus a rate per minute).
Subscription pagers which are cheaper to call and charged at 'regional' rates (their landline equivalents no longer exist). These usually cost slightly more than an equivalent landline call.
These can also be vodafone landline calls, which are charged at or near geographic rate.

074xx
075xx
07624
077xx
078xx
079xx
Varies, generally up to 20p/min from landlines.
From contract mobiles, these numbers are usable in inclusive minutes.
These are mobile phone numbers. While the exact price to call these from landlines is not generally known, people generally understand that they will have to pay a slight premium to call these numbers.
Calls to Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man mobile telephone numbers may cost more than calls to standard UK mobiles.
0800
0808
Free from landline.
Varies from mobiles, but generally from 10p to 25p/min. Calls to specific charities and helplines and to 0808 80 numbers are free from most mobiles.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36]
These are freephone numbers that are free to call from a landline. However, they are charged at a premium rate if phoned from a mobile.
The called party pays for the call. There are proposals to make 080 numbers free to call from mobiles. Users of these numbers will have to pay a higher "call origination fee" to cover this.
0842
0843
0844
0845

0870
0871
0872
0873
Varies – up to 5p/min (084x) and up to 10p/min (087x) from a BT landline, other landline providers may charge up to 20p/min.
From mobiles, 0845 and 0870 numbers generally cost from 15p to 35p/min, other 084x numbers cost from 20p to 45p/min and other 087x numbers cost from 25p to 45p/min.
Some 0845 and 0870 (NTS) calls may be inclusive from some landline calling plans, but are almost never inclusive from mobiles.
0842, 0843, 0844, 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers are never inclusive in call packages.
Companies, other entities, government departments.
084 and 087 numbers are premium rate revenue share numbers, with a premium of up to 5p/min for 084 numbers and up to 10p/min for 087 numbers.
From 2009, revenue share has not been permitted on 0870 numbers.
From some time in June 2014 the Consumer Rights Directive will make it illegal to use 084 and 087 numbers for customer service and complaints. Users will have to move to 01, 02 03 or 080 numbers. Since 2006, the ranges at 034 and 037 have already been reserved for the migration of matching 084 and 087 numbers.
0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers are already regulated by PhonepayPlus. It is likely that 0870 will again become revenue share in 2013/2014, and may also begin to be regulated by PhonepayPlus.[38]
Prices for calling 084 and 087 numbers (and especially 0845 and 0870) from BT landlines are artificially low due to competition price caps applied solely to BT after telecoms deregulation. These price caps will be lifted in 2014.
090x
091x
Premium Rate Services (PRS) (varies, but typically from 10p to more than 2 pounds per minute).[39] These numbers are Premium Rate Services (PRS) and have many uses - competition lines, chat lines, technical support helplines and order lines. These numbers are regulated by PhonepayPlus.
0908
0909
Premium Rate Services (PRS) (varies, but typically from 60p to more than 2 pounds per minute).[39] Sexual entertainment services (SES). These numbers are not available for new allocations. New number ranges begin 098x. These numbers are regulated by PhonepayPlus.
098x Premium Rate Services (PRS) (varies, but typically from 60p to more than 2 pounds per minute).[39] Sexual entertainment services (SES). These numbers are used for adult services and are regulated by PhonepayPlus.

Ofcom has also produced a very basic guide to call costs.[40]

The remainder of this article deals only with 03 and 08 (and 0500) numbers. Designated Premium Rate Services (PRS) numbers use 09, Personal Numbering Service (PNS) uses 070, pagers use 076 and mobiles use 071, 073 to 075 and 077 to 079 and are detailed elsewhere.

Typical call costs from mobile telephones[edit]

Calls to 03 numbers are usable within "inclusive" minutes. This applies to contract mobile tariffs with inclusive calls to 01 and 02 numbers and to pay-as-you-go deals where an additional bolt-on for calls to 01 and 02 numbers has been purchased. All providers have to treat calls to 03 numbers the same as calls to 01 and 02 numbers.

Calls to 08 numbers are mostly chargeable at all times from mobile telephones, except for a few helplines and charities using specific 0500, 0800 and 0808 numbers.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36] Calls to numbers beginning 0808 80x xxxx are also usually free from most mobile telephones. Calls to 084 and 087 numbers are often very expensive as the price includes a premium to the benefit of the called party.

Number range Mobile call cost[Details]
030x, 033x, 034x, 037x Within "inclusive" minutes, else same price as 01 and 02 numbers.
0500 10p-25p/min, rarely inclusive
0800, 0808 10p-25p/min, rarely inclusive
0842, 0843, 0844 20p-45p/min, never inclusive
0845 15p-35p/min, never inclusive
0870 15p-35p/min, rarely inclusive
0871, 0872, 0873 20p-45p/min, never inclusive

Calling UK non-geographic numbers from abroad[edit]

When calling from outside the UK, many operators, such as AT&T,[41] CommuniTel,[42] and SkypeOut[43] charge the call as a "premium rate service" or "mobile call". This means that a call to a non-geographic number from outside the UK is usually significantly more expensive than the combined price of a call to a UK geographic number plus a non-geographic call within the UK. The extra charge is paid to the UK partner by the non-UK operator and recouped from the caller.

With many pre-paid phonecards, calls to non-geographic numbers are blocked.[44] Either the UK partner does not connect the inbound call or the phonecard provider does not accept the charge levied by the UK operator.

Recognising the various problems with calling UK non-geographic numbers from overseas, many businesses now supply an alternative UK geographic number (beginning +44 1 or +44 2) to call and, where available, this option should always be used.

History of non-geographic prefixes[edit]

0500, 0800 and 0808 prefix[edit]

After Tongue 0800 xxxxxx numbers were transferred to the combined Thurso and Tongue 0847 (now 01847) ELNS area in the 1970s, the 0800 prefix was re-used in the 1980s by BT for their freephone service, using the "Freefone" brand name. Some years after Edinburgh 0500 numbers were moved to the new 031 (now 0131) all-figure area code, the 0500 prefix was re-allocated to Mercury Communications (now Cable & Wireless Worldwide) for their "FreeCall" service. Both services used nine-digit numbers.

With a shortage of nine-digit 0800 numbers in the early 1990s, some 0800 number ranges were re-allocated as ten-digit numbers.

With Tomatin nine-digit 0808 numbers having converted to ten-digits and moved to the 01808 prefix during PhONEday, the 0808 prefix was re-used as an additional freephone number range from 1997 onwards, also with 10-digit numbering. The 0808 9 sub-range was reserved for freephone internet services.

After the Big Number Change in 2000, nine-digit 0500 and 0800 numbers and ten-digit 0800 and 0808 numbers continued in use as before.

With freephone numbers, the called party pays to receive the call. Calls are free from landlines. They were also initially free from some mobile telephones until around 2005. From mobiles, they generally cost about 10 to 25 pence per minute. However, certain nominated charities and helplines are free to call from mobiles,[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36] as are most of the numbers beginning 0808 80. Some mobile providers offer packages of several hundred minutes per month for several pounds per month, which can save money for frequent users. Giffgaff offers free calls to all 0500, 0800 and 0808 numbers.[45] Ofcom refers to these numbers as "Special Services - no charge to customer". There are proposals to make calls to freephone numbers free from mobiles.[18][19][20][21][22][23]

0845 prefix[edit]

During PhONEday in 1995, Thirsk nine-digit geographic 0845 numbers had converted to ten digits and moved to the 01845 prefix. The 0845 prefix remained unused until 1996 when it was re-allocated for use by ten-digit 0845 non-geographic numbers. However, the history of non-geographic numbers had actually started several decades earlier.

After Huddersfield numbers were moved from 0345 xxxxxx to 0484 xxxxxx (now 01484 xxxxxx) in the 1970s, the 0345 prefix was re-used by BT from 1985 and throughout the 1990s for "local rate" numbers under the brand name "Lo-call". Similarly, after Market Harborough 0645 xxxxxx numbers were transferred to 0858 xxxxxx (now 01858 xxxxxx), the 0645 prefix was eventually reallocated to Mercury Communications (now Cable & Wireless Communications) for their "LocalCall" service.

Each provider charged these calls at the same rate as local geographic calls. The 0345 xxxxxx[46] and 0645 xxxxxx[46] numbers continued to be used through the 1990s, until they were converted to 0845 7xx xxxx and 0845 9xx xxxx as part of the Big Number Change in April 2000. The new numbers were also charged at the same rate as a geographic call to 01 and 02 numbers within the caller's local call area.

In 2000, landline providers started to offer "inclusive" call packages where calls to all 01 and 02 numbers of up to one hour duration are free. However, outside of the plan there was no price distinction between local or national calls. In 2004, telecoms companies scrapped the remaining tariffs that had provided a discount for local geographic calls. With this change, "local rate" ceased to exist for all customers. Prices for calling 0845 numbers remained roughly the same as before, but since 2004 the UK Advertising Standards Authority has ruled against every company describing them as "local rate" or "lo-call" numbers.[1][2][3][4][47][48][49][50][51] Ofcom refers to 0845 numbers as "Special Services: Basic Rate".

0845 numbers offer the called-party the chance to collect a premium of up to 2 pence per minute. Only a very few fixed line telephone companies include 0845 numbers in bundled call allowances, in which case the onwards revenue share payment is subsidised by the Originating phone company. From mobile phones, 0845 numbers cost up to 41 pence per minute and are not included in call packages. Users of 0845 xxx xxxx numbers can migrate to the equivalent 0345 xxx xxxx number to ensure that landline and mobile callers pay the same as if they had called an 01 or 02 number.

Calls to 0845 numbers from BT's public telephone boxes (which are not regulated by Ofcom) are charged at 10p per 30 seconds (20p per minute). This is 30 times as much as a call to an 01, 02 or 03 number.[52]

0870 prefix[edit]

During PhONEday in 1995, Isle of Benbecula (Outer Hebrides) nine-digit geographic 0870 numbers had converted to ten digits and moved to the 01870 prefix. The 0870 prefix remained unused until 1996 when it was re-allocated for use by ten-digit 0870 non-geographic numbers. However, the history of non-geographic numbers had actually started several decades earlier.

After the 0990 area code for Ascot was subsumed into the Bracknell 0344 (nowadays 01344) area code, 0990 xxxxxx numbers were re-used by BT for their "NationalCall" service. After Langholm 0541 numbers were transferred to the 03873 (nowadays 013873) "mixed" area, 0541 5xxxxx numbers were reallocated to Mercury Communications (now Cable & Wireless Worldwide) for their "AreaCall" service.

In each case, both providers tied the call price to their national call price for geographic numbers. The 0990 xxxxxx[46] and 0541 5xxxxx[46] numbers continued to be used through the 1990s, until they were converted to 0870 5xx xxxx and 0870 15x xxxx in the Big Number Change in April 2000. Other operators (such as Vodafone using 0374) also had national rate prefixes and these were renumbered in a similar way.

In 2000, landline providers started to offer "inclusive" call packages where calls to 01 and 02 numbers of up to one hour duration are free. Within a few years most customers were on this type of plan. The price for calling 0870 numbers continued at roughly the same levels as before from the various providers. However, since most subscribers no longer pay a per-minute rate for calls to 01 and 02 numbers, it is misleading to use the term "national rate" to describe the price for calling 0870 numbers.[5][6][7][47][48][49][50][53]

In 2005, BT had suggested scrapping 0845 and 0870 numbers.[54] They were no longer "local rate" and "national rate" calls. Only call prices from BT lines were regulated. BT believed the public were being misled about their call prices from other operators. Ofcom proposed removing revenue share from 0870 numbers and capping prices at less than "national rate"[55] Those changes were then delayed by several years.

In response to concerns about the continuing abuse of 0870 numbers,[56] Ofcom announced in 2008 that higher charges for 0870 numbers were going to continue provided that there was an announcement before the call (pre-call announcement, or PCA). However, since that announcement Ofcom changed its decision, citing technical difficulties relating to alarm systems, some of which are life critical[57] and due to strong lobbying and pressure from the telecoms industry, who stood to lose significant revenue from the change.[citation needed]

0870 numbers remained as revenue share numbers only until 2009.[58] At that time, Ofcom announced that landine call tariffs for 0870 numbers were going to be the same as for geographic numbers, unless there was a PCA. Soon after, the PCA requirement was dropped. Ofcom refers to 0870 numbers as "non-geographic numbers".

Some fixed line telephone companies now include 0870 numbers in bundled call allowances. From mobile phones, 0870 numbers cost up to 41 pence per minute and are not included in call packages. However, it is likely that 0870 numbers will return to revenue share status in 2014 and prices when called from landlines will increase again. Users of 0870 xxx xxxx numbers can migrate to the equivalent 0370 xxx xxxx number to ensure that landline and mobile callers pay the same as if they had called an 01 or 02 number.

It is also likely that 0870 numbers will move to the same regime as 0871, 0872, 0873 (PhonepayPlus) as Premium numbers with call queuing permitted.[38]

Calls to 0870 numbers from BT's public telephone boxes (which are not regulated by Ofcom) are charged at 10p per 30 seconds (20p per minute). This is 30 times as much as a call to an 01, 02 or 03 number.[52]

Revenue sharing[edit]

When originally introduced in 1996, calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers from BT and other providers were charged at the same rate as local and national calls respectively when called from a landline. The called party collected a "premium" of up to 2 pence per minute from 0845 numbers and up to 10 pence per minute from 0870 numbers.

Since that time, the telecommunications market in the UK has changed substantially, with BT facing competition from new entrants into the market such as the Post Office and TalkTalk and increasing usage of mobile phones. As a result of this, and the introduction of monthly price plans which include calls to national 01 and 02 numbers but not 0845, 0870 or other non-geographic numbers, it is often considerably more expensive to call a non-geographic number than to call 01 and 02 numbers.

0842, 0843 and 0844 prefix[edit]

During PhONEday in 1995, Thetford 0842 numbers had moved to 01842, Thanet 0843 numbers had moved to 01843 and Thame 0844 numbers had moved to 01844. Previously used for nine-digit geographic numbers, those old 084x prefixes thereby became available for re-allocation as ten-digit 084x non-geographic numbers.

0844 numbers were introduced in 2000. 0843 numbers followed in 2007. 0842 is reserved for future allocations. These have a premium of up to 7 pence per minute. These numbers are never included in call plans and can cost up to 13 pence per minute plus a 16p connection fee from non-BT landlines and up to 45 pence per minute from mobile telephones. These prefixes have never had any sort of link to "local rate" pricing having been introduced after landline providers stopped charging different amounts for local and long distance calls. The Advertising Standards Authority can take action against companies that falsely claim 084 numbers are "local rate" or "lo-call" rate calls.[8][9][10][47][48][49][50][59] Ofcom refers to 084 numbers as "Special Services: Basic Rate".

Prices from BT lines are regulated such that BT makes no profit on the call. Most of the money paid by the caller is passed on to the terminating phone provider.

0871, 0872 and 0873 prefix[edit]

During PhONEday in 1995, Castlebay (Outer Hebrides) 0871 numbers had moved to 01871, Truro 0872 numbers had moved to 01872 and Abergavenny and Usk 0873 numbers had moved to 01873. Previously used for nine-digit geographic numbers, those old 087x prefixes thereby became available for re-allocation as ten-digit 087x non-geographic numbers.

0871 numbers were introduced in 2000. 0872 numbers followed in 2007. 0873 is reserved for future allocations. These have a premium of up to 13 pence per minute. These numbers are never included in call plans and can cost up to 16 pence per minute plus a 16p connection fee from non-BT landlines and up to 45 pence per minute from mobile telephones. These prefixes have never had any sort of link to "national rate" pricing having been introduced after landline providers stopped charging different amounts for local and long distance calls. The Advertising Standards Authority can take action against companies that falsely claim 087 numbers are "national rate" calls.[11][12][47][48][49][50][59][60] Ofcom refers to these numbers as "Special Services: Higher Rate".

Prices from BT lines are regulated such that BT makes no profit on the call. Most of the money paid by the caller is passed on to the terminating phone provider.

0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers may only be used with a verbal warning about the cost of calling them at the beginning of the call. The usage of these numbers is regulated by PhonepayPlus.

030, 033, 034 and 037 prefix[edit]

In 1995, as a part of PhONEday, geographic code starting 03 were changed by adding the number '1' after the initial '0'. Non-geographic, premium rate, pagers and mobile phones with 03 prefixes continued in use. In 2001, premium rate 0331, 0336 and 0338 numbers moved to new 090x prefixes, lo-call rate 0345 moved to 0845 7, national rate 0374 5 moved to 0870 45, vodapage pagers 0336 7 moved to 076 637 and vodafone mobile phones moved from 0374 to 07774 and from 0378 to 07778. This cleared the 03 prefix and it was then re-designated as "geographic expansion". However, the 03 range was eventually allocated to a new "non-geographic numbers charged at geographic rate" service in 2007.

When first introduced in the 1980s, call prices for chargeable non-geographic numbers (such as 0645 and 0990) had been tied to those for local and national geographic calls, hence there was no financial disadvantage incurred by the caller. Calls to local geographic numbers and to "local rate" NGNs cost the same amount. Likewise calls to long distance geographic numbers and to "national rate" NGNs cost the same amount. This situation existed from the 1980s through the conversion of those non-geographic numbers to the new 0845 and 0870 prefixes and until a year or two after the Big Number Change.

Since telecoms deregulation, several more landline providers entered the market and call packages with "inclusive" minutes to 01 and 02 numbers started to become the standard offering after 1999. This meant that calls to NGNs now cost a lot more than calling standard geographic numbers, even though the actual price for calling NGNs hadn't changed. BT charges for 0845 and 0870 were capped, with BT and the Terminating telco splitting the revenue. Other landline providers and mobile operators were free to charge whatever they liked for these calls.

BT call prices for 0843/0844 and 0871/0872 numbers were also capped by regulation. For these it was set such that BT were not allowed to make any profit. BT charges only a small amount above the "premium" set by the Terminating telco and hands almost the full amount on to them. Again, the various new landline providers and the many mobile operators were free to charge whatever they like for these calls, adding their own markup on top of the regulated "premium" amount that they had to collect from the caller and then pass on to the Terminating telco. Whatever the price, none of the newer number ranges has ever had any sort of connection to "local" or "national" call rates.

The original rationale for non-geographic numbers, i.e. saving customers money on long distance calls, or at least preventing the payment of an excessive amount for the call, had been lost. From around 2000-2004 until the present day, calls to 084 and 087 non-geographic numbers nearly always inflate the caller's phone bill compared to whatever the bill would have been if that had instead been a call to an 01 or 02 number.

Non-geographic numbers were increasingly being put into use for inappropriate purposes, fuelled partly by the belief these were still "local rate" calls, something that has not been true since 2004, and partly by a multiplicity of businesses attracted to the revenue-sharing aspect of the deal.

Ofcom had already taken notice of the increasing abuse[61] and eventually announced a new non-geographic number range in February 2007[62][63] with the first numbers already in use by May 2007. They are formally known as UK-wide numbers and revenue share is not permitted on any 03 number range.[62] The new ten-digit 03 numbers are designed to cost no more than calling an 01 or 02 number and are usable within "inclusive" minutes. This regulation applies to landline and mobile providers alike.[64] New users can choose between 030 and 033 numbers, but only certain bodies can use 030 numbers. Additionally, 034 and 037 numbers are available, but these are reserved solely for migration from the matching 084 and 087 ranges.[62][65]

When revenue sharing was banned on 0870 numbers in 2009, and when 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers were disallowed from call queueing and came under PhonepayPlus regulation in 2008, many businesses immediately swapped to 0844 and 0843 numbers. These ranges still allow both revenue sharing and call queueing and generally have less regulation. In December 2013, the enactment of the Consumer Rights Directive will begin to force companies currently using 084 and 087 numbers for customer service, complaints, renewals and cancellations to change their number. Users of 084 and 087 numbers can move to the equivalent 034 or 037 number or to a new 01, 02, 030, 033 or 080 number. The deadline for compliance is June 2014. The Directive states that "callers must not pay more than the basic rate". This will restore one of the original rationales for NGNs - callers not being financially disadvantaged by calling NGNs compared to the cost of calling geographic numbers.

Revenue share and call price indications[edit]

For any telephone call to a non-geographic number, there are four parties involved: the caller, the originating telco, the terminating telco and the called party.

The caller pays their telephone bill to the originating telco.

The called party is supplied their non-geographic telephone number by the terminating telco.

The terminating telco will have applied to Ofcom for, and been allocated, various blocks of numbers within each of the various non-geographic number prefixes.[66][67] Each 3-digit prefix is broken into a thousand blocks, with each block containing 10 000 numbers. Each block will have a specific premium that applies and a specific regulated BT call price, indicated by a tariff code such as g8, g11 or ff29.[68][69][70]

The premium amount is broadly set by the choice of telephone number prefix (i.e. 084, 087 and 09 numbers) and more finely grained by the actual telephone number. The called party has complete control over this choice when they pick a telephone number for their business from the available supply, e.g. 084 numbers (except 0845) have a premium of "up to 7 pence per minute or up to 7 pence per call", where 0844 477 is g6 or about 7p/min (BT retail price: 4.255p/min plus connection fee and VAT), 0844 705 is g11 or 5p/min (BT retail price: 3.404p/min plus connection fee and VAT), 0844 728 is g8 or 2p/min (BT retail price: 0.851p/min plus connection fee and VAT), and 0844 642 is ff29 or 6p/call (BT retail price: 4.20p/call plus connection fee and VAT).[66][67] and 087 numbers (except 0870) have a premium of "up to 13 pence per minute or up to 13 pence per call" with various choices as to the exact amount in a similar manner. 087 numbers (except 0870) are subject to additional regulation by PhonepayPlus.

After covering the cost of routing the call to its final destination, the Terminating telco may share some of the remaining "premium" directly with the called party in a "revenue share" arrangement, or may use those monies to offset the cost of providing other services for the called party.

Typical premium levels[edit]

The premium received by the Terminating telco is set by BT and Ofcom. The general level is set by the prefix. Within each prefix there may be various levels of premium to choose from, set by the first six digits of the telephone number.

Prefix Premium collected by Terminating telco
030x, 033x, 034x, 037x no premium, no revenue share allowed
0500 no premium, no revenue share allowed
0800, 0808 no premium, no revenue share allowed
0842, 0843, 0844 up to 7 pence per minute or up to 7 pence per call – set by Terminating telco
0845 2 pence per minute – set by Terminating telco
0870 previously about 10 pence per minute; currently no premium and no revenue share allowed
0871, 0872, 0873 up to 13 pence per minute or up to 13 pence per call – set by Terminating telco

Typical markup levels[edit]

The call price may contain an additional markup set by the Originating telco. Markup is not allowed on some number ranges, is allowed up to a certain level on others, is allowed up to a specific total call price on others, and is unregulated on the rest. The specified conditions also vary depending on whether the Originating telco is BT, another landline provider or a mobile operator.

Call price markup by Originating telco
Prefix BT landlines Other landline providers Mobile telephones
030x
033x
034x
037x
same price as calling 01/02 numbers and usable in inclusive minutes – by regulation same price as calling 01/02 numbers and usable in inclusive minutes – by regulation same price as calling 01/02 numbers and usable in inclusive minutes – by regulation
0500 no markup - free to caller – by regulation no markup - free to caller – by regulation typically 10 to 40 pence per minute markup[notes 1]unregulated
0800
0808
no markup - free to caller – by regulation no markup - free to caller – by regulation typically 10 to 40 pence per minute markup[notes 1]unregulated
(nothing for 0808 80 and some other 080 numbers)
0842
0843
0844
no markup – by regulation[notes 2] typically 2 to 6 pence per minute markup – unregulated typically 15 to 40 pence per minute markup – unregulated
0845 previously up to a call price total that's the same as a Local rate call to a landline (about 2 to 5 pence per minute) – by regulation;
currently up to a call price total of up to 5 pence per minute – by regulation
BT choose to make 0845 calls inclusive on certain tariffs by having zero markup and by subsidising the 2p/min premium from monthly call package subscriptions[notes 3]
typically 2 to 10 pence per minute markup – unregulated
several operators choose to make 0845 calls inclusive on certain tariffs by having zero markup and by subsidising the 2p/min revenue share premium
typically 10 to 35 pence per minute markup – unregulated
0870 previously up to a call price total that's the same as a National rate call to a landline (about 10 pence per minute) – by regulation;
currently the same price as calling 01/02 numbers and usable in inclusive minutes – by regulation[notes 4]
previously 5 to 10 pence per minute markup – unregulated;
currently the same price as calling 01/02 numbers and usable in inclusive minutes – by regulation
typically 10 to 35 pence per minute markup – unregulated
0871
0872
0873
no markup – by regulation[notes 2] typically 3 to 8 pence per minute markup – unregulated typically 10 to 35 pence per minute markup – unregulated

Call price indications[edit]

The Originating telco charges the caller for each call. The price the caller pays consists of two elements. Currently, these are not separately declared.

  • the per-minute or per-call "premium" that is passed on to the Terminating telco, and
  • the price per-minute markup added by the Originating telco.

The Originating telco only ever advertises the combined or bundled price. This may also include a connection fee when the call originates from a landline.

Each Originating telco publishes their call charges but it can be quite complicated to look up the call price.

For landlines, the tables for 084 and 087 numbers contain several thousand entries, with each block of numbers, e.g. 0844 755, indicating a tariff code.[68][69][70] The tariff code can be converted to the price paid by looking in the separate table of charges published by each Originating landline provider.

Mobile phone price plans usually charge the same highly inflated pence per minute rate for all numbers with the same prefix irrespective of the level of premium that applies, and even when the premium is "per call" rather than per minute.

Ofcom's tables show BT's regulated call price for each number range,[67] but it is not clear to the consumer how whatever they paid for the call is distributed between the Originating and Terminating telco. In the case of BT, nearly all of the money goes to the Terminating telco.

The price for calling non-geographic 084 and 087 numbers from BT landlines is artificially low as it is capped by regulation. For 0843, 0844, 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers, BT cannot charge anything extra on top of the "premium" they pass on to the Terminating telco. Other providers have no such restriction and are free to markup the call price. From non-BT landlines, 084 numbers can cost up to 13p/min plus 16p connection fee and 087 numbers can cost up to 15 pence per minute plus 16p connection fee. From mobiles, 084 and 087 numbers can cost up to 45 pence per minute and are never usable in "inclusive" minutes.

Currently, the called party is obligated to quote only the (artificially reduced) call price from BT landlines; e.g. for 0844 numbers: "calls cost 5 pence per minute from a BT landline, other providers and mobile operators may charge more." This price disparity is one of the causes of bill shock, especially for mobile phone users.

Ofcom now proposes "unbundling" non-geographic call prices in 2014. Under this arrangement the called party has to declare the amount of "premium" or Service Charge the caller pays (and mention that the Originating telco will add a further markup or Access Charge on top) when they advertise their telephone number. The Originating telco has to advise their customers what the Access Charge (their call price markup) is and this is a single figure covering all 084, 087 and 09 numbers.

As an example:

  • Who you are calling: "Call us on 0844 555 8888 – calls incur a 7p/min Service Charge, your provider will add their Access Charge" (i.e. typically 0p to 10p/min from landlines and 15p to 40p/min from mobiles).
  • Your landline telecoms company: "The price of calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers consists of the Service Charge due to the called party, plus our 4p/min Access Charge."[notes 2]
  • Your mobile phone company: "The price of calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers consists of the Service Charge due to the called party, plus our 28p/min Access Charge."

This change will enable consumers to more easily compare providers, and will make it clear when calling these numbers that the called party financially benefits from the call.

Call prices and premiums in detail[edit]

There are dozens of tariff codes covering the range of BT retail call prices. The "premium" amounts are bundled within that call price and generally unpublished. Tariff tables contain thousands of entries (from 084 3000 to 084 5999 and from 087 0000 to 087 3999); there is no numbering scheme matching broad tariff types to specific prefixes. Instead the first six digits of the phone number are matched to a particular tariff. Both the tariff code and the regulated BT retail price can be looked up in Ofcom's list.[67]

Scheme Tariff code BT's retail price (regulated) Approx premium Prefixes
Pence per call,
fixed at all times
ff29 4.20p/call 6p/call 0843, 0844, 0871[notes 5][notes 6]
ff15 5.10p/call 7p/call 0871, 0872
ff28 NTS 8.50p/call 10p/call 0871, 0872
ff0 PRS 8.60p/call 10p/call 0871, 0872
Call setup fee + pence per minute,
fixed at all times
g24 4.20p/call + 4.255p/min 7p/min 0843, 0844, 0871,[notes 7] 0872[notes 8]
g25 8.51p/call + 8.51p/min 10p/min 0871, 0872
Pence per minute,
fixed at all times
g21 geographic rate or inclusive nil 030, 033, 034, 037
g22 0.425p/min 2p/min 0843, 0844
g8 0.851p/min 2p/min 0843, 0844
g27 1.277p/min 3p/min 0843, 0844
g9 1.702p/min 4p/min 0843, 0844
(no code) 2p/min or inclusive 2p/min 0845 only
g28 2.128p/min 3p/min 0843, 0844
g10 2.553p/min 4p/min 0843, 0844
g11 3.404p/min 5p/min 0843, 0844
g6 and p27 4.255p/min 7p/min 0843, 0844, 0871, 0872
(no code) 8p/min or inclusive ~10p/min
0p/min
0870 only
g12 and p38 5.106p/min 8p/min 0871, 0872, 0844[notes 9]
g13 and p39 5.957p/min 8p/min 0871, 0872, 0844[notes 10]
g14 and p40 6.808p/min 9p/min 0871, 0872, 0844[notes 11]
g15 and p41 7.659p/min 9p/min 0871, 0872, 0844[notes 12]
g7 or p9 8.510p/min 10p/min 0871, 0872
Pence per minute
with separate
daytime, evening, weekend
pricing
g16 1.702/0.851/0.851p/min varies 0843, 0844
g17 2.553/1.702/0.851p/min varies 0843, 0844
g18 3.361/0.851/0.851 [sic] varies 0843, 0844
g19 3.361/1.268/0.851p/min varies 0843, 0844
g26 3.404/2.553/0.851p/min varies 0843, 0844
g20 4.210/2.112/1.702p/min varies 0843, 0844, 0872[notes 13]
g23 or p37 6.730/3.360/1.270p/min varies 0871, 0872, 0870[notes 14]

Only BT prices are capped by regulation. The price charged by other providers is unrestricted.

Usage of non-geographic numbers[edit]

084 numbers in business[edit]

084 numbers are typically used by the service departments of businesses and public sector organisations. For example, suppose a large retail chain has stores throughout the country. It advertises a single 084 phone number. Customers across the country call this one number, but the call could be answered at their local store, according to the origin of the call.[citation needed]

Another use of 084 numbers is for call-financed services. The owner of the 084 number in some cases receives income from calls received, with which they can partly or wholly finance their service, or even make a profit. Some dial-up ISPs receive their income in this way, with no need for separate billing of customers.

Charges paid by the caller for 084 calls are set individually by each Originating phone company and include the revenue share premium they have to pass on to the Terminating telco. Charges can vary greatly, especially when the call originates from a UK mobile, payphone or a non-UK number. They can often be prohibitively expensive when called from payphones and mobiles because discounts and bundled "inclusive" minutes do not apply.

Healthcare[edit]

Due to concerns raised by patients having to pay unfair costs when calling NHS services by telephone,[71] the usage of 0870 non-geographic numbers was banned by the Department of Health in 2005.[72][73][74] At that time, 0870 numbers often cost more to call than geographic 01 and 02 numbers and were not usually included in bundled minutes. Around 400 GP surgeries used 0870 numbers and were also coming under greater scrutiny[75][76][77] with a few reverting to geographic numbers.[78]

Many of these services quickly moved to 0845 or 0844 revenue share numbers as they were not specifically banned, even though they also cost more to call than 01 and 02 numbers and in many cases cost more to call than 0870 numbers. The tendency to unlawfully refer to 084x numbers as 'local rate' or 'lo-call' numbers hid the true cost of calling them,[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][47][48][49][50][51][53][59][60] compared to the price for calling geographic numbers. One supplier of surgery telephone systems opted to use 0844 revenue share numbers paying the surgery 2p/min[79] from the 5p/min "premium" paid by callers. Contravening ASA advice,[1][8][9][10] surgeries were told that 0844 numbers were "lo-call" numbers[79] and subsequent tariff comparisons ignored both packages with inclusive minutes and users with mobile phones.

In December 2006, Lord Norman Warner sent a letter to all Primary Care Trust Chief Executives drawing attention to the Central Office of Information guidance on telephone numbering, which suggested that healthcare providers consider adopting an 03 telephone number so that people "do not have to pay over the odds to contact their local services".[80][81] Very few took notice. In July and November 2007, two Early Day Motions were signed by numerous MPs calling for GPs to no longer use 0844 and other such expensive telephone numbers.[82][83]

In recent years, there has been much discussion in the media about the use of 0844 numbers in the healthcare sector, mainly due to the costs incurred by people who have to dial these numbers as the primary form of contact with their local healthcare services, especially when calling from mobiles.[84][85][86][87][88][89][90][91][92][93][94][95][96][97][98][99][100][101]

The issue was debated in Parliament in early 2008.[102][103] The BMA recommended that GPs publish call costs for 0844 numbers in surgeries.[104] Former Health Secretary Alan Johnson has publicly advocated the use of 03 numbers.[105] By early 2008 there were already more than 800 GPs in England using 0844 telephone numbers.[105]

The Department of Heath started investigating the use of 084 numbers in the NHS in March 2008[106] Phone supplier NEG stated their belief that 0844 numbers would not be banned.[107]

In 2008, Leicester City NHS Trust looked into their usage of telephone numbers and revealed a complex set of issues to be solved,[108] some of which were fixed later in the year.[109] Enfield Primary Care Trust wrote to all 62 surgeries in the borough warning them that it does not approve of them using premium rate 0844 numbers.[110] It was revealed that Mid-Yorkshire hospital trust had made more than £80,000 from use of a 0844 telephone number in two years.[111][112] By late 2008, the number of GPs surgeries using 084 numbers had risen to 1500.[113]

The Department of Health published a consultation[114][115] at the end of 2008 calling for views on the usage of 084 numbers in the NHS[116][117][118] which received more than 3000 responses. Ofcom recommended the 03 option.[119] In 2009, Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust moved 22 GPs to new 0345 numbers.[120]

Although 0870 numbers were banned in 2005, even as late as 2010 there were NHS bodies only now just getting around to complying with that ban.[121]

It had been widely reported in 2009 that 084 numbers were to be banned from the NHS.[122][123][124][125][126][127][128][129][130][131][132] In December 2009, the Department of Health published directions to NHS bodies concerning the cost of telephone calls made by patients to the NHS: "An NHS body must not enter into, renew or extend a contract or other arrangement for telephone services unless it is satisfied that, having regard to the arrangement as a whole, persons will not pay more to make relevant calls to the NHS body then they would to make equivalent calls to a geographic number."[133][134] This reiterated the "free at the point of delivery" principle of the NHS and the direction applied to all NHS bodies.

0844 numbers continued to be adopted by GPs, with an estimated 200 more signing up in the final six months of 2009.[135]

GPs banned from using 0844 (and other 084x and 087x) numbers in 2010[edit]

In April 2010, the Department of Health introduced new GMS (General Medical Services) contracts[136][137] so that GPs would now also be covered by the earlier direction.[133][134] From this point on, the more than 6500 GP surgeries in England and Wales were banned from using phone numbers that "cost more than calling a geographic number", and given one year to comply.[138] The GMS contract variation was needed as GPs are not NHS bodies, rather independent contractors.

Questions were asked in the Scottish Parliament in June 2010.[139]

A year after the GMS contract variation came into effect, many GPs were continuing to use 0844 numbers in defiance of the ban.[140][141][142][143][144][145][146][147][148][149][150][151][152][153] In March and May 2011, more than 1300 GP surgeries were still using the banned 0844 (and 0845/0870) numbers.[154][155] It was becoming clear that local decision makers (i.e. PCTs and GPs) had failed to understand the 0844 revenue share mechanism as well as the price regulations that apply uniquely to BT and make their call rates atypical when compared to other providers.[156] At least one PCT claimed that they did not know what patients were paying for calls and further claimed that they had no way of finding out,[153] seemingly unaware that every telecoms supplier publishes a detailed price list on their respective websites.

A number of GPs claimed that only calls from landlines should be taken into account, but a statement in Parliament confirmed that "It is absolutely clear that there is no distinction between landlines, mobiles or payphones. The directions are very clear that patients should not expect to be charged any more."[157][158]

PCTs (Primary Care Trusts), en masse, had seemingly misunderstood the regulations or had been misled by the incorrect advice spread by NEG[159][160][161] and the BMA[162] as by November 2011 more than 1400 GPs were using the "banned" numbers.[163]

Protests against the use of 0844 numbers were growing.[164] There are even cases of GPs changing to 0844 numbers a year after the ban started.[165][166]

Only a small number of GPs had complied with the ban.[167][168][169][170][171][172] Various GPs using 0844 numbers attempted to justify their position[173] based on demonstratably false information.[174][175][176] In some areas, patients took it upon themselves to find and publish geographic numbers for GPs continuing to flout the 0844 ban.[177][178]

In January 2012, a parliamentary debate took place[179][180] where it was confirmed that users "should not pay more than a geographic rate call" and it was clarified that this applies to "both landlines and mobiles". Additionally, "bundled" or "free minutes" should also count.[181][182] The reference provides some additional commentary on the major points.[183]

A month later, the Department of Health issued further guidance on the use of 084 numbers in the NHS confirming that GPs should consider "all means of telephoning the practice – including from payphones, mobile phones and landlines"[184][185][186][187] which the BMA disputed.[188] 0844 numbers were mentioned again in a parliamentary debate in March 2012 when the Secretary of State Andrew Lansley confirmed: "We have made it very clear that GPs should not be using 0844 numbers for that purpose and charging patients for them."[189][190] A small number of surgeries have since complied with the regulation by moving to 01 or 02 numbers[191][192][193][194][195][196][197] but most have not done so.[198][199][200][201][202]

The Northern Ireland Assembly debated the issue in May 2012[203][204] where it was disclosed that 23 of Northern Ireland's 355 GP surgeries use an 0844 number.[205] A briefing note was produced within, and for the usage of, UK government. This covered some of the history relating to the issue.[206] Campaigners had already produced a simplified timeline.[207] In their response to an ongoing Ofcom consulation on simplifying non-geographic numbers, NEG said "Under the proposed new structure, Ofcom expects call cost descriptions to follow the format: 'This call will cost you X pence per minute plus your phone company's access charge.' We do not believe that it is appropriate for a patient to receive the Service Charge information advised by OFCOM when they contact their surgery as this will only seek to alarm them, and perpetuate the myth that all calls (to 084 numbers) are more costly."[208]

In order to comply, GPs should be using numbers that begin 01, 02 or 03 and should not be using numbers that begin 070, 084, 087 or 09.[209] The 034 and 037 ranges are reserved specifically for 084 and 087 migration. GPs using 084 and 087 numbers can migrate to the equivalent 034 or 037 version of their number without ending their phone service contracts.[210] Alternatively they can move to brand new 030 or 033 numbers or to a geographic 01 or 02 number. Only a few GPs and NHS services have chosen 03 numbers[211] even though this should be the most obvious solution since 03 numbers allow the same call queueing and call management facilities as 084 and 087 numbers while costing the same as 01 and 02 numbers for all callers.

In spite of the ban on 0844 numbers in the NHS since April 2010, more GPs continue to sign up to use them[212][213][214][215][216][217][218][219][220] however PhonepayPlus has also taken an interest in extending regulations that already cover 09 and 087 numbers — as used for premium rate chat lines, competitions and phone-in voting systems — to also cover 084 numbers.[38]

Multiple PCTs have failed to enforce the terms of the April 2010 variations to the GMS contract and many GPs continue to use the banned numbers.[221] At least one surgery with an 0844 contract and with considerable time remaining time before it ends has adopted Skype as an alternative method of contacting the surgery.[222] Some surgeries have two telephone numbers: one a premium rate 0844 number with a higher level of service and the other a standard geographic 01 or 02 number with a lower level of service,[223][224] thereby creating a two-tier system for accessing the NHS services.[225]

Almost three years after the ban, some GPs within the constituencies of government ministers continue to use 0844 numbers.[226] In the South-East of England, usage of 0844 numbers continues unabated.[227][228][229] In any case, in 2013 the Consumer Rights Directive will soon make it illegal to use 084 and 087 numbers, indeed any number that "costs more than geographic rate", for customer services and complaints.[15][16][17] Where contracts are ending, GPs often choose to return to using 01 and 02 numbers[230][231][232] even though 03 numbers cost the same for all callers.

Public sector[edit]

On 14 October 2008, the Metropolitan Police Service launched its new 0300 non-emergency telephone number: 0300 123 1212.[233] The force joins Durham, Essex, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, Staffordshire, Tayside, West Midlands,[234][235] West Mercia, and Surrey constabularies who also now use 03 numbers.

Future[edit]

With widespread abuse of non-geographic numbers continuing unabated,[56] lack of price transparency and low consumer confidence, on 30 April 2010 Ofcom announced a new, wide-ranging review of all non-geographic call services.[18] This is eventually expected to result in 0870 numbers returning to revenue share and their regulation being aligned with that for 0871 and 0872 numbers, 0845 regulation being aligned with that for 0843 and 0844 numbers and all 084 and 087 numbers being covered by a new "unbundled tariffs" scheme.

In June 2014, Article 21 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights[15][16] will come into force. It states

Member States shall ensure that where the trader operates a telephone line for the purpose of contacting him by telephone in relation to the contract concluded, the consumer, when contacting the trader is not bound to pay more than the basic rate.

HM Government enacted Article 19 concerning credit and debit card surcharges much earlier than originally scheduled,[236] and the bulk of the directive in July 2013.[237] However, draft legislation banning 084, 087 and 09 numbers for customer service use wasn't published until August 2013.[17] In the initial draft, various sectors such as finance, passenger transport, roundsmen, gambling and package travel are proposed to be exempt.

Views on non-geographic numbers[edit]

Opposition[edit]

Clients are attracted to 084 and 087 numbers because per minute revenue is generated for them from each call, and call queuing is permitted. Call centres may generate very high revenue from high call volumes. Questions have been asked in the British House of Commons about how much money the UK government is receiving from call queuing on non-geographic numbers.[238]

There is increasing consumer opposition to non-geographic numbers. This is partly due to revenue sharing concerns and partly due to these calls not being eligible for use within inclusive minutes. Whilst a national or regional business may want a single contact number that is not tied to a location, there seems little sense in a small trader covering a town, or at most a county, having a non-geographic number for their single telephone line. Businesses are attracted to using 084 numbers as many of the sellers of NGNs assert that callers are paying only a "local rate" call.

Consumers are aware that they are being charged for time spent waiting for their call to be answered. (Even more of the public is aware of the huge costs of 09 Premium rate numbers, where prices have to be clearly indicated, and on which call queuing is specifically prohibited.) There has been increasing media coverage[239][240] which has raised awareness of this.

During debates in the House of Commons, a number of Members of Parliament have criticised the use of 0845 numbers to provide access to government services, such as at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).[241] It is objected that taxpayers are already financing government services via taxation, and in the specific case of DWP that many callers are benefit claimants without much money. The DWP is in the process of migrating from 0845 numbers to 0800 or 03 numbers.[242] The Department of Health undertook a public consultation on banning 084 numbers in NHS services[114] and amended GP contracts in 2010 to ban their use.[125][136]

Some consumers have tried to avoid calling non-geographic numbers by instead calling a non-advertised geographic number.[243][244] Geographic rate alternatives to chargeable non-geographic numbers can often be found through simple online searches on web sites such as saynoto0870.com.[245]

The Consumer Rights Directive, expected to be implemented in December 2013, and the introduction of "unbundled" tariffs, due to be announced by Ofcom in late 2013, will address many of the current concerns.

Support[edit]

An organisation may prefer a non-geographic number over a geographic number for several reasons.

  • Communication. The organisation can advertise a single national phone number rather than having different numbers for different regions or times of day. Materials showing the number can be used across the country. Changes to non-geographic number ranges are rare, the only one since the 1980s being the forced move of nine-digit numbers to new standardised 08 and 09 prefixes and ten digits in the Big Number Change in 2001.
  • Revenue. The charge paid by the caller finances the forwarding of the call to the appropriate destination. Additionally, if sufficient volume is attained, the organisation receives a share of the call charge. Thus a charge is made to the customer, who may not be aware of it.
    • Call volumes and/or revenue would decrease if the true costs were known to callers, so strategies have been developed to hide them.
      • Misleading descriptions such as "Local Rate" "Lo-call" and "National Rate" are sometimes used, which falsely imply that call costs are the same as local/national calls to 01 or 02 numbers.
      • Numerical association can be applied: 0843 and 0844 numbers look similar to 0845, and most people would assume that they cost no more than 0845 numbers, which is not the case. (Similarly for 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers, compared with the older, more well-known, 0870 code.)
  • Routing. The operator can provide tools for managing large volumes of incoming calls. Calls can be routed to call centres in different parts of the country depending on e.g. the origin of the call, the available capacity or the time of day. The caller is less likely to encounter a busy signal and have to re-dial.
  • Mis-selling. Some companies using 08 numbers may be unaware of the true cost of calls made to their 08 numbers, having been sold the system as "based on local rate calls".

Some people and businesses support the use of non-geographic numbers because they believe they are cheaper to call (from all networks). There is still a lingering perception that 084 numbers are "local rate" and therefore cost less than calling long-distance 01 and 02 numbers. The reality is that for most people 01 and 02 numbers can be called within "inclusive" minutes, whilst 084 numbers will be charged at 5p to 15p/min from landlines and 25p to 45p/min from mobiles.

Freephone numbers are also confusing. 0500 and 080x numbers are free from landlines, and the receiver pays for the call. From mobiles these are charged at 10p to 30p/min. There are proposals to make these calls free from mobiles, but this cannot happen until the "termination rate" achieves parity with that levied for landline calls.

The new 03 numbers range costs the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers and can be used within "inclusive" minutes. Where the call is chargeable, this is at "geographic rate", although an intermediate rate maybe charged where the caller is on a tariff that still has separate local and national rates.

Non-geographic numbers are most useful in connection with enhanced routing call handling services, and also to enable the same number to be kept if a business's geographical location changes. This can also be achieved using normal geographic numbers, but the initial cost of equipment and ongoing service costs to do this can be higher, and no revenue is returned (unlike 084x and 087x numbers).

Handling of NGN calls[edit]

In the simplest case, the NGN is translated into a regular geographic number. This number is then routed by the exchange in the normal way.

Other routing features include routing by time of day, location of caller, day of week, capacity, etc. For example, calls might be routed to a UK call centre during its hours of operation, but to a call centre in India at other times of day. This would avoid callers having to ring back when the UK call centre was open.


Call costs by prefix[edit]

030, 033, 034 and 037[edit]

From UK landlines[edit]

  • Call packages with inclusive minutes for calling 01 and 02 numbers must also apply to 03 numbers, by law.
  • For most callers, 03 numbers cost nothing extra above the line rental and call package cost.
  • Only callers without inclusive minutes will pay for the call.
  • Where chargeable, 03 numbers must cost no more than calling 01 and 02 numbers.
  • Revenue share is not allowed for 03 numbers.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
all inclusive in call package "free minutes",
else no more than calling 01 and 02 numbers
31 May 2007

From UK mobiles[edit]

  • The monthly minutes included in contract price plans for calling 01 and 02 numbers must also apply to 03 numbers, by law.
  • The inclusive minutes within pay-as-you-go bolt-ons for calling 01 and 02 numbers must also apply to 03 numbers, by law.
  • For most callers, 03 numbers cost nothing extra above the contract line-rental or pay-as-you-go bolt-on fee.
  • Only callers on pay-you-go without a bolt-on and contract users who have run out of inclusive minutes will pay for the call.
  • Where chargeable, 03 numbers must cost no more than calling 01 and 02 numbers.
  • Revenue share is not allowed for 03 numbers.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
all inclusive in call package "free minutes" or "calls bolt-on",
else no more than calling 01 and 02 numbers
31 May 2007

0500, 0800 and 0808[edit]

From UK landlines[edit]

  • Calls are free from all landlines and payphones.
  • There is nothing to pay for the call.
  • The called party pays for the call.
  • Revenue share is not allowed for 0500 or 080 numbers.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
all no charge - free to caller 31 May 2007

From UK mobiles[edit]

  • The charges shown generally apply to calls from pre-paid mobile plans ("pay-as-you-go") with VAT included.
  • The charges are often higher on post-pay ("pay monthly") plans.
  • The monthly minutes (sometimes called free minutes) included in price plans never apply to 0500, 0800 and 0808 numbers in general, and are charged separately.
  • Calls to a small number of helplines and charities using specific 0500, 0800 and 0808 numbers are free from some networks.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36]
  • Calls to numbers beginning 0808 80x xxxx are free from some networks.
  • Revenue share is not allowed for 0500 or 080 numbers.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
3 15.3p[246] 1 Dec 2012
BT Mobile tba[247]
O2 15p / 20.4p[248] 1 Dec 2012
Orange 20p(0800) / 40p(0500,0808)[249] / 20p(0500) / 35p(08001,0808)[250] 1 Jan 2013
TalkTalk tba[251]
Tesco Mobile 8p / 20p[252] 1 Dec 2012
T-Mobile 20.0p / 33.3p[253] 1 Jan 2013
Virgin Mobile 15p[254] / 21p[255] 1 Dec 2012
Vodafone 14p[256] / 14p[257] 1 Dec 2012

0845[edit]

From UK landlines (does not include payphones, which cost considerably more)[edit]

  • The cost of calling 0845 numbers consists of the revenue-share premium of 2p/min set by the terminating telco and the markup from 2p to 10p/min added by the originating telco - your phone company (competition regulation, ending soon, prohibits BT from charging more than 5p/min for these calls).
  • The 0845 range is divided into 1,000 blocks (084 5000 to 084 5999) of 10,000 numbers but the same pricing rules apply to each block.
  • It is illegal to refer to these calls as "local rate" or "lo-call" rate.[1][2][3][4][47][48][49][50][51] These terms have not applied since before 2004.
  • The cost of calling an 0845 number is sometimes less than for a chargeable geographic 01 or 02 number. However, as 0845 numbers are not generally included in call plans offering inclusive calls, the 0845 call often ends up costing more than calling 01 and 02 numbers as those are effectively "free".
  • Prices include VAT.
Operator Connection Charge Daytime / per min Evening / per min Weekend / per min Date checked
BT [258] 13.87p 3.864p 0.978p 0.978p 1 June 2009 *[259]
Sky[260] 13.87p 6.63p 6.63p 6.63p 1 Dec 2012
SkypeOut[43] 3.3p 9.2p 9.2p 9.2p 4 May 2011
Virgin Media[261] 11p 10p 10p 10p 10 May 2010
Vonage[262] 4p 4p 2p 1p 30 Aug 2010

From UK mobiles[edit]

  • The charges shown generally apply to calls from pre-paid mobile plans ("pay-as-you-go") with VAT included.
  • The charges may be lower on post-pay ("pay monthly") plans, but can be more expensive on other mobile providers.
  • The monthly minutes (sometimes called free minutes) included in price plans generally do not apply to 0845 numbers, which are charged separately.
  • The cost of calling 0845 numbers consists of the revenue-share premium of 2p/min set by the Terminating telco and the markup from 15p to 35p/min added by the Originating telco - your phone company.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
3 35p[246] 4 May 2011
BT Mobile 20p[247] 30 Dec 2007
O2 20-25p[248] 10 May 2010
Orange 40p[249][250] 12 Apr 2010
TalkTalk 35p[251] 30 Dec 2007
Tesco Mobile 20p[252] 30 Dec 2007
T-Mobile 41p[253] 26 Dec 2012
Virgin Mobile 41p[254][255] 21 July 2010
Vodafone 0845 25p[256] / 20p[257] 30 July 2010

0870[edit]

From UK landlines (does not include payphones, which cost considerably more)[edit]

  • The price for calls to 0870 numbers used to include a 5p/min revenue-share premium. Since 2009, no premium can be charged.
  • The 0870 range is divided into 1000 blocks (087 0000 to 087 0999) of 10 000 numbers but the same pricing rules apply to each block.
  • Where chargeable, the cost of calling an 0870 number is usually higher than calling a geographic 01 or 02 number. Prices for 0870 have not been tied to "national rate" since before 2004.[5][6][7][47][48][49][50][53]
  • Since 2009, however, 0870 numbers are often included in call plans offering inclusive minutes.
  • Prices include VAT.
Operator Connect Charge Day per min Eve per min Weekend per min Date checked
BT[258] 13.87p/Free 5.88p/Free 1.47p/Free 5.88p/1.47p/Free 18 Feb 2009 *[259]
Sky[260] 13.87p/Free 8.41p/Free 8.41p/Free Free 1 Dec 2012
SkypeOut[43] 3.3p 12.7p 12.7p 12.7p 4 May 2011
Virgin Media[261] Free Free Free Free 26 Sep 2011
Vonage[262] 2p 1p 1p 20 Aug 2010

- * Depending on calling plan.

From UK mobiles[edit]

  • The charges shown generally apply to calls from pre-paid mobile plans ("pay-as-you-go") with VAT included.
  • The charges may be lower on post-pay ("pay monthly") plans, but can be more expensive on other mobile providers.
  • The monthly minutes (sometimes called free minutes) included in price plans generally do not apply to 0870 numbers, which are charged separately.
  • The price for calls to 0870 numbers used to include a 5p/min revenue share premium. Since 2009, no premium can be charged.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
3 35p[246] 4 May 2011
BT Mobile tba[247] 30 Dec 2007
O2 20-25p[248] 10 May 2010
Orange 40p[249][250] 12 Apr 2010
TalkTalk 35p[251] 30 Dec 2007
Tesco Mobile 20p[252] 30 Dec 2007
T-Mobile 40p[253] 7 Jan 2011
Virgin Mobile 41p[254][255] 21 July 2010
Vodafone 0870 25p[256] / 20p[257] 30 July 2010

0842, 0843 and 0844[edit]

From UK landlines (does not include payphones, which cost considerably more)[edit]

  • The cost of calling 0842, 0843 and 0844 numbers consists of the revenue-share premium from 0.8p to 4.3p/min[67] set by the Terminating telco and the markup from 2p to 10p/min added by the Originating telco - your phone company (Competition regulation, ending soon, prohibits BT from adding a markup).
  • The 084 range is divided into 3000 blocks (084 2000 to 087 4999) of 10 000 numbers with each block being assigned one of more than a dozen tariff codes, hence prices have to be looked up individually.
  • These numbers are premium-rate revenue-share numbers and have never had any association with "local rate".[8][9][10][47][48][49][50][59][60]
  • These numbers are never included within inclusive call plans.


From UK mobiles[edit]

  • The charges shown generally apply to calls from pre-paid mobile plans ("pay-as-you-go") with VAT included.
  • The charges may be lower on post-pay ("pay monthly") plans, but can be more expensive on other mobile providers.
  • The monthly minutes (sometimes called free minutes) included in price plans never apply to 0842, 0843 and 0844 numbers, which are charged separately.
  • The cost of calling 0842, 0843 and 0844 numbers consists of the revenue-share premium from 0.8p to 4.3p/min[67] set by the Terminating telco and the markup from 15p to 40p/min added by the Originating telco - your phone company.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
3 20.4p or 35p[246] 1 Dec 2012
BT Mobile tba[247]
O2 25p / 20.4p[248] 1 Dec 2012
Orange 40p[249] / 12.3p[250][notes 15] 1 Dec 2012
TalkTalk tba[251]
Tesco Mobile 20p[252] 1 Dec 2012
T-Mobile 45p / 34p[253] 1 Dec 2012
Virgin Mobile 25p[254] / 41p[255] 1 Dec 2012
Vodafone 0842 0843 0844 25p[256] / 20p[257] 30 July 2010

0871, 0872 and 0873[edit]

From UK landlines (does not include payphones, which cost considerably more)[edit]

  • The cost of calling 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers consists of the revenue-share premium from 4.3p to 8.5p/min[67] set by the Terminating telco and the markup from 5p to 15p/min added by the Originating telco - your phone company (Competition regulation, ending soon, prohibits BT from adding a markup).
  • The 087 range is divided into 3000 blocks (087 1000 to 087 3999) of 10 000 numbers with each block being assigned one of more than a dozen tariff codes, hence prices have to be looked up individually.
  • These numbers are premium-rate revenue-share numbers and have never had any association with "national rate".[11][12][47][48][49][50][59][60]
  • These numbers are never included within inclusive call plans.


From UK mobiles[edit]

  • The charges shown generally apply to calls from pre-paid mobile plans ("pay-as-you-go") with VAT included.
  • The charges may be lower on post-pay ("pay monthly") plans, but can be more expensive on other mobile providers.
  • The monthly minutes (sometimes called free minutes) included in price plans never apply to 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers, which are charged separately.
  • The cost of calling 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers consists of the revenue-share premium from 4.3p to 8.5p/min[67] set by the Terminating telco and the markup from 10p to 35p/min added by the Originating telco - your phone company.
Operator Cost/min Date checked
3 20.4p or 35p[246] 1 Dec 2012
BT Mobile tba[247]
O2 35p / 35.8p[248] 1 Dec 2012
Orange 40p[249] / 35.7p[250] 1 Dec 2012
TalkTalk tba[251]
Tesco Mobile 20p[252] 1 Dec 2012
T-Mobile 45p / 34p[253] 1 Dec 2012
Virgin Mobile 25p[254] / 41p[255] 1 Dec 2012
Vodafone 0871 0872 0873 35p[256] / 25p[257] 30 July 2010

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Certain charities and helplines using 0500, 0800 and 0808 numbers can be called at zero cost from mobiles.
  2. ^ a b c BT is not allowed to add any markup to the price the caller pays, above the amount of the premium. This regulation applies to 0842, 0843, 0844, 0871, 0872 and 0873 and will end soon as BT no longer has a monopoly. Other landline providers and mobile operators are free to charge more for these calls.
  3. ^ BT is regulated to charge no more for 0845 calls than for a local call made on a tariff without inclusive or bundled minutes. Other landline providers are free to charge more for these calls. Some landline operators, including BT, Sky and Virgin, choose to make 0845 calls inclusive on certain tariffs by having zero markup and by subsidising the 2p/min revenue share premium from monthly call package subscriptions. Mobile operators are free to charge more for calling 0845 numbers.
  4. ^ BT was originally regulated to charge no more for 0870 calls than for a non-inclusive or non-bundled national call. Since 2009, BT has to include 0870 calls within bundled or inclusive minutes. Other landline providers can charge more and do not have to make these calls inclusive as long as the call price has been published in advance. Mobile operators can charge more and do not have to make 0870 calls inclusive.
  5. ^ 0871 452 is charged at 0843/0844 rates.
  6. ^ 0871 683 is charged at 0843/0844 rates.
  7. ^ 0871 453 is charged at 0843/0844 rates.
  8. ^ 0872 013 is charged at 0843/0844 rates.
  9. ^ 0844 056 0xxx revenue share is 5.106p/min (g12) within the "0844 up to 5p/min" allocation.
  10. ^ 0844 057 7xxx revenue share is 5.957p/min (g13) within the "0844 up to 5p/min" allocation.
  11. ^ 0844 058 1xxx revenue share is 6.808p/min (g14) within the "0844 up to 5p/min" allocation.
  12. ^ 0844 059 1xxx revenue share is 7.659p/min (g15) within the "0844 up to 5p/min" allocation.
  13. ^ 0872 598 is charged at 0843/0844 rates.
  14. ^ 0870 938 xxxx is charged as PRS and the revenue share is 6.73/3.36/1.27p/min (g23) within the "0870 no revenue share" allocation.
  15. ^ 0844 followed by 428, 462 or 566 costs 76.6p/min

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c d ASA (2006-01-04). "Windsor Telecom plc". Non-broadcast Adjudications. Advertising Standards Authority. Archived from the original on 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2012-11-07. "we told Windsor Telecom to stop describing 0845 numbers as 'local rate'" 
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  4. ^ a b c d ASA (2007-12-12). "Datel Group plc". Broadcast Adjudications. Advertising Standards Authority. Archived from the original on 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2012-11-07. "We told Max TV not to describe calls to 0845 numbers as 'local rate' calls." 
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  6. ^ a b c d ASA (2006-09-20). "British Sky Broadcasting Ltd t/a Sky Travel Shop". Broadcast Adjudications. Advertising Standards Authority. Archived from the original on 2006-09-25. Retrieved 2012-11-07. "Because most UK callers now paid more for calls to non-geographic 0870 numbers than for calls to geographic national destinations, we considered that the term "national rate" was inaccurate." 
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