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Three has made it free to call 0800 numbers from mobiles, as the fast-growing carrier once again plays the consumer-champion card in its battle against larger networks.

The change, which comes into force today and is part of a refresh of Three’s tariffs, brings an end to charges of as much as 40p per minute to call 'Freephone' 0800 numbers from a mobile phone.

It’s thought this practice raises some £600 million per year for UK carriers.

Three has also reduced the cost of calling helplines operated by insurers, water companies, broadband suppliers, banks and building societies. This means numbers that start with ‘08’ or ‘05’ prefixes will now cost 5p per minute.

The revamped tariffs apply for new customers and existing Three subscribers who request a move to Three’s overhauled price plans.

Three CEO Dave Dyson said: “We asked people what frustrated them most about their mobile bills and confusion around the cost of calling 08 numbers came out top by a big margin.

"These charges are often buried in the small print and they’re expensive enough to make most customers fear calling them from their mobiles.

“The cost of calling 08 numbers is something we want to address for our customers.”

uSwitch mobiles expert Ernest Doku welcomed the change at a time when household budgets remain under strain in the face of soaring food and fuel prices.

He said: "Considering it costs nothing to call a 0800 number from a landline, charges for calling ‘freephone’ numbers from mobile phones should have been outlawed years ago.

“But until that happens, Three's new price plans are most welcome, and should help keep monthly bills down.

“Not only do the new price plans give new customers the chance to call non-geographic numbers from their mobiles for free, but other numbers beginning with 08 now cost only 5p/minute instead of the usual 35 or 21p.”

Three has also announced it will no longer be offering free tethering on its ‘unlimited’ 3G and 4G plans.

Previously, owners could use their smartphone as an auxilliary dongle via its tethering function and use it to get online with other web-enabled gadgets. To compensate for the change, however, customers are being upgraded to 4G at no extra cost.

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