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Fees shakeup: Freephone numbers will actually BE free – Ofcom

Premium rate charges will be capped and 0800 calls made free from mobes

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Blighty's telecoms regulator Ofcom has finally announced that freephone numbers "will mean free", whether you're calling from a landline or a mobile.

Some mobile operators currently charge for dialling numbers beginning with 0800, 0808 and 116, which are generally free from landlines. But in a range of changes to telephone charging to stop customer confusion, freephone numbers will now become free from any device.

Ofcom is also introducing a cap on premium rate charges from 09 numbers, to stop rogue operators from imposing extremely high charges, and changing the way 0845 numbers are handled. Previously, 0845 numbers were sometimes charged at geographic rates and sometimes as premium rate numbers, leaving customers unsure what they would have to pay. Now, 0845 calls will be dealt with like other 084, 087 and 09 calls, where the access charge and the service charge have to be broken out.

Any organisation that wants a geographic rate number can go for one starting in 03 and Ofcom said that it would be actively encouraging public and not-for-profit bodies to use these, since they don't cost more than ordinary calls and have to be included in allocated minutes or discount deals.

The changes won't be coming in any time soon though, as the regulator said they would need "careful and detailed planning". Ofcom is looking for the new rules to be in place in a year and a half in June 2015.

“These changes will be the biggest for UK telephone customers in more than a decade. We expect them to restore people’s confidence in using phone services, and to increase competition," said Ed Richards, Ofcom's chief exec.

“Freephone will mean free for all consumers, and the cost of calling other services will be made clear. Telephone users will be able to see how much they’re paying, and where their money is going.” ®

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