Thursday, 28 May 2015

Warning - new Ofcom rules - are you ready?


Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for UK communications have decided there must be clarity for consumers calling non-geographic numbers and new rules will come into force from 1st July 2015.

Merlin would like to make everyone aware of these new rules and warn of the responsibilities for owners of 084x, 087x ,09 and 118 numbers. Even if you do not use such numbers, we thought it would be of interest to you to see what the new regulations mean to those who do and how this might make call charges clearer in the future..

Non-geographic numbers are those numbers with are not linked to a specific location, i.e. numbers that start 03,05,07,08,09,116 and 118.  These are  widely used by business, central and local government, charities and statutory bodies for a variety of activities ranging from information and helplines to voting in TV game shows.
This is a large market which is regulated by Ofcom. In 2009, consumers paid around £1.9 billion for calls to these numbers and they accounted for 12% of the total call traffic volume. Currently, for most numbers there is a limit on how much BT can charge for calls. Other providers are not restricted as to how much they can charge but in many cases landline providers set their call charges around BT’s prices.
Although there is extensive use of these numbers, research by Ofcom has shown that many people are confused about what non-geographic numbers can be used for and particularly how much calls to them cost. This is partly because each phone company sets its own prices and information on pricing can be difficult to find and is complex. This complexity also means that it is difficult for the organisation being called to let consumers know how much they will be charged for contacting them.
One change, is that a call to a Freephone number (0800 or 0808) will be exactly that.  Currently, some calls to a Freephone number from a mobile are charged, so this will certainly be clearer and cheaper for mobile users.

From 1st July 2015 you will be required to advertise the cost of calling your non-geographic number in a particular fashion so that you do not fall foul of Ofcom, PhonePayPlus and Advertising Standards Agency.
The cost of calling 084x, 087x (Including 0845 and 0870), 09 and 118 numbers will be split into two parts:-
1. An access charge: This part of the call charge goes to your phone company, charged as pence per minute. They will tell you how much the access charge will be for calls to service numbers. It will be made clear on bills and when you take out a contract.
2.  A service charge: This is the rest of the call charge. The organisation you are calling decides this, and will tell you how much it is.
What you need to do
Check and change all of your marketing materials and advertising. When the new system comes into effect in July, companies and organisations that provide services using these numbers will be required to set out the charges clearly. Whenever you advertise or promote one of these services, you must ensure that your service charge is displayed in a prominent position, and in close proximity to the telephone number, in all cases.
Check the wording, as an example, a statement along the lines ‘Calls will cost 5p per minute plus your telephone company’s Access Charge’ is likely to be considered to be compliant – but we recommend you seek individual advice from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) at asa.org.uk/industry-advertisers.

These rules will apply to all consumer calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers across the UK, delivering clearer call rates for everyone.
The changes do not affect calls made to ordinary landline numbers (01, 02), 03 numbers or mobile (07) numbers. Neither do they affect calls made from payphones, international calls, or calls to the UK when roaming overseas.
Further information on the Ofcom changes is available on the dedicated website at http://www.ukcalling.info/ this is aimed mainly at consumers, however it gives a full breakdown of the upcoming transition should this be required.
The Merlin Team
Here to help you get the most out of your business

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