back to article Ofcom calls for end to 0800 charges on mobiles

Brits calling freephone numbers for government helplines should be able to make those calls for free from their mobiles as well, Ofcom has said. Calls to 0800 numbers are free from landlines, but mobile operators charge up to 21p a minute for the supposedly "freephone" numbers, causing confusion to customers. Other 080 numbers …


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  1. conel


    On GiffGaff 0800 numbers are actually free!

    1. jsphsmith1985

      Re: GiffGaff

      True, but until they can decide what unlimited means and stop using guilt and bully tactics to control how much data you use then I'll stick to 3 where data is all you can eat (30gb this month and no snotty emails from anyone)

      As an ex user my consider response to any pro GiffGaff comment would be "eat shit and die"

      1. Shades

        Re: GiffGaff

        As a current GiffGaff user my response to anybody using 30gb a month would be "thank f*ck you're not still on GiffGaff"

      2. JC_


        You'll have to stick with 3, they make it so bloody hard to leave! The harrassment getting a PAC from 3 is ridiculous. Great deals, but watching a friend struggle to get a PAC put me off 3.

        1. thesykes

          Re: @jsphsmith1985

          phoned 'em up, asked for a pac, got it no problem.

        2. Vostor

          Re: @JC_

          they the court or ofcom threat gets them moving every time!

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Re: GiffGaff

        I think you'll find that all you can eat on 3 is actually 86GB per month, so it isn't unlimited either.

        I also wonder how you think that a shared and limited resource can be used in a completely unlimited way? giffgaff have to pay O2 for their bandwidth, and no mobile network has enough air interface bandwidth to cope with heavy general usage in a small area. 3 may well do better because their network is of newer design, but they are subject to the same laws of physics as everyone else is in the end.

        1. Some Beggar

          Re: GiffGaff

          I'd like to meet whichever marketing genius came up with the re-definition of 'unlimited' and give them unlimited slaps around the face.

          1. C-N

            Re: GiffGaff

            They probably wouldn't expect very many; and, watch them closely, after the first few they might try to add a surcharge.

          2. Why Not?
            Thumb Up

            Re: Unlimited

            Yes I would like the ASA & Offcom to get together and point out the fallacy of advertising Unlimited.

            Maybe limit the use of the word unlimited to offers that allow you a 'fair use' of 10% of the data bandwidth you paid for could download in a month?

            Apparently Unlimited is 40GB on a 40MB line. doesn't really make sense.

        2. Filippo Silver badge

          Re: Brian Morrison @ 11.33

          Of course nobody can offer unlimited data. It's physically impossible. Therefore, they should *not advertise it as such*! It should be obvious, and I don't know why it isn't. Power companies don't get to make "unlimited energy" offers, why do data companies get away with it?

          1. Tom 13
            Thumb Up


            That comment deserves unlimited up-votes!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Brian Morrison @ 11.33

            Operators offer unlimited data, not unlimited bandwidth. All they claim is that no cap is in place for the amount of data you transfer.

            There is no commitment on the data rate. The bandwidth offered is best effort, and can be (and usually are) capped under unlimited data plans. They could in theory allow only say 100 kbps on an unlimited data plan. Your phone would still blissfully use 4G even for this. Indeed most operators in the UK are offering H+/4G/Wifi hybrids not for throughput but to increase capacity. Data and bandwidth are two very different things.

            I personally got burned on this one, with an unlimited data plan, but a capped data rate. All the operators in the UK control their data rates so that cells don't breathe into spots.

            PS: Physics does allow for unlimited BW, with current technology technically being the limiter and not physics :)

            I guess you may have to involve quantum physics to do this, but none the less, physics does not say x Hz is the end. You'd also need unlimited energy to do so.

            Also those frequencies would probably kill all lifeforms! ;)

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: GiffGaff

      Alternatively you can use Skype. It is free for 0800 numbers and calls to similar numbers in some other countries, eg 1800 in the USA/Canada. However, if you are on GiffGaff, where their definition of unlimited is different from the one in my dictionary, or another supplier which doesn't do unlimited data tariffs, you may have problems with data usage if you do that.

      1. A J Stiles

        Re: GiffGaff

        Skype is only free if concepts such as mutual interoperability, open standards and the inability for any one party to hold the entire subscriber base to ransom are worthless to you.

    3. A J Stiles

      Re: GiffGaff

      I have co-workers on Giffgaff. When they aren't telling me how wonderful it is, they are often asking me whether or not I received a text they sent, or cursing because they can't make a call.

  2. Ivor 1

    Don't bother waiting for Ofcom - if you don't want to pay for mobile to 0800 calls just use an 0800 wizard.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ofcom really has shown itself to be a toothless old nag. This will be sorted in another 2.5 years but has been a problem since the early days of mobiles and landline deregulation. It shouldn't have taken until now for this to be evident as a problem

  4. Colin Miller

    There is/was a proposal that Gov. Depts. should move from 0800 and 0845 numbers to 0300 and 0345 numbers. These are free and "counts as a mobile-to-landline for your call-plan".

    You can also bounce your call through 01255 84 0800 aka "0800-buster", which counts as mobile-to-landline call.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      0800buster is incredibly useful. Ofcom could be promoting... perhaps not them specifically but raising awareness that services like this are available.

  5. Chris Miller

    Ofcom get it half-right

    0800 numbers should be cheaper than calls to a landline, but there's no reason that they ought to be free. Mobile operators have to provide (or, at least, pay towards) a network and pay termination charges. Demanding 0800 calls should be free from a mobile will increase congestion on the network and lead to other call charges increasing.

    1. HelenaHandcart

      Re: Ofcom get it half-right

      I don't think 0800 numbers are actually free; I think they are free only to the caller. The company/instution who receives the call pays for either the call or use of number. Therefore, there is no reason why 0800 should not be free to mobile phone callers as the termination charge can be paid by the receipient either per call or as a block fee to mobile companies. Most 0800 numbers are for sales lines or help lines. They are free to (landline) callers either to encourage them to call (for sales) or because it is an important service (e.g. government helplines).

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: Ofcom get it half-right

        Helena, you're right of course, the recipient pays a fee to the company providing the 0800 service. I don't think a variable fee depending on whether the call originated from a mobile or a landline would be easy to account for or popular with the providers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ofcom get it half-right

      What about the SMS scam? It costs the networks next to nothing to provide but they make £Billions. They are not short of cash so they could stand to make 0800 free.

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: Ofcom get it half-right

        "They are not short of cash so they could stand to make 0800 free"

        Or they could give everyone in the country a free Easter egg. But I wouldn't hold my breath, if I were you.

      2. Danny 14

        Re: Ofcom get it half-right

        I guess SMS are basically free intra carrier but not cross carrier. GSM SMS are also quite antiquated and traffic heavy for what they are (compared to data streams). Look up how they work and it is far cheaper for a carrier for you to send an email than an SMS cross carrier.

        0800 shouldnt be free as again there is a cost associated with 0800 numbers but there should be a FIXED termination cost or at least mandated "uses included minutes" ala 0800 buster (a fantastic service).

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Ofcom get it half-right

      "0800 numbers should be cheaper than calls to a landline, but there's no reason that they ought to be free. Mobile operators have to provide (or, at least, pay towards) a network and pay termination charges. Demanding 0800 calls should be free from a mobile will increase congestion on the network and lead to other call charges increasing."

      What;'s the difference between me calling an 0800 from my Virgin Media landline to a BT landine for free and me calling an 0800 number from a mobile to a landline on any network?

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Ofcom get it half-right

        Well, the landline is on an established physical network, probably mostly on fiber by now, which is effectively free for the phone company to maintain (more properly the marginal cost to add a new user is negligible), while the wireless lines costs are not because they are already oversubscribed.

        Of course with the marketing drones pushing free mobile-to-mobile minutes, that reality is pretty difficult to defend in a public argument. Also, while it is true that the companies purchasing the 800 lines aren't making money from the overly long calls, it is also true that they have little incentive to shorten the wait on those calls. So I see no effective reason to oppose making 800 calls free to mobiles as well as landlines.

  6. Jeebus

    Collusion to introduce price hikes in contracts. Not everyone uses 0800 numbers but millions and millions paying a quid more per month will offset the loss and then some to an enormous degree.

    Ofcom are in bed with those they are supposed to regulate, which is why they are so utterly toothless and worthless.

  7. dotdavid

    Why the reputable companies don't publish their geographic helpline number as well as the 08* non-geographic helpline number baffles me.

    Then at least mobile users can pick the one that will cost them the least themselves.

    Until then there's always SayNoTo0870, although I'm always wary of phishing phone numbers.

    1. Dr. Mouse

      "Why the reputable companies don't publish their geographic helpline number as well as the 08* non-geographic helpline number baffles me."

      Doesn't baffle me: the companies get a share of revenue from 08 numbers. So essentially you are paying both the network and the company you are calling.

      If you use the geo alternative they don't get paid. That's why they don't like you ringing their "international" number from inside the company.

      1. Dr. Mouse

        s/inside the company/inside the country/

        I really should proof read before hitting "Submit"!

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        They get a share of revenue from 084 and 087 numbers, but they have to pay to receive 080 numbers.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        ...people commenting on stuff they have no clue about. No change there then

        One of our 0845's has 14 different numbers behind it, depending on time of day, day of week and if there are any faults on the line. Oh some of those are international numbers.

        So feel free to try all 14 until you get the correct one.

        Now multiply that by the 275, 0845's we have.

        oh BTW we don't make a penny on any of them (nor do most companies).

        Companies using 0800 make a LOSS on the calls, but feel free to comment on things you don't have a clue about.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Amazing,....

          surprised you aren't offered a cut of the revenue for people calling your 0845 numbers, when I had an 0845 with the Phone Co-op they let me choose to send a small amount per-call to charity.

        2. Daf L

          Re: Amazing,....

          Quite passive aggressive there?

          You can make revenue from 0845 numbers if you have enough calls. I've used them and have -only 0.5p per min but it all adds up. A quick search shows that is still possible to get at keast 0.25p per minute.

          Your original remark said "At my company, we use 0845 numbers so that if (and it has happened a couple of times) there is a problem with the local number, it can be easily diverted elsewhere"

          and now you state that my comment I have no clue because obviously "One of our 0845's has 14 different numbers behind it, depending on time of day, day of week and if there are any faults on the line. Oh some of those are international numbers.".

          Quite different from your original post. You obviously don't use 0845 numbers for diverting a call if there is a problem with the local number you use it because you have set up a multi-number gateway, so your original comment is not true.

          So maybe you comment should be "people commenting on stuff when they have no clue how our company specifically runs" - which would be true, congratulations.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Amazing,....

            Just to clarify, there are 2 different ACs posting.

        3. Danny 14

          Re: Amazing,....

          You can have multiple routes bound to one number or trunk (you wouldnt have a single "line" going to your building). This has been a feature for pretty much forever. You can host your own (if you have a few lines) or get BT to do it for you (and simply terminate a bundle of cables). We had multiple numbers at supanet and I helped plan and setup the system back in the 90s. There was an 0898 number, a geo number and a premium customer 0800 number. All numbers went through to the same core trunk and were split via tag to the required destination at head end (i.e. internal, hardware, software, CS etc). There were multiple "premium numbers" for hardware and software, multiple geo's for contracters, press etc and an 0800 for sales (different sales streams from promotions, permanent ads and magazines - also an internal transfer from TIME computers). These all went to one core input and were tagged. If one geo went down (say the press sales) then another would come through (for instance you could dial the magazine promotion line) etc. You can also specify to what level redundancy you want your geo to run, i.e. 16,32,64,128 lines split for one geo etc. How on earth do you think a normal geo sales call works? It isnt simply one line to a number. Also a "number fault" can happen to an 0845 as to a geo - it is a computer that decides what happens at the exchange route.

          0845 being used for the above is lazy - yes it *can* be used as a redundancy but it isnt necessary. The irony is, 0845 will not tag source line so you would need MULTIPLE 0845 to perform the same facility as tagged geo numbers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      there are no

      reputable companies any more.

      Not in the sense: one you can easily contact and get to the right person.

      Over the last few years I have found it both harder and more time-consuming to get to speak to the _right_ person. And I still remember I was able to call a tech support of a reputable company in 1990s, speak to a person who seemed to know what they're talking about, and they happened to be located in North London, UK. Where are the companies of the yesteryear... oh, the joys on "streamlining the businss model"

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At my company, we use 0845 numbers so that if (and it has happened a couple of times) there is a problem with the local number, it can be easily diverted elsewhere without customers trying to call us and just getting a dead tone

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Also, we don't actually receive any money for the 0845 calls

      2. Daf L

        Diverting a call

        You can divert any number to any other number. If it is a fault with BT then it'll be free, if it is your fault then you'll pay a very small charge, so very poor reason.

        If you aren't getting money for your Non-Geo company then use a different company - as long as you get quite a few calls in you'll get some cash.

  8. Joe Montana


    I can understand why 0800 calls wouldnt be free, since the recipient of the call would be expected to pick up the termination charge and that for a mobile would be considerably higher than a call from a fixed line...

    On the other hand, there is absolutely no reason for 0800 calls from a mobile to cost more than landline calls. The actual cost to the operators to route the 0800 calls will be lower than a landline call.

    Either way, companies should move off 084/087 numbers, i detest these kinds of numbers, they are no more than a revenue gathering exercise and encourage companies to provide slow service, and dont even get me started on the ridiculous justifications they come up with to try and fool you into thinking their use of these extortionate numbers is either reasonable or necessary and for any other reason than screwing all their customers out of a few pennies each...

    And if they use an 0800, they should also offer a normal landline number for those using mobiles.

    1. DarkIndex

      Re: Cheaper..

      This pay-for-0800/0500 stuff is all a throwback to the early days of mobile phones, when 90%+ of the users were business users, and the call charges were incredibly high.

      Instead of Mr Managing Director paying a silly sum per minute to make his calls on the move, he'd call the company switchboard via their 0800 number (which the company would be paying for per minute for incoming calls, but at a fairly low rate) and the switchboard would put him through to whoever he wanted to call. This led to nice automated systems being set up everywhere to let you do it without having to speak to anyone.

      The mobile companies weren't all that happy about all these massive corporate contracts bringing in so little cash, and made 0800 et al chargeable.

      It was a fairly sketchy practice back then, but all the free calls were to an extent strangling mobile provider revenue (at a time when they were still building the cell network itself), so maybe it was a necessary evil. It needs to stop now though - although maybe they'll treat corporate customers differently, who knows.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Cheaper..

        The problem is, it can be made "free" for some users via 0800 buster so it proves the scheme works. I say "free" as you pay for your allowance and this would still leave PAYG paying through the nose. That being said there is no real reason for 0800 not to come out of your call allowance, afterall calling an 0800 costs the carrier less than calling a different mobile carrier. I'm sure they would be more pissed off if I called my PAYG (other carrier) phone for the remainder of my "free minutes" per month...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    0800 numbers here (Netherlands) are free from both landline or cellphones.

    However, the company paying for the number can decide whether or not their number can be reached from cellphones at all. If they are not willing to pay the higher charges they can choose not to.

    In practice, however, I have never noticed any 0800 number not working from my cellphone.

    1. kain preacher

      In the US Direct TV and amex won't let you call from a cell phone. That's very dumb on Amex part. I'd think in this day and age you would be more likely to call a credit card company on a cell phone than a land line.

  10. Shardik

    Thanks Ofcom!

    So let's guess, if they can't make money from roaming data charges, and they can't make money from ripping off freephone numbers, where are they going to make money?

    Oh yeah, from ALL of us in increased contract charges. Nice one Offcom. One way 99% of us can avoid the charges, now 100% of us will be lumbered with the charges. But good to see we've got a regulator

  11. Shaun 1

    I'm on an old (2009) price plan from T-Mobile that has 0800,0845 and 0870 numbers included in my Flext allowance.

    They've stopped it now, but there's no way I'm moving off it

  12. Ambivalous Crowboard

    Have you all forgotten? They USED to be free...

    Nobody has pointed out that back in the days when you could choose between your mobile being analog or digital, 0800 numbers and the like used to be free. You could call them, for free, as normal, from your phone.

    Then, one by one the networks decided they wanted to make a cream out of the customer by charging for something that should be free.

    Don't bash Ofcom for being late to the party - you've got yourselves to blame for not complaining loudly enough (or voting with your feet) in the first place...

    1. Daf L

      Re: Have you all forgotten? They USED to be free...

      Not quite. The problem was that a lot of companies started offering to connect you through to another number for a small fee by dialling their 0800 number.

      Therefore - in the days before lots(any?) of free minutes, instead of paying your mobile company 25p per minute to call a number , you would ring an 0800 number and pay them 5p a minute. Of course the mobile company had to pay for the infrastructure and any other associated costs while the 0800 company profited.

      The mobile firms would then shut down the 0800 services one-by-one, but in the end (with Orange being one of the few left) they gave up and charged for all 0800 calls except some charities.

      SO unfortunately it was some mobile users who spoilt it for everyone as it was innevitable that it was going to happen.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    shocking revelations

    "Unexpectedly high phone bills mean many customers are suspicious that they are deliberately being exploited by companies, by being held on the line unnecessarily for example"

    wow, ofcom, wow! How many years of research has it taken to come up with this shocking revelation?

    In fact, they don't even dare suggest this "exploitation" might actually be for real, they merely pass on the comments from the customers, who "are suspicious that..."

    Give them another 100 years, they might start thinking about actually investigating. No, wait, look at the broader picture, why should they?! Spending more money is good for economy I hear, therefore making people save money by restricting rip-off options surely brings the economy to ruin. Now I see why the latest economic downturn - people were saving too much!

  14. Frederic Bloggs
    Thumb Down


    One of the USPs that Orange trumpeted for the first few years of their existence was "0800 numbers are free" and they were. I don't know when that changed, but it clearly has now.

    What I don't understand is why an 0800 number (which the recipient pays for) should cost more than a geographic number.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and PC plod takes the biscuit

    Local police here use an 0845 - how many youngsters with cheap SMS but small credit for calls will be able to report anything to them?!

    Tick: One drug dealer in prison. Cost to me? £4. Another tax on civil society.

    More recently I learn that non-emergency police calls can be made by dialing 101 to maximum cost of 15p

    Why the police need to charge, for people making the effort to contact them, possibly taking a risk in so doing, I have no idea.

    They should be using 030 number - time to implementation? less than a month.

    The best bit: the police have a lengthy out going message on the non-emergency number, thus encouraging anyone in a hurry, to dial 999 esp. if their mobile credit is running out.

  16. artbristol


    0800 numbers are a ridiculous hangover from when people cared about the cost of landline calls - surely most people must be on an unlimited-landline-calls package by now. My £15/month mobile plan provides it all the time AND my basic Talk Talk package includes it on evenings and weekends.

    Companies, PLEASE just give us an 03 or geographic number and forget about freephone!

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Anachronism

      £15 a month is £180 a year. That is a massive amount, my kids dont spend that on their PAYG phone, they get a £5 voucher each per month. They would like to phone 0800 numbers for reasonable amounts and certainly my wife would love to be able to phone government agencies for a reasonable amount.

      As other people have pointed out, we arent expecting "free" but it shouldnt cost more than a geo number.

    2. Ian Yates

      Re: Anachronism

      Two URLs to help you out: - O2-based network with free 0800 numbers - For finding the geographic number for many services


  17. steve2727

    If I recall correctly, 0800 numbers used to be free on mobiles until the early 2000's when somebody came up with the idea of vastly undercutting mobile rates by hosting a proxy phone service on an 0800 number (basically the user dials an 0800 number, then dials the actual number they want and the proxy service uses the tones to forward you on). I used one for a while, paying the proxy provider a bit more than landline rates and not paying a penny in call charges to my mobile operator.

    So all the mobile operators slapped charges on 0800 numbers to kill the practice, which was understandable at the time, but now with VoIP etc. there's easier ways to avoid call charges and anyone on a contract gets free minutes by the bucketload anyway, so I doubt we'd see the return of these services if 0800s were made free on mobiles again. Now it's just a case of not wanting to relinquish a nice little earner...

    1. Tom 13

      The 800 proxy services weren't directed at mobiles,

      they were directed at payphones and arose because long distance calls from them required a too large pocket of change before you could make one. Back then the idea of a pager was the high tech sweet spot for mobile communications, and you had a hell of a lot fewer characters than Twitter gives you. I carried an 800 proxy card for a while. One was with Sprint, the other was with Verizon. I don't think you could call either of them third-party proxies trying to rip off the phone company.

      Now, they may have provided a more attractive option for cell phone users too, but that's beside the point.

  18. Simon B

    non-geographic numbers -wtf is the point? The only use is to rip us consumers off. I couldn't care less where they are geographically in the UK, neither does anybody else. We just want to make a phone call to a landline using a landline number so we know where we stand on billing etc

  19. Daf L

    Just add some numbers to the calling plan.

    I don't need 0800 numbers to be free. Just allow 0845, 0800 and similar to be part of the calling plan and not charged extra.

    This would stop the calling card services that operated on 0800 that caused the free 0800 numbers to stop in the first place, but it would also allow users on contract phones to have them taken out of their standard minutes.

    I know it's not as ideal as having 0800 be free from mobiles but it would be better than the current situation.

  20. adam payne

    Cheap minutes

    I remember when they brought the fees in. Seemed to me at the time to be put in place to stop people getting cheap minutes on their phones.

    The cheap minute deals offered by three parties companies involved dialling free phone numbers and then they would connect you to the number you wanted. No money went to the mobile network provider as it was a free phone number.

  21. James 100

    They could and should introduce a bar on 0800 calls being any more expensive than any geographic call - i.e. your unlimited or 250 landline minutes must include 0800 calls too. There's no excuse for any telco charging more for an 0800 call than a landline one - particularly since the recipient pays them for it too.

    I'd like to see revenue sharing banned outright except on 09 numbers; 0871 and 0844 were mistakes all round. Yes, I know some people have set up nice little earners screwing people through the phone bill - that's no excuse for letting them continue. The AC with 275 different 0845 numbers is obviously doing something very weird, but there's no reason it couldn't be done on 03xx numbers instead.

    On premium rate numbers, Ofcom have actually proposed something very sensible (and long overdue): that calls be priced in terms of the surcharge on top of your regular call price. Instead of the current "calls to this number cost 95p/min from BT lines, but random multiples of transcendental numbers on other operators", just "this call is 90p/min plus your normal call charge". Nice and simple, and of course already in place for SMS.

  22. Blue eyed boy

    IMHO it should never have been otherwise. Go for it!

    Here's another brilliant idea that Ofcom might like to play with. That time spent on hold, in a company's queueing and holding system, or being passed from department to department, is charged to the *company* not to the caller. Naturally this too will apply to landlines and mobiles alike.

  23. Camilla Smythe

    When are Ofcom Going to do something about...

    Users of iShiny devices getting surcharged an extra 30% by Cupertino for their phone calls?

  24. Benjamin 4

    They don't even have to be free. Just count as a normal call and I'd be happy enough.

  25. Alan Brown Silver badge

    What about the charging for 0500s?

    There's no good reason for this _at all_

    As for Voip/Skype - good luck.

    T-Orange, O2 and Vodafone all block Voip. They also do something to Skype as it's impossible to hold a conversation over a 3G connection

  26. Andy Livingstone

    A very short rant.

    It is one thing to have foreigners use the word "Brits", but in a UK site? Careless, sloppy, offensive.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: A very short rant.

      I find baldy offensive too. And short arse. Can you campaign for those too please?

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