New number regimes seek to protect callers

New phone numbers beginning with the prefix 03 are now in operation, according to telecoms regulator Ofcom. The numbers will operate at or under normal 01 and 02 prices no matter where the call is made in the UK.

Designed for public bodies and companies to aid communication, the 03 numbers must be included as part of bundled calling plans such as those popular in the mobile phone industry.

”Consumers will be able to dial 03 and will be able to have confidence about the cost of their call," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. "We have seen a huge amount of interest in these numbers. We expect consumers to see the advantages of these new numbers as they start to be used by more and more public service organisations."

Another set of phone numbers used by businesses to help customers contact them at the same cost from across the country are those beginning with 0871. Premium-rate phone regulator PhonepayPlus, previously ICSTIS, has issued guidelines on how it will regulate 0871 numbers when it takes over that job from Ofcom next year.

The regulator has proposed a code of conduct for companies using 0871 numbers which includes a demand that at busy times customers are told how long they will have to wait. It also says that customers must be told of the cost of a call before making it.

Ofcom said it would consult further on the transfer of 0871 regulation to PhonepayPlus.