UK Calling - the new rules on communicating costs of calls to customers came into effect in 2015. Ofcom are no longer emphasising the new rules - so we felt it was about time we made sure that we all know the rules and abide by them. This is the official Ofcom advice.
HOW DOES UK CALLING AFFECT BUSINESSES?
If your organisation uses a ‘non-geographic’ service number for people to contact you - that’s one beginning 08, 09 or 118 - you need to be aware of major changes to how these numbers are charged.
Research has found that telephone users are confused about how much it costs to call service numbers. This means people can lack confidence in these numbers, and sometimes avoid using them.
The new system enables organisations to say how much calls to them will cost. The changes have been implemented on 1 July 2015 under the strapline ‘UK Calling’. The communications regulator Ofcom has worked with major phone companies to communicate the changes to consumers.
The cost to the consumer of calling a service number (starting 084, 087, 09 or 118) must now be made up of two clear parts:
An access charge. This goes to the caller’s telephone company, charged as pence per minute.
A service charge. This is the remainder; it includes any revenue going to the service provider (that is you, the party being called), as well as revenue going to the ‘terminating call provider’ (or TCP: the company that provides the number to you).
In another change happening at the same time, all Freephone numbers beginning 0800 or 0808 were made free for consumers to call from mobile phones, just as they usually were from landlines.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
Speak to the company that provides your 08 or 09 telephone number. If you haven't done so already, you may wish to discuss with your TCP how the changes affect your organisation and the way you use service numbers.
Ask them to confirm the service charge for your number or numbers. Your TCP should be able to let you know the service charge linked to the number or numbers you currently use.
Decide if the service charge is suitable. If you are not happy with the service charge linked to the number or numbers you currently use, you may need to consider changing your telephone number(s).
Review all your materials and advertising. If your business or organisation is contacted on a number beginning 084, 087, 09 or 118, you must ensure that your service charge is clearly displayed wherever you advertise or promote that number. The service charge should be prominent and in close proximity to the number itself. The recommended form of wording is:
“Calls cost xp [or xp per minute] plus your phone company's access charge.”
This is likely to mean that your service charge should be provided alongside the related number in all communications directed towards current or potential users of the service, where the use of the number is promoted or advertised. These communications are likely to include as a minimum:
Any broadcast advertisements on television or radio;
Any press advertising;
Any online advertising, including paid-for search listings;
Advertising bill boards and posters;
Public notices, press releases and other public relations material which promotes access to the service offered on the numbers, or promotes contact with the organisation using the number;
Point of sale displays and other fixed advertising;
Packages, wrappers, labels, tickets, timetables and price lists;
Service directories; and
If you use a Freephone number to be contacted, you may wish to discuss with your TCP the implications of calls to your organisation becoming free from mobile phones.
DIALLING SERVICE NUMBERS
Most businesses make outbound calls to 08, 09 or 118 numbers.
The new charging system (the access and service charges) applies to calls made from residential lines and consumer mobile phones. Phone operators will continue to have flexibility over how they charge for these calls from business phones.
Which numbers are affected?
The numbers where access and service charges will apply are those beginning 0843, 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871, 0872, 0873, 09, and 118.
Freephone numbers beginning 0800 or 0808 will be made free from mobiles.
Does every piece of material which promotes my contact number need to carry details of the cost of calls? Who will enforce this?
PhonepayPlus and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regulate this area. More information is available on their websites, including details about what types of material falls within their remit. The 084 number range, and any 087 numbers with a service charge of less than 7p per minute (or 7p if the call has a fixed per-call charge), will be regulated by the ASA.
The 09 and 118 number ranges, as well as any 087 numbers with a service charge of 7p per minute (or a 7p fixed per-call charge or higher), will be regulated by PhonepayPlus (all figures are inclusive of VAT).
What happens if I don’t include this information on everything? Will there be penalties?
PhonepayPlus and the Advertising Standards Authority are responsible for enforcing the requirements for including service charge information. More information about their penalties for non-compliance is available on their websites (and the website of the ASA’s sister body the Committee of Advertising Practice – www.cap.org.uk)
Are there caps on the price of calls to certain numbers?
Calls to numbers starting 0800 and 0808 will be free to call for consumers. There will be caps on the maximum amount of the service charge for the other affected non-geographic numbers, with the exception of 118 directory-enquiry numbers, with the caps varying according to the number range. The 084 and 087 ranges will be capped at 7p and 13p respectively (per minute or as a fixed fee and including VAT). The 09 range will be capped at £3 per minute and £5 per call (including VAT).
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