Press release:

Ofcom’s new telephone ‘access’ charge rules could leave callers short changed

From 1st July, 0800 numbers will finally be free from mobiles but uSwitch warns new ‘access’ charge could leave some people out of pocket

From 1st July 2015, Ofcom is changing the way people are charged for calling non-geographic service and premium rate numbers[1]. However, price comparison and switching service uSwitch.com says the new costs vary dramatically across different providers, so people will need to keep a close eye on what they will be charged to avoid getting caught out.

The changes mean 0800 and 0808 numbers will finally be free from mobiles, while the cost of calling other expensive numbers, such as 084, 087, 118 or 09 numbers will be different. Over 13 million[2] Brits currently spend an average of £132[3] a year each calling these numbers, which include travel companies, delivery firms and voting on TV talent shows.

The new charges are designed to make it simpler by paying the network provider an ‘access charge’ and the company they’re calling a ‘service charge’. But costs will vary dramatically, with some network providers charging up to three times as much as other networks.

Richard Neudegg, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, says: “These reforms offer long overdue changes to so-called freephone numbers. Numbers starting with 080 have long been free to call from landlines – and this has finally been extended to mobiles, too. But the big worry is the new access charges, as these vary dramatically across the networks.

“Phone companies can set whatever access charge they like, so now we’ve ended up with a system where EE charges 44p and giffgaff 15p. That’s before you add on a service charge for the number you want to call, which can be anything up to 13p per minute for numbers starting with 087[4].

“It’s not so much the mental arithmetic required to work out the new call rates that’s the problem – but people could easily be caught out if they aren’t clued up about their provider’s new charges.

“Ofcom’s new system relies on people keeping an eagle eye on what they will be charged before they pick up the phone. The theory is the charges will be more transparent than before, but it doesn’t mean they will be cheaper.”

The table below shows the networks’ new access charges for mobile and home phone from 1st July:

Network Mobile access charge Home phone access charge
Vodafone 23p, then 45p from 10th August N/A
EE (incl. Orange & T-Mobile) 44p 11p
Virgin Media 36p 10.25p
BT 30p 9.58p
O2 25p N/A
Three 25p N/A
Tesco Mobile 25p N/A
TalkTalk 20p 5p
giffgaff 15p N/A
Sky N/A 9.5p

Source: uSwitch.com, 22nd June 2015

* All costs in the table above are out of bundle, however some providers offer calls to these numbers within select mobile and home phone tariffs.

For more information visit www.uswitch.com or call 0800 093 0607

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Notes to editors

All research carried out via Opinium Research between 19th and 22nd June 2015 amongst a nationally representative sample of 2,005 UK adults aged 18+.

  1. http://www.ukcalling.info/
  2. Respondents were asked, on average how many times a month do you dial premium rate numbers from your mobile phone? A premium rate number starts with 08, 09 and 118. Exclude 0800 and 0808 numbers. 28% called at least one premium rate number. 93% of the UK adult population has a mobile phone. According to ONS data there are 50,371,000 adults in the UK. Therefore 93% of 50,371,000 = 46,845,030. 28% of 46,845,030 is 13,116,608
  3. Those respondents that dial premium rate numbers (28%) at least once a month were asked, roughly how much does this usually add to your monthly bill? The mean amount was £11 a month. £11 x 12 = £132 a year.
  4. See access charge table above for EE and giffgaff costs. The table below outlines the caps set by Ofcom on the service charge element of the call.
Number range Minimum Maximum
084 1p per min 7p per min
087 13p per min
09 £3.60 per min OR £6 per call
118 No maximum

Source: Ofcom, 22nd June 2015

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