On June 2014, it became illegal to provide an 0845, 0870 or similar number for a customer complaints line. Read our handy guide to find out what you need to do.
The law was passed on 13th December 2013 as part of “The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013” and came into force on 13th June 2014. The driving force behind these changes is simple: “Customers should not be made to pay extra for attempting to rectify problems which are not their fault”.
Call centres are expected to suffer. The worst-affected companies will have to update all their literature and plan for the loss of income which will result from switching to a zero or standard-charge line. The only compensation, according to BIS, is that “traders (are expected) to recoup at least a proportion of this lost revenue by altering headline prices.”
Unfortunately there is no leeway for affected call centres. All they can do is try and make the best of it, as David Hickson of The Fair Telecoms Campaign says, “Businesses should focus on the benefits of making these changes, such as improved customer satisfaction, and try to implement them as soon as possible.”
It is important to note that these impending changes only apply to lines dealing with existing customers. Companies will still be able to use 0845 numbers for non-customer advice services such as paid for technical advice, so long as the charges are clearly advertised. Services specifically paid for through the cost of the call (i.e. horoscopes and television voting) and sales lines are also unaffected.
What do you need to do?
If you are currently using 0845 or similar numbers for your customer complaint lines, you will have to switch to either a geographical number (i.e. 01, 02) or, if you still require the technological benefits of an 0845 number, an 03 number. Switching to an 03 number is probably the simplest solution, as all you will have to do is substitute the 8 for a 3. For example, 0845 becomes 0345.
As part of your contract with your existing provider, you should already own the 03 version of your current 08 number, so it will simply be a case of requesting the switch and upgrading your literature accordingly.
Still a bit unsure about whether your business will be affected? Take a glance at our table below.
What number do you use for your customer service line?
You will be able to keep your 0800 number for customers calling in from landlines. However you will also have to provide a clearly-indicated 01, 02 or 03 number alongside it – for customers calling in from a mobile phone. This is because 0800 numbers dialed from a mobile phone are typically more expensive than geographical numbers.
e.g. Swansea 01792
No changes necessary.
e.g. London 0203
No changes necessary.
From 13th June 2014, it will be a legal requirement that these numbers are no longer provided for customer helplines. They must be switched to an 01, 02 or 03 number.
(or any other number beginning with 084 or 087)
Premium numbers beginning with 09
Switching from any 084 or 087 number to 03 is made easier by a provision of the Ofcom regulations.
The 034 or 037 equivalent of any existing 084/087 number is available to the user and telephone service provider. This enables telephone companies to offer migration (e.g. from 0845 123 4567 to 0345 123 4567) at any time and without any penalty charge.
The benefit of the Service Charge, paid by callers on calls to 084/087 numbers will be lost. We have however heard of cases where telephone companies (who may have misrepresented the charges incurred on calling 084 numbers) have agreed not to pass on the cost to them of the loss of subsidy.
We encourage companies to take the step as a positive move for their customers, rather than grudging compliance with regulation.
This is an EU directive and applies not just to complaints but any phone communication relating to the contract. See below:
Communication by telephone
“Member States shall ensure that where the trader operates a telephone line for the purpose of contacting him by telephone in relation to the contract concluded, the consumer, when contacting the trader is not bound to pay more than the basic rate.”
Don’t forget about 0300 numbers as well
For completeness please add 0808, 03, 0872 and 0873 entries to the table.
0800/0808 numbers are compliant; no need to change as per section J of the associated Guidance Document issued by BIS
The statement that numbers have to change is also incorrect; numbers can be used in parallel with existing numbers so long as they are given equal prominence in advertising etc – again refer to section J of the associated Guidance Document issued by BIS; where 084 and 087 numbers are used, so long as the compliant is equally prominently advertised revenue share can still be paid
This has all been confirmed with BIS…
080 numbers will be compliant once they become free from all mobile phones on 26 June 2015. Before then, it is best to run an 03 number in parallel.
The implications to business in the UK is not just around the contact centre, it goes much further than that. However, the part which is important for us is that we must not charge more than a geographic or
mobile rate for our consumers to phone us about something they have bought from us – something which we have contracted to provide them. The telephone number given to consumers should not provide us with a contribution to our costs. Read Martin Hill-Wilson’s interpretation in his latest whitepaper.
0845 FAX NUMBERS will these be illegal from 13th June?
Yes Fax numbers are included is they are used for customer service.
Thank you very much for the reply.
Do the changes affect phone lines that deal with enquiries, renewals or cancellations or just customer complaints phone lines?
The changes will affect any number that is in place for an existing customer to use. See article 41 in the The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
“41.—(1) Where a trader operates a telephone line for the purpose of consumers contacting the trader by telephone in relation to contracts entered into with the trader, a consumer contacting the trader must not be bound to pay more than the basic rate.”
Am I correct in that fact that as long as you have 0345 numbers in place by 13th June you can still run 0845 alongside whilst you reeducate customers to use 0345?
Yes, you can continue to use a 0845 number as long as the 0345 is displayed as prominently.
Quoted from the new regulations:
Do the regulations say that I have to provide a telephone helpline?
7. No. Regulation 41 on charges for customer helplines only applies if you
offer a telephone line on which consumers can contact you about something
they have bought.
8. Nor does the Regulation require that all numbers operated by a business
are at a basic rate. Only that where the trader provides a telephone line so
that the consumer can contact them about a contract concluded, there should
be a number available on which the consumer can call for this purpose at no
more than the basic rate. For example, as there are times when consumers
may prefer 0845 numbers to geographic numbers it may be desirable in some
circumstances to maintain both access numbers. If traders take this approach
the ‘basic rate’ compliant telephone number should be communicated as
prominently as one that is not.
Does this affect business to business calls. eg financial broker having to call a desinated 0845 line for business calls.
The point about being allowed to continue using, specifically, 0845 numbers in parallel with the new “basic rate” telephone number is simply to cater for the small number of callers who do NOT have inclusive calls to 01, 02 and 03 number on weekdays AND who also pay a discounted rate for calls to 0845 numbers.
These tariffs are anomalies in the market and mainly involve callers using “BT Weekend” and “BT Evening & Weekend” who happen to make a call on a weekday. In many cases, these callers are on the wrong tariff and would benefit from an AnyTime call package. The remainder are mostly callers using “Vodafone pay as you go”. It is no coincidence that those are the two networks terminating most of the 0845 calls on behalf of businesses. The discounting of these calls, especially by BT, is not transparent.
With BT now originating less than 20% of all calls, and mobile phones originating more than 55% of calls, BT prices are utterly irrelevant for the vast majority of callers.
Most callers pay a premium to call 0845 numbers whereas calls to 03 numbers are always charged at the same rate as calling 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive allowances. This applies on landlines and on mobiles.
For the last decade or so, the telecoms industry has sought to convince callers that BT’s retail call pricing for 084 and 087 numbers is “the standard” and that other networks “charge more”. The reality is that BT’s non-geographic retail call pricing is capped by regulation. This creates an anomaly where BT prices for these calls will ALWAYS be the lowest. It is BT’s pricing that varies from everyone else.
The standard arrangement for most callers is that they make all of their normal calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers as part of an inclusive call allowance. Calls to 084 and 087 numbers therefore represent an additional cost on top of the normal telephone bill. The new regulations for customer service telephone lines recognise that as fact. This is why the shift away from 084 and 087 numbers and over to 03 numbers is so important.
Ofcom’s “unbundled tariffs” for calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers, due to be introduced on 26 June 2015, will further expose the realities of call pricing, bringing much needed price transparency for the very first time. For 0845 calls it will be clear the caller pays their own provider to convey the call as well as an additional 2p/min Service Charge to the benefit of the called party. All users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers will be required to declare the Service Charge incurred by callers.
The introduction of the “unbundled tariff” may well bring to an end to the selective discounting of 0845 calls by BT and Vodafone. However, that is unlikely to be much of an issue because it will affect only a very small number of callers. Most callers find 0345 and other “basic rate” numbers are an advantage as they are inclusive calls on all landline and mobile networks.
If you run a contact center providing technical and fault resolution support on behalf of the manufacturer and they control the 0845/0870 numbers who is responsible for implementing the 03 numbers? and what are the implications if a 03 number isn’t provided and 0845 is the only number to call in for support?
It would be down to the operator of the 08xx number.
However, it is within your responsibility to check that the 03 option
is also available.
What is the case of a call forwarding company (see link), that uses 0844/0845 number to route to a companies customer services line?
who is responsible?
How to remove this?
I am not related to the site linked to me name, but was just interested as it may affect some companies that this company is forwarding calls to.
My employer requires me to phone an 0845 number to head office in order to discuss staff internal and payroll problems. Is this allowed under the new law? Just to be clear, this is not a number for company customers to call, just company staff. Thanks.
If this is a phone line that employees are expected to ring from their home landline or from their personal mobile phone, then it’s a shame that a company chooses to rip-off its own employees by using a number with a Service Charge for payroll enquiries. However, it’s not breaking any laws.
If this is a number that employees only ever ring during working hours from another phone line that belongs to the business then it is merely a clumsy way of getting callers to subsidise the provision of the phone line in proportion to how much they call it. However, the subsidy gained is minuscule in proportion to the financial benefit enjoyed by the caller’s telecoms provider.
From 1 July 2015 they will required to declare the Service Charge for their number wherever it is advertised. This should alert them to the reality of what they are doing. It seems likely that it will also result in the number being changed to one that does not impose a Service Charge on callers.