UK Calling, what you need to know about the new changes to business numbers

You probably know that on the 1st of July, Ofcom’s new rules for call charges to some numbers will be introduced. The new move – UK Calling – is designed to make it easier for consumers to understand call charges and take away some of their concerns. It’s a problem we’ve previously highlighted in the research we did with ICM. 

UK Calling will do two things:

1. It will make 0800 and 0808 numbers free to call from all landlines and mobiles. They’re already free to call from landlines, but some mobile providers charge.

2. It will mean that charges for calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers will have to be clearly stated in a specific way (more on this later).

What we think

Changes to the 0800 and 0808 numbers are good to see. Previously our research showed:

• 40% of consumers lacked confidence in their understanding of charges to 0800 numbers from landlines. 

• This rose sharply to 70% in terms of consumers’ understanding of call charges from mobiles.

• 0800 was the number most consumers felt least concerned about. Around 30% said that they’d be concerned or very concerned about it – the lowest of all the numbers surveyed.

Making 0800 and 0808 free to call from mobiles should reduce this concern further and make it the clear number of choice for organisations who want to make sure their number isn’t a barrier to service and sales.

If you use 084 / 087 / 09 / 118 numbers you’ll need to publish call charges everywhere that consumers are likely to see them. 

When it comes to letting your customers know how much they’ll be charged you’ll need to state this in a particular way as well stating that there’s:

1. An access charge – a charge that their landline or mobile provider will make.

2. A service charge – the amount that you will charge for calling that number.

We also suggest that you think about publishing your charges as the opening message on your IVR so customers hear it when they call.

You can find out more about the requirements and what you’ll need to do in the For Business section of UK Calling’s website. 

Keep in mind that 65% to 80% of consumers said they’d be concerned about calling 084 / 087 / 09 numbers – these were the numbers with some of the highest levels of concern. A concerted UK wide effort to clarify call charges for these numbers may help to reduce this concern. But because the charging regime still isn’t that simple it may lead to yet more confusion and concern. Only time will tell.

When we carried out our research perhaps the most worrying discovery was that consumers were as concerned about calling 03 numbers as they were 084 ones. UK Calling may alter how consumers feel about 084 numbers but it may not do anything to allay concerns about 03 numbers that many organisations adopted because of the Consumer Rights Directive that was introduced last year.

UK Calling applies to all sectors. But if you’re a financial services company…

This year the FCA began its consultation on what numbers should be used for financial services. Their requirements are likely to be along the same lines as those introduced for the majority of other businesses last year – something we’ve written about previously. We got in touch with the FCA this week to find out when their requirements will be published and come into force. So far they’ve said that the requirements will probably become public sometime over the summer and we’ll let you know more about this when they do.

What should you do about UK Calling? 

Here’s a quick recap of what you should be looking at:

1. Publishing 084 / 087 / 09 / 118 number charges. If you use these numbers you’ll need to inform consumers about your charges from the 1st July (in the recommended way).

2. Consider a move away from 084 / 087 / 09 numbers. Over the past two years these numbers have come in for a lot of public criticism from both consumer groups and the press. Whether clarifying call charges will help the image of these only time will tell. But as we discussed in our previous blog on the subject now might be a good time to look at alternatives such as freephone, 03 and geographic (01/02) numbers. This may be particularly relevant if you’re a financial services company.

3. Make it clear what the charges are for all the numbers you publish. Hopefully UK Calling will boost consumers’ understanding of call charges for 084 / 087 / 09 / 118 numbers. But if you use freephone, 03 or geographic numbers don’t forget to continue to make it clear what the call charges are as well. And make sure that your callers know that it’s a good thing for them. In the short term there could be a risk that UK Calling may make callers suspicious of other numbers.

Fran Fish

Boss at Mazaru