The communications watchdog Ofcom wants calls to 0870 numbers to cost no more than calls to geographic numbers.
On average, calls to 0870 numbers cost between 6p and 10p per minute in the daytime, from a BT landline, and 1p to 5p at other times. Ofcom wants this to be reduced to about 3.5p a minute in the day and 1p to 1.5p a minute at other times.
Ofcom’s proposals also include improving protection for customers calling 0871 lines, which cost anything from 5p to 10p per minute, by bringing them under the remit of premium-rate services regulator PhonepayPlus.
The plans are part of Ofcom’s wider review of “non-geographic” telephone numbers, after complaints over the lack of transparency about the cost of calls.
Many businesses and organisations use 0870 numbers to provide information including road traffic advice, customer service and financial advice.
Calls to 0870 numbers are currently priced in a way that allows organisations to share the revenue generated by per minute call charges. Ofcom’s proposals would effectively end this.
Businesses that wanted to charge higher rates for 0870 calls would have to make sure their customers knew the costs. PhonepayPlus would also be able to investigate complaints about excessively long call queuing times. Ofcom said it hoped to have the proposed changes in place by autumn.