Telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced that it intends to make "major changes” to better help consumers understand the costs involved when calling businesses and services.
Calls to numbers beginning with 08, 09 and 118 will all be subject to the changes as currently, consumers are not informed of the costs involved when not calling from a BT landline. The numbers are used by a range of businesses, public bodies and organisations.
The new guidelines, which have been announced by Ofcom today, will allow consumers to see how the cost is "broken down into an ‘access charge’ to their phone company, plus a ‘service charge’ to the company or organisation they are calling.”
The responsibility for setting the ‘access charge’ will fall onto phone companies and from now on they will have to make it clear exactly what customers are paying for on bills. These companies will also have to inform customers of charges when they first sign a contract.
Additionally, the company that charges for being contacted will be required to be more transparent and "specify their service charge wherever they advertise or communicate it.”
However, businesses and telecoms providers will have time to effect the changes as the new rules will not be enforced until 2015.
Further measures to ensure consumers know what they are paying for will require companies to make pricing clearer and improve competition in a bid to improve consumer confidence in the industry. This means that from now on, numbers that purport to be ‘Freephone’ will have to be just that and it’s thought that this will apply to calls from mobiles as well as landlines under the new rules.
Further measures include the capping of premium rate charges, 0845 number charges will be required to be clear and those organisations that wish to use 03 numbers will be more likely to be public and non-profit organisations.
All of the changes will come fully into effect on 26 July 2015 and Ofcom are already working with the industry in order to oversee the changes and make for a smooth transition.
Ed Richards, Chief Executive of Ofcom, said: "These changes will be the biggest for UK telephone customers in more than a decade. We expect them to restore people’s confidence in using phone services, and to increase competition.
"Freephone will mean free for all consumers, and the cost of calling other services will be made clear. Telephone users will be able to see how much they’re paying, and where their money is going.”
A guide for consumers can be found on the Ofcom websiteand a full statement of the decision and a breakdown of intended changes is available here.