back to article Fees shakeup: Freephone numbers will actually BE free – Ofcom

Blighty's telecoms regulator Ofcom has finally announced that freephone numbers "will mean free", whether you're calling from a landline or a mobile. Some mobile operators currently charge for dialling numbers beginning with 0800, 0808 and 116, which are generally free from landlines. But in a range of changes to telephone …


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  1. Only me!

    About time

    Good....about time too the telco's just taking the money because they can!

    Mind you if it was a price hike, they could sort that for you for the next bill.......but a price drop is SO complex, it will take 18 months.

    Am I missing something.....thought not.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: About time

      TBH I never expected them to be free (from say a PAYG mobile with no credit) but I would expect an 0800, 0808 or 116 to come from your call allowance. 0800 buster was a great workaround but one that shouldnt have been necessary.

      By the same logic 0845 should come out of your call allowance too, not be the cash cow it is for operators.

      1. Paw Bokenfohr

        Re: About time

        You should expect more from your service provider then! Been free on giffgaff for a long time:

        Let me know if you want a free SIM with £5 extra credit when you first top up ;-)

        1. Mark 78

          Re: About time

          GiffGaff is too expensive for me. I'll stick with my OvivoMobile SIM.


          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: About time

            A data plan which drops intrusive ads in web use every 5 minutes and forbids the use of VPNs/adblockers?

            I think not. For starters it'd kill use of most navigation programs whilst on the move.

          2. 's water music

            Re: About time

            > GiffGaff is too expensive for me

            But did you factor in the savings resulting from all of the service outages?

            Mine's the one with a 3310 on a different network in the pocket


          3. PeteA

            Re: About time

            Ad-funded, not allowed to use a VPN or ad-blocker by the contract? Think I'd prefer to pay GiffGaff, though I see the appeal of the "free" account

            1. Danny 14

              Re: About time

              well for 0800 you can use 0800 buster as I said (but you shouldn't have to). GiffGaff don't treat 0845 as bundled minutes either as far as I see. I have heard of WeQ4U but haven't used it or researched it.

              I use my mobile as a primary line (no land line) and im on 3 with ample minutes. I have used giffgaff previously but found the service to be patchy. Typically if I need an 0845 I look up an alternative on saynoto0870

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: About time

        So you have 100 mins in your bundle for £ x. You can easily blow 100 mins on a 0800 number while on hold!!!! If you consider that those 100 mins cost £ x.....taking the 0800 mins out of my bundled minutes certainly does not make them FREE.

        1. Benchops

          Re: You can easily blow 100 mins on a 0800 number while on hold!!!!

          it's not clear to me that you're referring to the giffgaff charges alluded to in this particular thread, but when giffgaff say free, they mean free -- they're not charged out of credit and they don't come out of your pre-paid minutes! I think you can genuinely call an 0800 number with 0 credit and 0 minutes (or no package [goodybag]).

  2. taxman
    Thumb Down

    June 2015

    Giving the mobile companies plenty of time to re-jig the wording in contracts and charging policies to ensure that they do not lose any income.

    So much for protecting consumers.

  3. DaLo

    They used to be free...

    When I first got a mobile on Orange the calls to 0800 numbers were free. However companies sprang up using 0800 numbers to connect you through to any other number for a much cheaper rate.

    This was in the days before there a significant amount of bundled minutes of call time.

    So the mobile company would have to pay all the costs of the infrastructure and call routing and not get any money for the call. They started banning or charging for those numbers which were used as a calling service, but, of course, they changed them continuously and there were so many companies doing it that in the end they just slapped a charge on all 0800 calls.

    So I can understand a little what the problem was, however why didn't they at least allow you to take those calls out of your regular call allowance - same for 0845s? It seemed to be just greedy and for genuine companies that wanted to use freephone to help their customers, they were actually hindering them with a premium rate call.

    I guess calls from mobiles on contract get so many free calls and are so cheap that the call card operators won't be so attractive, however I could see them making a resurgence for Pay-as-you -go users.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: They used to be free...

      People mostly use call cards for international calls, and the call card operators generally offer a geographic number for their mobile customers. The other option if you have enough data available on your data plan, or unmetered wifi, is to use Skype to dial the freephone number.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: They used to be free...

      "So the mobile company would have to pay all the costs of the infrastructure and call routing and not get any money for the call."

      In a word - BULLSHIT

      You have zero idea whatsoever how INWATS systems work. The telco not only got paid for routing to an 0800, it actually got a slight premium.

      Next you'll be telling us that international call-back systems result in the telco getting no income, when all the contracts between telcos result in the terminating party getting between 1/5 and 1/3 of the call fees.

      1. DaLo

        Re: They used to be free...

        I don't see the need to get abusive.. however.

        We were paying about 1.5pence per minute to receive an 0800 call. The operator would be receiving a fraction of a penny per minute.

        Mobile call charges were about 25pence to 30pence per minute. So "no money" may not be strictly correct but it was a negligible amount.

        Despite you going overboard on your anger, the reduction in revenue from calls to calling card services was the reason behind the initial charging of 0800 calls on Orange.

  4. kbb

    A mandatory service?

    How about making all providers supply a free way of finding out how much a call would cost you? A free app or something on a website where you put in the number you want to call and it shows the price? Or a number you can call or text (for free) that you can then enter the number you want to call and it will tell you how much it will cost. Can't be that difficult to tie it in to your account to be able to say if it is part of your included bundle surely.

    1. Butthole Surfer

      Re: A mandatory service?

      +1 but I would rather have them tell me every time I call 08xx and other "creative" numbers: "This call will cost you x per minute". Something you could opt out from but enabled by default.

  5. mark1978

    Given that mobiles are the primary way for most people to make calls these days, it's time the differential pricing stopped. This is a good step in that direction. I remember the days when if you called a mobile number, and you didn't get through or there was no answer - you'd still get charged!

  6. Grahame 2

    0330 / 0333

    I had to arrange for a customer service/helpdesk number for a company I previously worked for, I knew most of the customers used mobiles, so I specifically avoided 0845/0800 numbers due the the take-the-piss rates charged by the mobile companies.

    We needed a non-geographic number so we could switch call center in case of a business continuity event (i.e. building on fire etc..,) 0330 numbers are charged at normal call rate from landlines and mobiles and are included in bundled minutes, so seemed the natural choice.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ofcom is looking for the new rules to be in place in a year and a half in June 2015.

    But hey, they announce it NOW, so that they can take credit for it now? (... off.

  8. That one over there

    Bergerac needs to invetigate...

    Was most annoyed to find a call to a Jersey registerd mobile is an international call on o2.

    It looks like a normal UK mobile number, it smells like a normal UK mobile number so why doesn't it cost like one! Grrr.

    Gurnsey on the other hand is banded as UK, it's some cock about Jersey being a tax blah blah blah.


  9. Jim 59


    "Freephone will mean free for all consumers"

    Like when Doctors' Surgeries were meant to stop hiding behind premium rate numbers.

    1. Test Man

      Re: Doctors

      YES! Why is my local one using an 0845 number? Can't they use a normal local number? They're a public service!

      1. qwertyuiop

        Re: Doctors

        Unfortunately whilst they're a public service they are also a private business. GPs are independent private contractors who work for the NHS. Most of them own the premises they work in as well.

        1. Da Weezil

          Re: Doctors

          Yes GPs are contractors - and they have been told repeatedly that use of these numbers is actually a breach of the GP contract that they hold. Recognizing that the 08xx charging situation is not one they can easily defend, some providers have put in place a migration procedure to corresponding line numbers on an 03xx code, such numbers have been reserved for this use only by OFCOM request. New contracts for non geographic rate numbers are forbidden in the terms of the GP contracts, in theory surgeries should be just running out the contract term before moving to a geographic rate number - although sometimes it takes a little agitation by patients to remind the surgery of their responsibility

          The use of these lines has recently been the focus of attention in some areas, Hopefully we will eventually see an end to the cash cow view some surgeries have of their patients, especially as waiting to actually talk to someone can be a lengthy experience - and getting an appointment can require several calls over many days.

  10. Richard Wharram

    +1 for Giffgaff

    Been using mine for endless conference calls on 0800 and 0808 for years. Hasn't cost me a penny.

  11. Slx

    Here in Ireland 1800 (freephone) has always been free from mobiles.

    However, if you have a 1800 number, you'll be charged at mobile rates to receive calls from mobiles. So, you've always had the option of not accepting calls from mobiles or specific area codes.

    So, sometimes when you call a 1800 number you'll get "the number you are calling does not accept calls from your specific area codes. Calls cannot be accepted from your area code!" or a message asking you to call a different number.

    What I find totally unacceptable here (and I don't know if this is the same in the UK or elsewhere) is that when you call non-geographic numbers they're often excluded from your call plan entirely and charged per minute. Even though your call plan might give you unlimited calls to landlines and mobiles.

    So, if you call 0818 xxx xxx (national rate, whatever that means?!) or 1850 xxx xxx or 1890 xxx xxx (local rate, whatever that means these days?) or worst of all 076 xxx xxxx which is reserved for non-geographic VoIP numbers (you get these usually free of charge from your VoIP provider)... you get charged per minute and can end up with a rather saucy bill.

    I get a bit sick and tired of companies and government agencies having these 1850 and 0818 numbers as if they're doing you a favour when they end up costing an absolute fortune to call as you're charged 'out of bundle'.

    I don't know how telcos get away with this kind of thing. It can't cost any more money to call a non-geographic, non-premium rate number than a landline or mobile call and I do not believe they couldn't just reprogram their billing systems.

    It makes no sense when they say something like "call us on 1850 XXX YYY (local rate)" when "Local Rate" is probably significantly more than I would be charged for calling someone 11,200 miles away New Zealand on a normal number which *is* included in my bundle. However, ringing some helpline for my bank at 'local rates' isn't.

    We're being gouged as usual.

  12. Oldfogey


    And paying these inflated rates often is optional. Browse to "Say No to 0870" and see if there is an ordinary number for who you want to speak to.

    Or look up their Sales number and try ringing that (usually 0800 for some reason)

    Or ask them for their ordinary number "as I will be out of the country and can't call 08whatever numbers" There is one - 08 are just redirector numbers.

    1. Slx

      Re: Optional

      You can usually find one. There a Say No to 1850 here.. Same thing.

      Some of those numbers don't actually have geographic equivalents. They can be directly mapped to call centre positions these days. VoIP trunks and all that modern post ISDN/PSTN technology has done away with any need to have blocks of landline numbers behind special rate numbers.

      It's increasingly difficult to find alternatives even on those sites.

      I've found one VoIP provider that includes them in a flat rate bundle as if they're landlines though.

  13. Da Weezil

    No alteration to the often hideously expensive *specialized numbers" that start 07xx and are often used by scammers to dupe people into calling them (at a rediculous ppm) in the mistaken belief that the number belongs to a courier firm or similar.

    I guess shutting down that particular scam was too obvious for OFCOM to bother with.

  14. Timbo

    "Or ask them for their ordinary number "as I will be out of the country and can't call 08whatever numbers" There is one - 08 are just redirector numbers."

    I've tried that and found that in some cases, the landline number won't accept calls UNLESS you are calling from outside UK..... :-(

  15. Nathan 13

    good app for android/iphone


    Routes calls for 0800, 084 087 it has in its database through an 03 number that comes out of your standard call allowance.

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