How non-geographic numbers work.

edited 22 April 2013 at 3:59PM in Phones & TV
16 replies 2.6K views
DaveAADaveAA Forumite
87 Posts
edited 22 April 2013 at 3:59PM in Phones & TV
How non-geographic numbers work.

When you call an 0843, 0844, 0871, 0872 or 09 number there are two parts to the price you pay for the call. This has always been true, but the details have been hidden away.

The business you are calling will have chosen the telephone number they want to use and it will impose a fixed "service charge" or "premium" on every caller. This is currently up to 5p/min for 084 numbers and up to 10p/min for 087 numbers. 09 numbers impose a higher service charge and therefore also come under specific PRS regulations. The revenue share mechanism is the same for all of these numbers, just varying by the "amount" of service charge involved.

When someone calls an 084, 087 or 09 telephone number, the callers phone company will impose an access charge on top of the service charge to arrive at the total pence-per-minute call rate. Landline operators generally add an access charge at a fixed ppm rate for all 08 and 09 numbers, which leads to a variable ppm rate for the call depending on which number was called. Mobile operators add a variable ppm rate for the access charge such that the overall ppm rate payable is fixed at the same level for all such numbers. Mobile operators also add a much larger access charge than landline operators.


Some examples:

Landline operator "V" (operator other than BT) adds a e.g. 9p/min access charge to all 0844 calls.
Number "A" with 1p/min service charge is billed as 10p/min to the caller (9p/min access charge).
Number "B" with 5p/min service charge is billed as 14p/min to the caller (9p/min access charge).

BT are not allowed to add an access charge. BT will bill those same calls as:
Number "A" with 1p/min service charge is billed as 1p/min to the caller (zero access charge).
Number "B" with 5p/min service charge is billed as 5p/min to the caller (zero access charge).

Mobile operator "T" charges e.g. 35p/min for calls to all 0844 numbers.
Number "A" with 1p/min service charge is billed as 35p/min to the caller (34p/min access charge).
Number "B" with 5p/min service charge is also billed as 35p/min to the caller (30p/min access charge).

Landline operators publish a price list with 6000 entries (084 3000 to 084 5999 and 087 0000 to 087 2999) in order for callers to be able to find the call price. This price is the combined access charge (usually from zero to 10p/min) and service charge.

Mobile operators charge an excessive access charge, often 20p to 40p/min. Mobile operators do not reduce the call price for calls to numbers with a lower service charge. They just increase the access charge to retain the same call price for all numbers (this greedy practice will end soon).

Phone companies generally do not publish the details of their access charge. They just publish the total pence-per-minute call rate (combined service charge plus access charge).

Companies that use these numbers often hide the details of the service charge (or "revenue share premium") and many deny that it even exists. Companies often try to hide behind descriptions such as "local rate" or "lo-call" rate, even though these terms have been outlawed since 2005 for 0845 numbers and have never applied to 0843 and 0844 numbers. Instead, most companies currently say something like "calls to this number cost 5p/min from a BT landline; other operators and mobile networks may charge more". This detail is completely useless to the vast majority of callers.

That was then, but this is coming soon.


A few days ago, Ofcom announced more details of their new "unbundled tariffs" scheme that comes into effect next year.

This will require businesses to declare the service charge that applies to their number, and phone companies to separately declare their access charge.

Your bank or energy company will have to say "calls to our 0844 number attract a 5p/min service charge and your phone company will add their access charge". The service charge amount will vary by the number called: up to 7p/min for 084 numbers, up to 13p/min for 087 numbers and more than 20p/min for 09 numbers. For any one number this fee will be fixed and will be the same for all callers.

Your landline company will have to tell you "calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers attract a 9p/min access charge". This fee will be the same for all 084, 087 and 09 numbers but it will vary from phone company to phone company and from tariff to tariff. This is the first time in the history of non-geographic numbers that landline tariffs will be easy to compare.

Your mobile phone company will have to tell you that "calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers attract a 25p/min access charge". This fee will be the same for all 084, 087 and 09 numbers but it will vary from phone company to phone company and from tariff to tariff. This is the first time in the history of non-geographic numbers that mobile tariffs will be easy to compare.

It is likely that access charges, especially from mobiles, will reduce as compared to current levels. The exception is BT who have always been barred by competition regulation from adding an access charge for non-geographic calls. That regulation ends soon.

0845 and 0870

0845 and 0870 numbers are special cases. These were originally tied to "local rate" and "national rate", but only until 2005 when landline operators scrapped the price differential for local and national calls, thereafter charging a single "geographic rate" for all 01 and 02 numbers. They also moved most callers onto call packages where calls to 01 and 02 numbers of up to one hour duration attract no further charge above the monthly package price. Since 2005, 0845 and 0870 numbers have been expensive from landlines. They have always been expensive from mobiles.

Ofcom removed revenue sharing from 0870 in 2009. This led them to become "inclusive" in landline packages. BT also included 0845 numbers in landline packages believing that Ofcom were about to also remove revenue sharing from 0845 numbers. Call prices to 0870 numbers from mobiles did not reduce and so Ofcom decided not to go ahead with removing revenue share from 0845 numbers. BT currently subsidises calls to 0845 numbers for callers on a package plan.

Consumers are very confused by 08 numbers, especially that 0845/0870 are a different type of number to 0843/0844 and 0871/0872. Many people fail to realise the link to "local" and "national" pricing for 0845 and 0870 numbers ceased to exist more than 8 years ago.

Ofcom will be changing all that very soon. 0870 will return to revenue sharing. 0845 and 0870 will change to use the same revenue share mechanism already used by 0843/0844 and 0871/0872.

This will mean that all 084, 087 and 09 numbers use the exact same revenue share mechanism, with just the "amount" of service charge varying between each number range.

Justify your love, of revenue share

Companies that can no longer justify imposing a service charge on their callers should be moving to 03 numbers if they need the call-handling facilities that non-geographic numbers provide. If they don't need those facilities they can use 01 and 02 numbers.

In 2007, Ofcom reserved the 037 range for existing users of 087 numbers and the 034 range for existing users of 084 numbers that need to move to their "matching" 03 number. New users can use 030 or 033 numbers.

03 numbers are charged the same as 01 and 02 numbers for all callers. If the caller has "inclusive" minutes for calling 01 and 02 numbers, those minutes also apply for calls to 03 numbers.

Ofcom's "simplifying non-geographic numbers" project has taken years to organise. The end result will be:

030, 033, 034, 037 - charged at geographic rate, and inclusive in call plans. No service charge allowed.

084, 087, 09 - revenue share with three general levels of service charge (and further gradations within each band); with some 087 and all 09 numbers also coming under additional PRS regulation.

080 - free to all callers from both landlines and mobiles.

Later in 2013, BIS will announce the UK implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive. This requires businesses to use telephone numbers where callers "pay no more than the basic rate" for helplines, complaints, customer service, and so on. Businesses will be required to move from 084 and 087 numbers to the matching 034 or 037 number or to new 030, 033, 01, 02 or 080 numbers.

This is the biggest shakeup in non-geographic numbers since they were invented. Ofcom have said there will be an 18 month lead-in to final implementation of the "unbundled tariffs". I expect to see a LOT of information on the finer details published on this site as they become known.
Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers will soon need to display details of the inbuilt Service Charge under Ofcom's "unbundled tariffs" plans.

Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers for customer service, complaints, renewals, etc, will need to swap to an 01, 02, 03 or 080 number before the Consumer Rights Directive comes into effect June 2014.
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Replies

  • edited 22 April 2013 at 4:01PM
    DaveAADaveAA Forumite
    87 Posts
    edited 22 April 2013 at 4:01PM
    (I wrote this answer in another thread, but as it adds to the information in the previous post I have also copied it here.)
    "Calls cost 5p/min from a BT landline; other providers may charge more."
    UK businesses quote BT prices for 084, 087 and 09 numbers because:
    1. they are regulated,
    2. they are the lowest.
    This is very unhelpful to the consumer. Most people are not with BT or are using a mobile.

    The truth (using 0844 477 as an example) is "Calls cost 5p to 15p/min from a landline and 25p to 45p/min from a mobile. This includes a revenue share payment of 5p/min".

    The confusion comes as the revenue share varies from 1p/min to 5p/min for 0843/0844 numbers and from 5p/min to 10p/min for 0871/0872 numbers. This means the call price varies depending on the number called when called from a landline. Mobile operators charge the same highly inflated price for all 08 numbers with the same prefix. For 09 numbers the revenue share is 10p/min up to several pounds per minute and these numbers are also covered by additional "PRS" regulation.

    There are two parts to the call price when you call an 084, 087 or 09 number.

    The first is the "revenue share premium". This is set by the called party when they first choose their telephone number. Each block of 10 000 numbers has a tariff assigned to it, e.g. "084 4477" is "g6" (i.e. 5p/min) and "084 4387" is "g11" (i.e. 4p/min) and so on.

    In Ofcom's literature, this figure is currently described as "BT's retail call price". Elsewhere you will find details of the "NTS Condition" imposed on BT to charge no more than this figure for those calls. BT are not allowed to take a cut from these calls.

    This figure is identical to the "revenue share" that is passed on to the called party. All callers from all networks pay the exact same revenue share fee within their call price. Call prices from other networks and mobile operators are unregulated so they are allowed to add their own fees on top. Sky currently choose not to. Virgin add about 9p/min for 0844 numbers (and probably a similar amount for 0843, 0871, 0872). Mobile operators add 20p to 40p/min to the call price for 084 and 087 numbers.

    The "NTS condition" imposed on BT will end soon. BT will then be allowed to add to the call price, and other landline operators will no doubt copy BT's lead.

    Ofcom propose that in future the revenue share fee, which is set by the called party, be known as the "service charge" and the fee that the callers phone company adds on to the call price be known as the "access charge". This is the essence of the "unbundled tariffs" system that Ofcom has recently proposed.

    In future, the company you are calling will have to advertise their "service charge" and your phone company will have to advise how much the "access charge" is for calling 084, 087 and 09 numbers on your tariff/price plan.

    Bank 1 uses an 0844 number with a "service charge" of 5p/min.

    Bank 2 uses an 0844 number with a "service charge" of 2p/min.

    Your landline provider adds an "access charge" of 9p/min for 084, 087 and 09 calls.

    Your mobile network adds an "access charge" of 30p/min for 084, 087 and 09 calls.

    Bank 3 offers an 03 number which is charged at geographic rate and included in landline "inclusive minutes" and within mobile "inclusive minutes".

    It is now easy to see that your calls are going to cost 14p/min and 35p/min to Bank 1, 11p/min and 32p/min to Bank 2, and "zero" to call Bank 3.

    It will be an offence to fail to declare the "service charge" when an 084, 087 or 09 number is advertised.

    The "access charge" will vary from phone provider to phone provider and from tariff to tariff, but on any particular tariff the "access charge" will be exactly the same for all 084, 087 and 09 numbers.

    The above description applies to the current situation for 0843, 0844, 0871, 0872 and 09 numbers and to the future situation for 0843, 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871, 0872 and 09 numbers.

    0845 and 0870 are "special cases". They used to be tied to "local" and "national" rates, but this ended in 2005. There have been several changes since. These will return to revenue sharing and become more expensive. They will also no longer be included in landline call bundles.

    Many companies using 0845 and 0870 numbers should be moving to 0345 and 0370 numbers. When the Consumer Rights Directive is enacted later in 2013 all customer service lines will need to move from 084, 087 and 09 numbers to 03 numbers (or to 01, 02 or 080 numbers) to ensure that callers "pay no more than the basic rate".

    The 037 range is reserved for users of the matching 087 number.
    The 034 range is reserved for users of the matching 084 number.
    This has been in place since 2007. The number change has so far been voluntary. Once CRD becomes law it will be mandatory.

    Businesses that choose to remain with 084, 087 and 09 numbers will have to display the "service charge" that callers will pay.
    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers will soon need to display details of the inbuilt Service Charge under Ofcom's "unbundled tariffs" plans.

    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers for customer service, complaints, renewals, etc, will need to swap to an 01, 02, 03 or 080 number before the Consumer Rights Directive comes into effect June 2014.
  • edited 22 April 2013 at 4:07PM
    DaveAADaveAA Forumite
    87 Posts
    edited 22 April 2013 at 4:07PM
    I now realise this thread should have been called "how non-geographic telephone numbers are charged".

    As it details the biggest shakeup in non-geographic numbers for decades, I am surprised this thread hasn't sparked a huge discussion.

    Is this a topic that is of no interest?
    Is the description above too complicated?
    Does the posting cover everything so well that no-one has any questions?
    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers will soon need to display details of the inbuilt Service Charge under Ofcom's "unbundled tariffs" plans.

    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers for customer service, complaints, renewals, etc, will need to swap to an 01, 02, 03 or 080 number before the Consumer Rights Directive comes into effect June 2014.
  • dzug1dzug1 Forumite
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    DaveAA wrote: »
    I now realise this thread should have been called "how non-geographic numbers are charged".

    As it details the biggest shakeup in non-geographic numbers for decades, I am surprised this thread hasn't sparked a huge discussion.

    Is this a topic that is of no interest?
    Is the description above too complicated?
    Does the posting cover everything so well that no-one has any questions?

    I'm surprised there's been no response


    The description is necessarily complicated but is regrettably beyond the understanding and attention span of a high proportion of the population - free cheap and expensive is the analysis a lot of people do - and even then get it wrong

    I've heard BBC announcers (admittedly not recently - I think they have a script now) describe 0870 or even 0871 numbers as Freephone

    I suppose the question is will it work? I'm not particularly opposed to regulation but it does have the habit of backfiring and having unwanted side effects that then take further years to remedy

    Sorry - I'm being over cynical again
  • StuC75StuC75 Forumite
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    TBH Never dial them, say no to 0870 finds all the numbers I need then the calls work out free..
  • edited 22 April 2013 at 4:07PM
    DaveAADaveAA Forumite
    87 Posts
    edited 22 April 2013 at 4:07PM
    dzug1 wrote: »
    I suppose the question is will it work?
    Previous changes mostly haven't worked in favour of the consumer. The ASA also hasn't done a particularly good job in forcing businesses to correct the pricing details for these numbers. A quick Google search reveals tens of thousands of businesses are still incorrectly referring to 0845 numbers as "local rate" nearly a decade after this stopped being true. Thousands more claim that 0844 or 0843 numbers are also "local rate" or "lo-call" rate. This has NEVER been true. They are revenue share numbers with no link to geographic pricing. It is inconceivable that any of the phone networks would use the words "local rate" or "national rate" in their tariff lists.

    Part of the problem is that many of the companies that sell 084 and 087 numbers to businesses fail to correctly indicate what callers to these numbers will be paying. There's still a lot of "get a local rate 0845 number for your business", "get a lo-call 0844 number for your business", "get a non-geographic 084 number for your business, callers pay only 5p/min and you receive a rebate of 2p/min from every call" in their advertising. When the unbundled tariff comes in, businesses and organisations will no longer refer to what callers pay, but will have to declare only the bit they are directly responsible for - the "service charge". As well as reducing the prevalence of incorrect descriptions, I think it will also wake up many end-user businesses to enquire where the other 3p/min goes. At present it is hidden within "BT's call charge" and many businesses may think it goes to BT. In fact, BT are not allowed to hold on to it: it is passed on to the supplier of the 084 number.


    Ofcom removed revenue sharing from 0870 numbers in 2009, but prices for calling 0845 and 0870 numbers from mobiles haven't reduced all that much (certainly not as far as the price reductions seen when calling from landlines). Few businesses and organisations have made the swap to 0345 and 0370 numbers. Those that make the change, guarantee that callers pay geographic rates and can use their inclusive minutes. Instead, many businesses and organisations took flight from 0870 and 0845 to 0844 thereby increasing the bills of all callers.

    Another problem with the current system is that it is impossible for users of 08 numbers to advise callers exactly what a call will cost, because they have no idea what network the caller will be using and prices vary by network and by tariff.

    Many businesses hide behind references to BT rates, but the vast majority of people are calling from a different landline network or from a mobile. The "other providers may charge more" wording is especially irksome; it's more like "will" rather than "may". In the case of mobiles it's not "more" but "a lot more".

    "Calls cost 5p to 15p/min from landlines and 25p to 45p/min from mobiles" is much nearer the truth, but rarely seen.

    The new "unbundled scheme" does seem a lot simpler:
    - Users of 08 numbers will declare the part of the call charge they have control over (linked to the phone number they chose to activate). This "service charge" or "revenue share" will be consistent for all callers to that particular phone number (while this has always been true for 0843/0844/0871/0872 numbers, it hasn't ever been true for 0845/0870 numbers).
    - Phone networks will announce their "access charge" and it will be the same for all 084, 087 and 09 numbers. Mobile phone networks currently add a huge amount to the charge for these calls. This will be reigned in under the new scheme.

    Price lists for calls from landline networks will become much simpler. The table of 6000 entries for 084/087 numbers and 17000 entries for 09 numbers will be replaced with a single "access charge" for all of them.

    Price lists for calls from mobiles will show the single "access charge" for all 084, 087 and 09 numbers rather than the (currently, highlighly inflated) total call price.

    Some mobile networks currently charge different rates for 0843 and 0844 numbers even though these are the same type of number. Some charge different rates for 0871 and 0872 numbers seemingly making a fast buck out of consumer ignorance. Several mobile networks charge different rates for 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers. This abuse will come to an end.

    The big tables with thousands of entries will still exist for detailing the service charge, but most consumers will not be exposed to that detail because each business will show the service charge for their phone number whenever their number is publicised.

    Having scanned the responses to the previous Ofcom consulations, it's clear to see that both phone networks and service providers alike are worried by the new scheme. Many excuses are given in their responses as to why they think they shouldn't have to explicitly declare their "cut" of the call cost. They mostly boil down to "once consumers realise how much we are making from these calls, they will refuse to call them".

    That's nonsense. Of course people will call them, but only when the charge is justified. Where the charge isn't justified, the Consumer Rights Directive will take care of that: the business will no longer be using an 084, 087 or 09 number. They will have moved to 01, 02, 03 or 080.

    StuC75 wrote: »
    TBH, I never dial them. "Say no to 0870" finds all the numbers I need, then the calls work out free.
    That's a useful method for saving money.

    One other tip is to always try dialling the 03 version of any advertised 084 or 087 number. The "matching" 03 numbers for all 084 and 087 numbers were reserved by Ofcom in 2007. Many companies are now activating their reserved 03 number, and many more will be forced to do so under the Consumer Rights Directive. In some cases, the 03 number has been activated and is in use, but it isn't being publicised as those companies hang on to the bitter end before they are forced to relinquish revenue sharing.
    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers will soon need to display details of the inbuilt Service Charge under Ofcom's "unbundled tariffs" plans.

    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers for customer service, complaints, renewals, etc, will need to swap to an 01, 02, 03 or 080 number before the Consumer Rights Directive comes into effect June 2014.
  • StompaStompa Forumite
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    TBH I don't much care how the cost is calculated, I just want an easy way of finding out how much a particular call will cost me before making that call. I know I can locate the relevant details in a pdf file somewhere or other, then plough through that to find the answer, but why can't it be made easier than that?

    Why can't I simply log on to my account (so that the system will know what tariff I'm on), type the proposed number in a box and be given the cost? It's not exactly rocket science!
    Stompa
  • edited 22 April 2013 at 10:34AM
    DonnyDaveDonnyDave Forumite
    1.6K Posts
    edited 22 April 2013 at 10:34AM
    Stompa wrote: »
    TBH I don't much care how the cost is calculated, I just want an easy way of finding out how much a particular call will cost me before making that call. I know I can locate the relevant details in a pdf file somewhere or other, then plough through that to find the answer, but why can't it be made easier than that?
    It will be. Each user will promote its Service Charge and you will have one Access Charge for all 084x and 087x numbers, as set by your provider.

    At the present time, as you say, you have to refer to your own provider's list of prefixes if you are to ever know how much a call will cost.

    Stompa wrote: »
    Why can't I simply log on to my account (so that the system will know what tariff I'm on), type the proposed number in a box and be given the cost? It's not exactly rocket science!
    That would be down to your provider.
  • edited 22 April 2013 at 4:08PM
    DaveAADaveAA Forumite
    87 Posts
    edited 22 April 2013 at 4:08PM
    Stompa wrote: »
    TBH I don't much care how the cost is calculated, I just want an easy way of finding out how much a particular call will cost me before making that call.

    Why can't I simply log on to my account (so that the system will know what tariff I'm on), type the proposed number in a box and be given the cost? It's not exactly rocket science!
    Things will become even easier than that.

    You'll "know" in advance that all calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers have an "access charge" of (for example):
    - 6p/min from your landline,
    - 18p/min from your contract mobile,
    - 24p/min from your pay-as-you-go mobile,
    so you'll already know the relative costs of calling from each one without having to look it up for each and every number you want to call.

    When you do want to call someone, they will advertise the "service charge" alongside their telephone number, perhaps it's 5p/min for their 084 number and 10p/min for their 087 number.

    Add the "service charge" of the number you are going to call to the "access charge" for the device you are going to call from, to know the full call cost. There will be no need to "plough through long lists" unless the business you are going to call has failed to declare their "service charge". That will then become a matter for the ASA to deal with.

    When it comes to renewing your mobile phone contract, not only will the number of inclusive minutes to 01, 02, 03 and mobile numbers be important, but the "access charge" for 084, 087 and 09 numbers might also begin to have some bearing on your choice of package and provider. This will drive prices down.

    Consumers will have no direct control over "service charges" but when faced with a choice of buying a product over the phone from a company with a 10p/min service charge, compared to one with a 2p/min service charge, or from another that offers an 01, 02, 03 or 080 number, consumers will finally have the right information to make an informed decision.
    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers will soon need to display details of the inbuilt Service Charge under Ofcom's "unbundled tariffs" plans.

    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers for customer service, complaints, renewals, etc, will need to swap to an 01, 02, 03 or 080 number before the Consumer Rights Directive comes into effect June 2014.
  • StompaStompa Forumite
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    DaveAA wrote: »
    Things will become ever easier than that.
    I agree it will be easier than it is at present, but I'd still much prefer an online system that would work for ALL numbers. Or even something like the system used by 18185 etc. that prefixes the call with a message detailing the cost.

    Having the "service charge" alongside their telephone number is all very well, but I suspect a lot of people will just copy such numbers to their contact lists and forget what the cost was.
    Stompa
  • DaveAADaveAA Forumite
    87 Posts
    The official lookup is here:

    http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk/Number-Checker/Check-a-Number-Results.aspx

    However, as you can clearly see from the results, it's not fit for purpose.

    The call price it returns is that when called from a BT line. It knows nothing of mobile rates or other landline operators.
    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers will soon need to display details of the inbuilt Service Charge under Ofcom's "unbundled tariffs" plans.

    Businesses using 084, 087 or 09 numbers for customer service, complaints, renewals, etc, will need to swap to an 01, 02, 03 or 080 number before the Consumer Rights Directive comes into effect June 2014.
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