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UK Call charge changes is your business ready?

UK companies are being warned of major changes to the pricing of inbound telephone numbers set to take effect in the summer.

The head of an independent communications company is urging businesses to re-evaluate the numbers they give out to consumers, including freephone, as they could be landed with significantly higher bills.

The Ofcom-led changes will affect the cost of some "non-geographic" numbers, that is any beginning with 08, 09 or 118. Numbers beginning with 01, 02 and 03 are not affected.

From a provisional date of July 1st, freephone numbers beginning 0800, 0808 or 116 are to be free for consumers to call from mobiles as well as landlines.

Erica Lewis, managing director of communications company Diva Telecom, warns that companies using freephone numbers will pick up the tab for the extra cost of extending freephone to mobiles.

"It’s very important to remember the changes have been made with the consumer in mind rather than the business at the end of the call. 

"The changes to freephone mean our business customers will be charged according to the origin of a call instead of its destination – with calls from mobiles costing more. Obviously this is likely to lead to higher overall costs.

"Businesses should find out from their providers where most of their calls originate so they can make an informed decision about which numbers to use in the future," she added.

In contrast, changes to 084 and 087, numbers will affect the consumer rather than the business taking the calls.

"Businesses may need to change the prefixes they use, if they fear customers could be put off calling a more expensive number," says Erica, "For example, they may move to an 03 range. It’s important to remember the rest of the number doesn’t need to change, it’s only the number prefix."

Finally, businesses using these numbers will share an enforceable obligation with their telecoms provider and publishers to give clear information to consumers about the new call costs wherever the numbers are published.

Call costs are to be broken down into two parts: a service charge, made by the provider and business at the end of the call, and an access charge, made by the consumer’s telephone provider.

They will need to display the actual per minute service charge plus a reference to the access charge.

Ms Lewis stresses companies using these numbers should lose no time in working with telecoms service providers to review their portfolio ahead of the deadline.

She says: "Businesses could be affected adversely if they’re not on top of this – whether from paying more for freephone, upsetting customers with higher call costs or by incurring penalties if the costs are not published correctly.

“There are tens of thousands of businesses in the UK using these numbers but the majority are unaware of how the changes will affect them or what they need to do before July."

The changes, first announced by Ofcom in September 2014, are a result of research that found consumers were confused about the cost of the numbers, which meant they might avoid using them. 



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