0800 numbers to be free to UK mobile users

Charges for calling 0800 numbers on a mobile phone could soon be a thing of the past. Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK's communications industries, has outlined a proposal to make the number group, as well as 116 numbers, free to call with all phones, not just landlines.

Currently, if a mobile user dials a supposedly "freephone" number, they can incur a charge of up to 21p per minute. This would be abolished, if the proposal goes ahead.

In addition, Ofcom proposes that more clarification is needed on charges for other 08 numbers (such as the dreaded call centre 0845 numbers), as well as 09 and 118 prefixes. At present, only BT line users can tell how much they're being charged when calling them.

"Callers are not able to understand how much the call costs as opposed to the cost of the service being provided via the call," said the regulator in a statement. "Under Ofcom’s proposals, consumers will in future be presented with clear, transparent information on both."

On calling a revenue-sharing number, callers are currently told: "This call will cost you X pence per minute on a BT line, calls may vary on other landline and cost considerably more on a mobile."

However, Ofcom proposes that this is changed to: "This call will cost you X pence per minute plus your phone company’s access charge."

The proposal will now enter a consultation period, with Ofcom expecting to rule on the changes at the beginning of 2013.

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

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

Do you welcome the move by Ofcom? Have you been stung by excessive charges when calling an 0800 number? Let us know in the comments below...