New Ofcom Call Rules

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Next month industry regulator Ofcom introduces changes to how many categories of calls are charged so we asked Steve McGeary of conferencing firm Powwownow to give us all an insight in to what it all means

What are the Ofcom changes?

Ofcom, the communications regulator in the UK, and the UK telephone industry are working together on a major new consumer information campaign. They are making changes to the cost of calls and how these costs will be communicated to the consumer since pricing of calls is currently unclear. These changes will be the biggest shake up to the industry in over ten years.

On July 1st, the new rules will be enforced by Ofcom to ensure that any hidden charges when making a phone call become a thing of the past. It will make the cost of calling any number visible and clear for everyone and represents the biggest change to telephone calls in over a decade.

Currently, when you make a telephone call to a number beginning 08, 09 or 118, it is not entirely clear how much this will cost you. This is because your provider will charge you for connecting the call yet these costs will remain hidden until you receive your bill through at the end of the month and they will usually be more than you were expecting.

On the surface, it is understandable that people may not be getting overly excited about a new system being put in to place as there may be other more high-profile consumer battles to fight. For years however, providers have been able to get away with hidden charges and there has been very little that consumers can do against them. This is because if you read the small print they will have been mentioned somewhere.

Ofcom’s planned changes however, are now ensuring the consumer comes first and that all costs and charges have to be clearly spelt out and displayed by the telephone number.

To make the charges as easy as possible for consumers to calculate, as of 1st July this year, the cost of calling service numbers will be made up of two parts:

An access charge: This part of the call charge that 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.

A service charge: This is the rest of the call charge. The organisation you are calling decides this, and again will clearly state how much it is.

The information displayed when making future calls will read something along the lines of: “Calls cost 20p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.”

Providing you know your phone companies access charge, you will therefore be able to work out exactly what the costs attached to this particular call are.

Will the cost of calls go up or down?

Costs will largely remain the same for consumers since Ofcom mapped calls across networks looking at both duration and charges of the average call before reaching their solution.

Most service providers have kept their cards decidedly close to their chests and haven’t shared their costings as yet.

Other numbers will also be affected by the changes with the rules applying to all consumer calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers across the UK, delivering clearer call rates for everyone.

Calls to landlines and mobiles will not be affected and neither will calls from payphones, international calls, or calls to the UK when roaming overseas. In addition, all Freephone numbers (which begin 0800 or 0808) are being made free for consumers to call from all phones, mobile or landline.

What does this mean for individuals and businesses?

Essentially Ofcom have stepped in to take action as they could see that the current system was failing consumers. The UK Calling implementations mean that transparency is the name of the game and it is a move that has to be admired.

As a conference calling service provider ourselves, the changes will have very little impact on our customers in terms of costings but it is refreshing to see that clarity in operations will be a shared ethos as of 1st July.

SMEs are historically the demographic that have been badly affected by hidden telecom charges due to their usage and budgets that don’t stretch as far as the bigger companies. The Ofcom actions will hopefully ease the strain or at least provide a stark warning to the decision makers if reductions are necessary.

Three Take-Aways

What are the main things I should remember?

1. Access charge will always remain the same with your provider (O2, EE etc.)

2. You only have to worry about the service charge of the call you are about to make

3. Freephone numbers will be free from any device, even mobiles

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine