Customer support charges to rocket - thanks a lot Ofcom

In case you hadn't noticed, a growing number of IT companies have moved their customer support lines to 0845 and 0870 numbers in recent years, mainly because they get a rake-off of between 0.5 and 2.5p a minute - depending on the time of day.

The bad news about these numbers is that they fall outside the flat-rate monthly packages that most telcos offer and, of course, at up to 9p a minute - 20p on many mobiles - the charges can quickly rack up.

Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, has ruled that these numbers are inappropriate and telcos should stop offering a rake-off to companies that use them.

From next year, 0845 and 0870 numbers will start to be charged at standard national rates. Most telcos have indicated they will start including them in their flat-rate deals.

The IT support companies that use these numbers aren't stupid. As a result they've started moving to a new set of numbers - nope, not the new 03xxx numbering group that Ofcom has opened up, but to the 0871 sub-premium band. Calls to 0871 numbers cost 10p a minute at all times, and up to 50p a minute on some mobiles.

And as they fall into the premium bracket (I could say racket) the premium telecoms charges regulator, ICSTIS (www.icstis.org.uk), is responsible for this numbering group, rather than Ofcom.

Well thanks a lot Ofcom for intervening, pushing charges through the roof - and then washing your hands of the affair.

You did the same for the old 192 directory enquiry calls and now it's happening again for customer support lines.

As a reviewer of hardware and software I have to call support lines quite a bit. Ofcom's move will cost me a lot. It will probably cost your company a lot, as well as add to your home phone bill, as it's not just IT support lines that use these numbers.

Words like `interfering,' `stupid',' and `nothing-better-to-do' spring to mind here...