0800 numbers to be free from mobiles

Calling 0800 telephone numbers from your mobile phone could soon be free after Ofcom announced plans to ban the charging practice.

At present, mobile users pay up to 40p a minute to call 0800 numbers, despite the fact they are free to call from landlines and are used by many public bodies, including councils and the NHS.

Following a change in European telecoms legislation, the regulator now has increased powers so is entering into a consultation with the mobile phone companies to overhaul the pricing structures.

Under the plans, it intends to ban the practice of mobile firms charging users who call 0800 numbers.

Ofcom is also planning to clear up the confusion surrounding the cost of using 118 directory enquiry services.

Cost of phone numbers

"There is clear evidence of widespread uncertainty and confusion about the cost of calling these numbers," says Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.

"Consumers need to have far more transparency about the price they are going to pay for calls so that they can make more informed choices and so competition can work more effectively."

"We welcome Ofcom's plans to tackle these issues and agree there is significant confusion around call costs," says Rekha Wadhwani, chief executive of The Helplines Association.

"We have been campaigning on the cost of calling freephone numbers, especially charity helplines, from mobile phones since 1999," she adds.

Avoid extra costs

Until these changes come in there are ways you can avoid paying over the odds for phone calls:

1. Use an alternative telephone number - many businesses and organisations list a separate telephone number to be used by people calling from abroad. It usually begins +44 and is then a local phone number. Dial this number and you'll only pay local rates.
2. Visit saynoto0870.com - This website offers an extensive list of alternative, cheaper numbers for UK companies that use expensive 08 numbers.
3. Email - If you can consider sending an email instead. It's a quick, efficient way of contacting a company that is not only free but also provides you with a record of your communication.

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Your Comments

Welcome news on 0800 (I assume also 0808, 0500) from mobiles - just needs to happen faster.
However, Councils and NHS using 0800 numbers? Where is that? All public bodies seem to have gone to 084x numbers, where 'x' is rarely even '5' because 0845 and 0870 numbers are included in the packages provided by most (all now?) Telecoms companies. I find increasingly that 'x' is '3', '4', '6' or '7' with the associated charges and profitable revenue sharing for the called body. So, we pay twice for our services in the case of Public Service bodies.
I have no cause to call them, but I noticed that even the Samaritans now have an 0845 number! (Was 0800).
Whist I am typing, it's also worth sharing that the shiny new Police non-emergency number, 101, costs 15p to call (from a landline, at least, not sure about mobiles). I am not sure if that's per minute or per call - perhaps someone more knowledgeable could clarify. I think it's per call, but still despicable that it's never mentioned when the number is advertised. FYI - better to call the 0800 number for Crime Stoppers as long as it remains that.
Also worth knowing that there are a number of companies that have normal land line numbers that can be called to get access to 0800 etc numbers from mobiles. I use '0800 Buster'. You call their number and get prompted to dial the FreeFone number you want. It costs whatever you pay for your landline call from the mobile (included in my package with Orange).
Thanks for highlighting Tips 1 & 2 at the end - I use them and they are good to share.