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Ofcom makes sweeping changes to freephone and service number calls

Ofcom has introduced some major new changes in terms of charges for telephone calls, which will affect no less than 175 million phone numbers in the UK.

The watchdog is moving to make freephone numbers (0800 and 0808) free for all, regardless of whether the caller is ringing on a landline or mobile phone.

This comes into effect from tomorrow onwards, and Ofcom is also making it clearer what charges callers will be billed for when using so-called service numbers that begin with 084, 087, 09 and 118 – usually helpline services, competitions or voting lines for things like reality TV shows.

Ofcom reckons that UK consumers spend around 250 million hours on the blower to these lines, with the cumulative damage totalling £900 million, and with callers not told how much they will be charged by the service provider in many cases.

The new regulations will, however, stipulate that charges must be made clear in advertising and on phone bills.

Also from tomorrow, charges for these numbers will comprise of a service charge set by the company being called, and an access charge which is the payment for the phone company. Both parties will need to clearly state what these separate charges will be to the consumer.

All in all, these are some very welcome changes to an area where confusion often reigns.

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