13 June 2014 is barely a month away and is an important date for many people who use a telephone.
Many businesses currently insist you call them on expensive 084 and 087 telephone numbers. These are numbers where the caller subsidises the running costs of the non-geographic number (through the Service Charge element of the call cost) and where the business also often receives a revenue share payout. Many businesses claim these are "local rate" numbers, but this hasn't been true since 2004 - see this this bulletin.
All that changes on 13 June 2014. This is the date when the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 come into force. These were published by BIS in December 2013. Of particular interest is Regulation 41 which effectively bans retailers, traders and passenger transport companies from using 084, 087 and 09 numbers for their customer service lines. A customer service line is one an existing customer might call to discuss a previous purchase. This may be in the form of a complaint, cancellation, refund or renewal.
Many businesses have already swapped their 084 or 087 number for the matching 034 or 037 number or have moved to a new 01, 02 or 033 number, and many more will do so in the next few weeks. Ofcom regulations made in 2007 ensure that calls to 03 numbers always cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive call allowances on landlines and on mobiles.
Where a business uses a freephone number, i.e. a number beginning 080 or 0500, the regulations require they also provide a standard geographic-rate number beginning 01, 02 or 03 running in parallel until 26 June 2015. That's the date when calls to 080 numbers become free from all mobile phones. GG users already have free calls to 080 and 0500 numbers, so this isn't an issue.
Where a business fails to comply with Regulation 41(1), Regulation 41(2) specifies the business must refund the excess cost of the call over and above whatever a call to a standard 01, 02 or 03 number would have cost. For a caller with an inclusive call bundle in force, that's the whole cost of the call.
The regulations do not cover telephone numbers used solely for sales. However, Ofcom have new regulations coming into force on 26 June 2015 which require all users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers to declare the Service Charge (see para 1.24 and 1.25) wherever their telephone number is advertised. This will make clear they are financially benefitting from the call and by how much. Not many businesses will want to declare they are making you pay to talk to them when you are buying something and it is expected these new rules will trigger a further migration to geographic-rate 01, 02 and 03 numbers.
The regulations do not cover the financial sector. It is for the FCA to produce that regulation. Even without regulation in place, several banks have already changed their numbers and several others have recently stated their intention to do so.
The regulations have a number of exemptions. They do not cover package travel. However, the forthcoming Package Travel Directive will introduce similar measures for this sector some time in 2015. The regulations also do not cover purchases made from vending machines or from roundsmen on a regular delivery route. Touch luck on that one if it costs £1/min to phone up and complain about a dodgy cup of coffee, stale bag of crisps or a pint of milk that has gone off.
The regulations do not cover government departments and public services. However, guidance issued by the Cabinet Office in December 2013 has already triggered a mass migration from 084 and 087 numbers over to new 030, 034 and 037 numbers in the last few months. This includes HMRC, EA and DWP as well as the Student Loans Company and a number of county and other councils. The remainder will follow during 2014.
As this is the Tips forum, it might be a good idea to include some actual tips!
TIP! If you're about to call an 084 or 087 number that you have called before, STOP ! Check the 'contact us' page of their website in case they have recently changed their telephone number.
TIP! If you're about to call an 084 or 087 number mentioned in the phone book delivered at the end of last year, or on some paperwork previously sent to you, STOP ! Check the 'contact us' page of their website in case they have recently changed their telephone number.
TIP! Some companies promote an 084 or 087 number for customers in the UK to call but also have a standard 01 or 02 number for use when customers are "calling from abroad". Replace the +44 with a 0 and you're away. You may also need to suppress Caller Line Identity.
TIP! If the organisation does not list any 01, 02, 03 or 080 numbers, check the sayNOto0870 website in case there is a suitable alternative number listed there. Once you get through, ask the organisation for a permanent 01, 02 or 03 number.
TIP! If you have only an 084 or 087 number to call, replace the 8 with a 3 and call the matching 034 or 037 number just in case it has recently been activated. Ofcom rules mean the new number will always belong to the same organisation.
TIP! If you're keying in an 084 or 087 number and relying on an app to find an alternative 01 or 02 number, STOP! Make sure you check the website of the organisation you are calling in case they have already replaced their 084 or 087 number with a cheaper 03 number.
TIP! If you usually call an alternative number such as the "calling from abroad" number or one you previously found on sayNOto0870, STOP! You will probably have bypassed any "change of number" announcements. Regularly check the organisation's website for updates.
TIP! If you're forced to ring an 084 or 087 number as there appears to be no other option available, listen carefully to any announcements in case there is information about a recent or forthcoming change of telephone number.
TIP! If you end up speaking to an organisation on an 084 or 087 number and the call is clearly covered by Regulation 41, inform them you require your "call costs over and above basic rate" to be refunded. From13 June 2014 this is your legal right.