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New phone numbers come into force today, but hardly anyone knows

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Firms have been warned to take immediate action over today's phone code changes in the UK. Business will be lost in the country's biggest phone number shake-up to date, unless companies act now, said London Chamber of Commerce CEO Simon Sperryn. He stressed it was "crucial" that firms take "urgent action" to make technical checks on their systems. This is the third major change to the telephone system in less than a decade. It follows the omen by telecoms watchdog Oftel that London would run out of phone numbers by next summer if the changes did not go ahead. From today, numbers for inner and outer London, Portsmouth, Southampton, Cardiff, Coventry and Northern Ireland will start with 02. Current numbers will run until autumn 2000. But problems could start today, according to the Financial Times. Some computerised systems may get confused between the new codes and premium-line numbers, which are often banned by firms. "The disruption could start straight away," warned Howard Sando, campaign manager for the National Code and Number Change Campaign. "Businesses need to get their equipment audited to make sure it is big-number friendly." The Federation of Small Businesses yesterday estimated the switch would cost small companies up to £2,000 each to change stationary and signs. In March, only around half of all UK companies and organisations were aware that numbers were changing. ®

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