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The National Telephone Numbering Plan Ofcom (PDF of 34 pages)
In general, this page deals only with 'revenue-sharing' 08 code non-geographic numbers - especially 0870 and 0871.
Where we mention 0870 and/or 0871, the same principles apply to some similar codes - especially 0844, and two new codes: 0872 and 0873.
On this page, generally we don't deal with :
Premium rate numbers :
We concede that there are more glamorous titles for a page than: "0844, 0870 and 0871
We haven't dealt with the topic on the CharityBags website until now - it's only on the fringe of our aims. However, we've included it on the website because :
There's no reasonable justification for using the 0870/0871 rates, bearing in mind the cheaper alternatives available, including :
We'd all like to get our landline phone calls for free (as they are with 0800 freephone numbers).
But most people accept you've got to pay for most calls - otherwise BT etc couldn't provide the network - the cables, telephone exchanges, street cabinets and maintenance. You can call this the 'network charge'.
Traditionally this was done by using 'geographic' phone codes (currently 01 and 02 numbers within the UK). Nowadays, there's two ways of paying this network charge :
Here's another way of understanding this :
Ask yourself - How would you feel if the following situation happened
to you? :
You ring a geographic (01 or 02) number - say your bank. You know you're paying the normal telephone 'network charge' for the call (to BT etc).
Imagine the person you're ringing refuses to talk to you, unless :
Most people would be shocked and offended by this.
. . . But this is what happens (in effect) when you ring any 0871 number. The only differences are :
This system can be tolerated with premium rate (09) numbers (dating lines, sex lines, horoscopes etc) - because they're providing a value-added service to you, and often it's non-essential 'entertainment'.
But with most 0871 numbers, they're used for routine, essential customer service - such as purchasing, querying or complaining. Why should these calls give revenue to the organisation you're ringing?
The government watchdog PhonepayPlus neatly described 0871 numbers thus :
"Calls to 0871 numbers involve a form of micro-payment whereby revenue can be shared between the company you are calling and the third party that's providing the telecoms service" [website at November 2009]
Many organisations, websites and individuals - including :
The Daily Mail ran a campaign against 0870-type numbers and referred to the rates as a 'scam'. We too, feel it's reasonable to call the rates a scam. However, if you read this page, visit the links we've cited, and still feel uncomfortable about using the word 'scam' to describe the rates, that's fine by us. But we hope you'll agree the rates are unfair and potentially misleading.
Many people don't realise what the charging regime is with 0870 and 0871 numbers. Here's a quick guide to them, comparing them with ordinary 01 and 02 (=geographic) numbers :
1xStatistics:Example: Consider a 10-minute landline phone call at peak-time ('national'-distance) as at Spring 2013 :
1xStatistics:We understand that the annual cost to consumers in the UK of calling 0870 and 0871 numbers is now over £1,000 million. However, if the organisations concerned offered normal (geographic) numbers instead, the cost to consumers would be substantially less.
It's not just consumers who are losing out. UK charities (and other not-for-profit organisations such as hospitals) are losing £ millions annually because of having to pay over-the-odds when dialing 0870/0871 numbers (eg when phoning commercial suppliers).
Search Google for companies selling 0870 or 0871 numbers, and you find revealing marketing blurb telling you how to use these numbers to make money from the revenue-sharing - in a similar way to premium rate (090 prefix) numbers.
Examples from 'UK2Numbers' website (at November 2009) :
1xStatistics:"About 0871 Numbers
[A] UK2Numbers 0871 number will provide your business with an attractive additional source of income. The money we pay you for your 0871 calls will greatly benefit your business, whether you are a sole trader or large enterprise.
. . . generating a significant revenue stream for your company. Organisations taking on average 2000+ calls per day can expect rebate payments often exceeding £10,000 per month."
2xStatistics:"Revenue from 0871 numbers
1. Our 0871 numbers are guaranteed to give you more income than any other telecom provider can offer.
2. You will earn from 4 and up to 7 pence per minute for every incoming call you receive during the peak hours (8am-6pm Monday to Friday). We also pay 4 to 7p for every off peak call you receive."
People are misled for a variety of reasons, including the following :
We've found that staff in a number of organisations with these numbers are genuinely unaware that your calls to them cost more than normal 01 or 02 numbers. In some cases they had been given misleading information by the people selling them the 0870/0871 phone number.
As 'mystery shoppers' we've asked organisations with 0870/0871 numbers what the rates are. In most cases they gave us incorrect information. To their credit, we're confident that most of them weren't trying to mislead us deliberately.
Example: We contacted a leading health charity (which deals with eye diseases) about their 0870 numbers. This was because they'd informed members (including one of us) in their newsletter that the calls were at 'normal' [01 and 02] rates. We explained that this was incorrect. They checked out our assertions - and they were shocked to find they'd been misled by the company which sold them the 0870 numbers. They changed their numbers to geographic ones (01 code), and amended all their publications accordingly.
Most of the organisations with 0870/0871 numbers are in the private sector - such as mail-order companies.
However, a few government departments do use them - especially arm's-length agencies such as the DVLA (Swansea) and the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). There's been much criticism of this - even by the government's own telephone regulator, Ofcom.
Example: Around 2006, the government was providing retired civil servants with an 0870 pensions helpline. A number of people were being paid incorrect pensions by the government - and some of them queried why they had to ring an expensive 0870 number to sort out a problem caused by government. They were told that the helpline had been sub-contracted to a private company. The company was keeping the 0870 revenue (around £300,000). Apparently, the government hadn't known about this revenue. As a result, the embarrassed government department changed the system and (as far as we remember) the company agreed to donate all the money to charity.
Even some NHS doctors' surgeries and Citizens Advice Bureaux (CABs) are using 0870 or 0871 codes. We understand this is illegal - because they're not allowed to charge for their core services. Yet they make revenue out of these phone numbers (directly or indirectly). It's time somebody pursued this - eg via Ofcom, PhonepayPlus, the health service ombudsman or even the courts.
Since 2007, the telephone regulator Ofcom has been taking steps to reduce the problem of 0870 numbers. So these numbers are now less profitable. Some organisations with 0870 codes have responded to this by switching to 0871 instead.
A notorious example of this is 'Traveline' - the government-backed telephone helpline for bus travellers. See the article on the Daily Mail website headed:
Many organisations with 0870/0871 numbers also have cheaper alternative numbers, but they tend to keep quiet about them.
Fortunately, the Say No To 0870 website includes an invaluable, ever-growing, free database of alternative, cheaper (and even free) telephone numbers for many of the organisations which use 0870/0871 (and 0844/0845) numbers. (Note: We have no connection with this website.)
Under the Freedom of Information Act, if you write to a government department which has 0870/0871 numbers, you can insist they give you details of any cheaper, alternative numbers such as geographic ones (01 and 02 codes).
Some organisations which use 0870 or 0871 numbers have responded to public concern and have changed their numbers to cheaper tariffs, such as :
In early 2007 the phone regulator Ofcom launched the '03' rate. This avoids the tariff problems of 0870 and 0871 (and 0845).
'03' is a lovely tariff - non-geographic, but only charged at geographic (01/02) rates. Unfortunately, only a few organisations have switched to it so far - but things are improving. Phone companies are required by law to charge geographic rate for 03 numbers.
Numbers beginning with 070 are a "nasty" category. When you ring them from a landline, they cost between around 15p and 60p per minute (depending on the exact number). They're a peculiar and little-known category. They include "personal" numbers, "follow-me" numbers, calls made to patients in NHS hospitals and classified advertisements. Many scams have used 070 numbers.
0845 numbers are the most common type of 'non-geographic' number. They're often referred to as 'local rate' or 'low-call'. In most cases this is misleading.
0845 numbers are widely used by companies (and to some extent by government - eg DWP including Jobcentres).
However, the government's telephone watchdog (Ofcom) recommends that organisations should use geographic numbers (=01 or 02) or 03 numbers - not 0845 numbers.
Beware - with 0845 numbers, part of the call revenue is paid to the party you're calling (as a micro-payment, per minute).
BT: As at April 2013, if you make an 0845 call on a weekday 7am to 7pm (and you don't have a BT Anytime inclusive call plan), BT charge you only 2p per minute. This is 1/4 of their 8ppm charge for calls to geographic (01/02) numbers. BT should be commended for this.
TalkTalk generally model their charges on BT's tariffs. However, beware - 0845 is an exception - TalkTalk charge 0845 calls at the same rate as geographic numbers - around 8p per minute.
Note: You can get round this by using 18185 - by dialling their '0808 1 703 703' number prefix (see section below). Then an 0845 call costs you only 3p per minute. With a 10-minute call, this will save you 60 pence (=5p x 10 minutes and a lower call-setup charge).
Many landline telephone companies don't include 0845 numbers in their inclusive call plans (see section above). Commendable exceptions are BT, TalkTalk and Plusnet.
If geographic numbers (ie 01 and 02) are cheaper than 0845 with your phone company, and you're wanting to ring an organisation which advertises an 0845 number, often you can find a geographic number for them (to save you money). You can do this using the 'Say No To 0870' website. Also, many organisations provide geographic numbers in their small print - eg in case you're ringing from abroad.
This number was introduced in 2011. It's for non-emergencies. The government secured a deal with the phone companies so that a call to 101 is at a fixed rate of just 15 pence (regardless of the duration of the call).
If you key in an 'indirect access code' before dialling certain types of phone numbers on your landline, you can save money. Example: 18185 - see www.18185.co.uk The best savings are achieved if you're a BT customer. We've been using 18185 for several years - after we saw it recommended by Martin Lewis's "MSE" MoneySavingExpert website. Example (at April 2013) :
The saving above assumes :
By the way, 18185 is operated by a Swiss company called Finarea SA.
You pay by direct debit. There's no subscription cost and no commitment.
A nice feature of 18185 is that you get an (automated) announcement of the cost of the call (in pence per minute) before the call is connected (the 'tariff message'). Finarea also operate as '1899' and '18866'.
How does it work? 18185 is known as an indirect access code. When you key in the number, the call bypasses your usual telephone company (eg BT) and routes the call via the 'independent access provider' (also known as the 'override provider') - a company like 18185. So, you pay 18185 for the call (not BT). 18185 is one of several companies providing this type of service.
BT is required by law to allow use of indirect access codes. However (alas) other telecoms companies are not subject to this requirement - and many of them (eg TalkTalk) block indirect access. To some extent you can get round this - because some indirect access companies provide you with a freephone number as an alternative.
For instance, if you're with TalkTalk and you want to use 18185, you dial the freephone number 0808 1 703 703, followed by the number you're wanting to call. Examples :
The 18185 company (Finarea SA) also operate www.0844Calls.co.uk
This works in a different way to 18185. You don't have to sign up/register (and set up a direct debit). Instead, you just prefix the number you want to call with an appropriate 0844 number obtained from their website. The call charge appears on your main bill (BT or whoever). Example :
Like 18185, they provide a tariff message :
"Before each call, the system will inform you of the call charges per minute for the destination you are calling. This unique tariff message is free of charge, therefore if you hang up before your call is connected, you will not be charged a penny."
As at April 2013, all landline 'inclusive call plans' include calls to geographic numbers (ie numbers beginning 01 or, 02) and 03 numbers.
However, beware - different phone companies have different rules regarding 0845 and 0870 numbers.
With BT's 'inclusive call plans', both 0845 and 0870 calls are included.
TalkTalk and Plusnet do the same.
Other phone companies are less generous. Examples :
We've seen Primus praised on some price comparison websites. We feel this is misleading - they're not comparing like-with-like (a level playing field). Yes, the Primus monthly line rental/inclusive call packages appear cheaper than competitors. However, if you make a few 0845 and/or 0870 calls, the cost of these cancels out any savings compared with BT etc.
Beware - As far as we know, no inclusive calls package includes any of the following numbers: 0871, 0872, 0873; 0844, 0843; 070, 118xxx, 09.
If you're with BT, this is a little-known but useful free facility. You set up Charge Advice by keying in *411# Then, with all future chargeable calls, you'll get an automated call immediately afterwards - telling you :
To cancel the Charge Advice feature, key in #411#
To check the status of Charge Advice on your phone line, key in *#411#
For more on this (and other features), see for example: BT 'star service' codes
Beware - some BT 'star' codes incur a charge (they're not free).
At April 2013, BT's website describes it thus :
"BT Basic is a simple, low-cost telephone service that's easy to understand and helps you keep in touch, even if money is a bit tight. If you're on a low income, BT Basic lets you make and receive calls – and helps you manage how much you spend."
The service is only available to people on certain means-tested benefits (eg Income Support). It may suit a few people, but beware - there are serious disadvantages. Many people using this service will end up paying far more than with a standard BT plan (such as Evenings and Weekends). So, rather than helping vulnerable/disadvantaged people, this service is likely to add to their financial problems.
With BT Basic, the up-front cost (line rental) is low (it's around 1/3rd of the normal cost). However, the cost of calls is high. For example geographic calls (01 and 02) are chargeable 24 hours a day (including weekends). Also, they're charged at a premium rate - 11p per minute (24/7).
Many phone companies now offer a 'line rental saver' option. With this, you pay your line rental 12 months in advance (usually as a card payment). For most people this is a good deal. You save over 25% compared with paying the rental monthly. So, if you continue to pay monthly, in effect you're being charged interest at around 50% APR.
These numbers can cost over £1 per minute. You're better off getting numbers via the Internet (for free) - for example :
1. Don't go over the time limit for free calls with inclusive call packages - typically 60 minutes.
So, get in the habit of setting a timer/alarm at the start of a long call, and redial after (say) 50 minutes.
2. Around 2007 most landline phone companies changed their definition of evenings from 6pm to 7pm start.
3. Bank holidays and public holidays: Beware - most phone companies charge you at the weekday (=peak) rate for calls on these days.
4. With some unsolicited marketing calls, you get a recorded message inviting you to press a key: (a) to ring them back and/or (b) to be deleted from their list. Rumour has it that pressing the suggested key may ring them back on a premium rate number at your expense.
Certain (c) images (eg red telephone box) from: www.freefoto.com