4/29/2009 12:42:00 PM
Consumer watchdog begins probe into charges on 08 numbers
A powerful consumer watchdog is to put pressure on operators to reduce extra charges for mobile customers calling numbers prefixed with 08.
Consumer Focus began a consultation programme yesterday (30 April) in response to a rise in complaints via the Government consumer advice service Consumer Direct.
Ofcom last week called on operators to include 0870 numbers in voice bundles. The regulator also published rules that demanded clarity from networks over the rates charged for 0870 numbers, which would otherwise be free from a landline.
Operators have so far ignored Ofcom’s calls to lower rates and include 0870, 0845 and 0800 numbers in calling bundles.
Networks recently came under pressure from consumer watchdog Consumer Focus and BT to give back the ‘£50m per year’ they earn from customers calling 0800 numbers and make them free.
In January, BT made its call charges for 0845 and 0870 numbers free for
many of its customers, following a consumer campaign against companies profiting from numbers that are increasingly used for customer services
and even smaller businesses.
Operators argued that costs for making 0800 numbers free were too high, and customers could easily take advantage by streaming all their calls using calling cards.
T-Mobile included the most popular 08 prefixed numbers from last month in its Flext packages, and is standardising 08 number rates to 40p from today (1 May).
An Orange spokesman said: ‘Ofcom’s consultation on 0870 numbers outlines how it requires communications providers to be clearer on the way they price 0870 numbers, and not whether these numbers should be included in or out of bundles. We will continue to follow the guidelines and principles already set out on clear and accurate pricing of 0870 numbers.’
Consumer Focus head of company performance Audrey Gallacher said: ‘Huge numbers of consumers now rely on their mobiles to make essential calls. The high charges applied to 0800 calls from mobiles can come as an expensive shock to many consumers. Mobile phone customers should not be charged for calling 0800 numbers that are free from landlines.’
O2, 3 and Vodafone declined to comment.