Business Telephone Numbers – Important Ofcom Changes

If your organisation uses business telephone numbers such as non-geographic service number for customers to contact you beginning 08, 09 or 118 you need to be aware of changes to how these numbers operate and are charged. Ofcom are introducing a new system which will provide greater confidence to callers by enabling organisations to accurately state how much calls to them will cost. The changes will be implemented on 1st July 2015 under the strapline ‘UK Calling’. The changes will affect both callers and any organisation that uses 084x, 087x, 09 or 118 services to receive calls.

Moving to an unbundled tariff structure for Business Telephone Numbers

Ofcom will introduce unbundled tariffs for 084, 087, 09 and 118 ranges from the 1st July, 2015. There will be two parts to the charge that a caller will incur:

1. The Access Charge which is paid to the phone company who originates the call.
2. The Service Charge which will be paid to the phone company terminating the call, which can also be shared with the service provider, that is the company providing a service using that number.

This will help callers identify how much they are paying their telephone company and how much is passed to the organisations involved in the call. To ensure transparency, there will be rules which govern the structure of the access and service charges to help everyone understand them.

These will include:

  1. One access charge per tariff package for calls to all unbundled non-geographic number ranges.
  2. A simple “pence per minute” rate set for the access charge.
  3. A single service charge for each individual 084, 087, 09 and 118 number when called from all fixed and mobile phones.
  4. Caps on the maximum rate of the service charge depending on the number range (except for 118 numbers). So, for example, numbers in the 084 range will have a cap of 7p (inc VAT) and the 087 range will have a 13p (inc VAT) cap.
  5. Telephone companies must publicise the amount of the service charge for each tariff package they offer and this includes Columbus. Companies and service providers must include their service charge wherever the number is shown, so in any advertising and marketing materials for example.

080 and 116 numbers

080 and 116 numbers will become free to call from any telephone, whether the call originates from a fixed line or mobile. This means that businesses currently using a 080 number will have to factor in the extra cost of covering calls from mobiles into their budgets or decide whether they wish to continue using an 080 number or switch to an alternative number range.

How should businesses prepare?

Columbus customers who use these numbers need to understand how these changes will affect them. Individual correspondence will be sent to customers to advise them of the service charge applicable to the numbers they already use which you can use to decide whether to keep your existing numbers or move to news ones with an alternative service charge. Customers should also review all of their marketing material, literature and web site (where the numbers are stated) to ensure they are communicating the charges clearly and in accordance with the Ofcom guidelines. The recommended wording is:

“Calls cost Xp per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.”

Ofcom has launched a new website (UK Calling – clear call rates for everyone) which provides details on the  changes with specific pages to identify the cost of calling and FAQs. There are also dedicated pages to explain the changes to businesses. Prior to the implementation in June, you might want to think about your numbering strategy and any options you might also like to explore. Columbus is on hand to advise customers and we’ll also help you make a seamless migration to new numbers should you choose alternatives. For further advice please contact the Columbus Customer Service team on 0333 2407755 or use the enquiry form.