Ofcom outlines plan to clarify cost of calling premium lines

UK communications regulator Ofcom has announced its intention to clarify the cost of calling businesses and services on 08, 09 and 118 numbers.

At present, unless calling from a BT landline, the costs of calling a "non-geographic" number can be varied and unfathomable. The pricing structure is not transparent enough, says Ofcom, and is confusing for the consumer.

In addition, some providers, especially mobile phone networks, charge a fee for so-called free 0800 numbers.

Ofcom's plans are to force all phone providers, mobile and landline, to make 0800 numbers free to call. Plus, it wants to introduce a single paid access charge which providers can charge to connect users to other service numbers, with a secondary service charge to the company or organisation called.

Both of these charges must then be clearly communicated to the customer. The provider's network charge must be highlighted to the consumer at the point they sign up, while the service charge must appear on all advertisements or marketing materials distributed by the receiving companies or organisations.

The process to implement these changes now enters a consultation period, after which Ofcom will announce what date it will enforce the new system.

The consultation period will finish at the end of May and it is expected that the changes will not come into effect until at least 18 months after, to allow providers and operators to restructure their call charging methods.