Mobile users face charge to receive calls

29 August 2008
Mobile phone users may soon have to pay to receive calls as well as make them, under new proposals being considered by the communications watchdog Ofcom.

Mobile users in the UK are not currently charged for incoming calls, but this could all change if Ofcom's proposals are adopted by suppliers. Under the proposals, monthly tariffs – which often include free minutes and texts – would be scrapped and instead all calls and texts made and received would attract a charge.

Ofcom hopes this would make mobile phone charges more transparent, as it is concerned that there are too many hidden charges involved with making phone calls that bring in massive profits for mobile phone operators.

A core part of Ofcom’s proposal is mobile termination charges – the rates at which mobile phone operators charge each other for connecting customers to their networks. These charges are currently capped at around 6p a minute, charged to the mobile company of the person receiving the call, and account for around 20% of operators’ revenue.

However, Ofcom says that this hidden cost is passed on to customers without it being made known on their bills, adding an extra £2.5 billion to users’ bills each year. One option being considered by the watchdog would be to force operators to publish these charges, which Ofcom hopes would put pressure on operators to reduce them.

The report states: “Operators could elect to recover the costs of terminating calls from their own customers in the form of either a ‘per minute’ charge to receive calls, or via their monthly access charge, or both.”

Should these proposals be introduced, Ofcom hopes they will lead to significant changes in the nature and structure of mobile price plans, bringing costs down as a result.

However, it warns that some users could be disadvantaged compared to the current regime if the recovery of termination charges is shifted to mobile customers.

Critics say the plans are unfair for customers.

Rob Barnes, head of mobiles and broadband at, says: “Many customers are already paying upwards of £30 a month for a contract, and from their point of view, charging to receive calls would be a step too far.”

Barnes says the majority of contracts rake in billions of pounds worth of termination charges that are washing around the networks. He adds that while there are arguments for and against charging to receive calls, it would have a negative impact on the customer.

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