IMPORTANT NEWS FOR USERS OF NON-GEOGRAPHIC CALL SERVICES (08, 09 and 118 numbers)
Ofcom had a number of concerns in the non-geographic call services (NGCS) market, namely:
- Consumers are unhappy due to price uncertainty
- Caller prices can be higher than those usually advertised which are BT’s residential caller rates, especially when calling from mobiles
- NGCS minutes volumes are declining quicker than other fixed call minutes volumes
- The market has been impacted by economic conditions, regulatory change and high profile premium rate service issues/bad press
- There are a large number of termination disputes between Communications Providers (CPs) and subsequent appeals
- The current regulation only applies to BT
Following a lengthy consultation process, Ofcom released their Statement; Simplifying non-geographic numbers on the future of non-geographic call services (NGCS) with an implementation date of 26th June 2015 although this has since been changed to 1st July 2015 to assist with the practicalities of implementation.
Ofcom have also made a Statement regarding the future of 0500 numbers; The 0500 Number Range; Decision to withdraw 0500 telephone numbers although the implementation of this will be much later.
What is changing?
There are two main changes as part of the Ofcom Statement; Simplifying non-geographic numbers both of which come into effect on 1st July 2015. These are summarised below:
- Free means Free – calls to 080 numbers will be free to call regardless of Communications Provider chosen. Following implementation, all calls including those from mobiles will be free to call.
- Unbundled Pricing – will split the caller charges into an Access Charge and a Service Charge.
Free means Free – calls to 080
Most Land Line Providers currently provide calls to 080 numbers for free but Mobile Providers often charge. The terminating CP (the one hosting the 080 number on behalf of the users of the number) pay the originating CP (the one providing the telephony service to the caller) an “origination charge” to cover their costs of originating the call as they will not be collecting any charges from the caller. Origination costs have been researched by Ofcom and they have concluded that mobile CP origination costs are higher than fixed CP origination costs. Calls to 080 numbers are paid for by the recipient of the call and those charges are based around the current fixed origination charge. The differential between the mobile and fixed origination charges will therefore be passed on to the recipient of the call as a “top up” to the standard call costs, i.e. charged in addition to the customer’s normal 080 tariff.
The amount of the “top up” has not yet been finalised although Ofcom have said it will be the smaller of:
- 0 pence per minute (ppm); or
- Ofcom’s revised calculation of the LRIC+ cost of mobile origination for 2015/16 (excluding customer acquisition and retention costs) (“LRIC+ (no A&R)”), which Ofcom shall publish following the publication of Ofcom’s 2015 mobile call termination (“MCT”) cost model (the “2015 MCT model”).
The second of these bullet points isn’t that easy to understand for most people! What it means in effect is that the maximum will be 2ppm but when Ofcom publish their 2015 mobile termination model it may be less.
Mobile “top-up” also applies to 116 calls in the same way.
Unbundled pricing for 084, 087 and 09 numbers
Implementation of “Unbundled” pricing will split the caller charges into an Access Charge and a Service Charge.
The Access Charge will be unregulated and set by the originating Communications Provider (CP).
The Service Charge will be regulated and set on a per number range basis by the CP allocated that number range by Ofcom – see more below.
Calls to 084 numbers will have the Service Charge capped at 7p per minute inc VAT and calls to 087 numbers will be capped at 13p per minute inc VAT. There will be a limited number of Service Charges available for CPs who are range holders to choose from. In the 084 and 087 number ranges these will be in whole round pence per minute from 0p per minute through to 13p per minute. Numbers in the 09 premium rate will also have a restricted number of Service Charges to choose from up to a maximum of £3.60 per minute or £6.00 per call inc VAT. Other numbers which will also have unbundled pricing imposed will be 118 directory enquiries numbers.
As stated above, the Service Charge will be set on a per number block basis by the CP allocated that number range by Ofcom. Number blocks are usually allocated in blocks of 10,000 numbers although they are occasionally allocated in blocks of 1,000 numbers.
BT has set the Service Charges for the 084 and 087 pence per minute number blocks originally allocated to us at such a level that we are able to continue with existing commercial arrangements with our customers using numbers in BT number blocks. This may not be the case for 09xx, 118 or pence per call number blocks but customers using these ranges will be notified accordingly.
Where a customer has a number imported to BT, the Service Charge will be set by the CP originally allocated that number block. This means that customers will have their caller pricing for these imported numbers set by a company with whom they have no commercial relationship. This may mean that BT cannot continue with existing commercial arrangements and may have to change prices for those numbers. Where this is the case, customers using these ranges will be notified accordingly.
The latest Service Charges chosen by CPs is available in a Service Charge Master Sheet on the Ofcom web site at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/numbering/index.htm#special
Price publication obligation
Users of numbers covered by the unbundled pricing will have an obligation to publish the Service Charges wherever they advertise or publish their numbers in a similar format to: “Calls will cost Xppm plus your phone company access charge”. The final recommended wording will be issued by the Committee for Advertising Practice, (CAP).
More guidance for both businesses and consumers can be found from the UK Calling web site at http://www.ukcalling.info/
Ofcom Statement: The 0500 Number Range; Decision to withdraw the 0500 number range
The current 0500 number range is closed for new provision and has been for some time. Ofcom have decided to withdraw the 0500 number range in its entirety and will be making the 08085 number range available as a migration range. Where a customer has 0500 number, for example 0500 123456 they can migrate to the equivalent 08085 number, in this example 08085 123456. An alternative would be to change to another appropriate number.
Migrations from 0500 to 08085, should customers choose to do this, or changes to an alternative number, need to be made before 3rd June 2017. At the end of the migration window Ofcom will be withdrawing all 0500 numbers.
During the migration period, caller charging will not be changed in line with proposals for 080 as a result of this Statement, therefore calls from mobiles may still be charged. A pre-call announcement will be played prior to connecting the call as currently exists where Freefone is charged.
Summary & Ofcom Links
Ofcom’s “Simplifying Non-Geographic Numbers”
Effective 1 st July 2015 – calls to 080 numbers will be free to all callers plus caller charges for calls to 084, 087, 09 and some other numbers will be spilt into an Access Charge and a Service Charge. Users will have an obligation to publish the Service Charges wherever they are advertised or published. The full Ofcom statement can be found here:
Ofcom’s withdrawal of the 0500 numbers
Effective 3 rd June 2017 – withdrawal of all existing 0500 numbers. There is an option to migrate to equivalent numbers starting 08085. The full Ofcom Statement can be found here:
Our published contact numbers
When calling 08450 555 300 or 08450 580 590 or when faxing 08450 555 301:
Calls will cost 2ppm plus your phone company access charge.
Our 0845 service user customers
When callers make contact to you using your 0845 number:
Calls will cost 2ppm plus their phone company access charge.
You should make your customers aware of this from 1st July 2015.
Content provided by Ofcom, British Telecommunications PLC and Purple Telecommunications Ltd.