BT has become the first UK mobile company to make calls to 0800 numbers free for its BT Mobile customers. The landmark decision won immediate support from consumer groups that believe companies should stop charging for calls to freephone 0800 numbers. Consumer Focus and BT today called on the big mobile operators to follow their lead and give customers back the £50m a year they are charged for calling 0800 numbers from mobiles.
Mobile companies such as Orange charge up to 25p a minute for dialling the numbers, which companies set up in an attempt to let customers call them for free. Vodafone charges up to 20p a minute and O2 15p.
Other mobile companies also charge high rates for calling ‘free’ 0800 numbers, with 3 charging 15p a minute and T-Mobile 10p.
However, BT Mobile is scrapping all charges for its Consumer customers who dial 0800 numbers and similar 0500 numbers from May 1, despite the loss of tens of thousands of pounds in revenue.
BT announced in February last year that it was switching all its helpline numbers to 0800, making it free for all of its 14m customers to call them from any landline.
Consumer Focus, which incorporates the former National Consumer Council, is calling for mobile companies to give customers a fair deal by ensuring that calling an 0800 number from a mobile is free – the same as if you call the number from a landline.
Audrey Gallagher, of Consumer Focus said: “Scrapping unfair charges on 0800 calls from mobile phones is good news for BT customers. With so many consumers using mobile phones rather than landlines to contact essential services, find information and seek help, it is more important than ever that they do so for free across all 0800 numbers. Consumer Focus calls on mobile phone operators to follow BT and stop making money out of 0800 calls.”
John Petter, managing director of BT’s Consumer business, said: “We think mobile customers are irritated by having to pay high rates to call ‘free’ 0800 numbers, so we have put our own house in order by making it free for any BT Mobile customer to call these numbers.
“We have all called an 0800 number from our mobiles and experienced the frustration of the message telling us that the call will be charged at standard rates.
“A customer with Orange would pay £7.50 just to make a 30-minute call their insurance company or bank and sort out a few issues. But if they made that call from a landline it would be free, so we can’t see the need to have this huge difference in price.
“We had already made calls into BT free for our 14m landline customers and we are happy to back Consumer Focus and other consumer organisations in their efforts to address this anomaly. We also recently announced that calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers would be included in call packages for BT landline customers, so it is a good time to be calling these organisations from a BT landline or mobile.”