Skycom Welcomes Ofcom 0800 Proposal

James Barrington-Brown, managing director of telecoms firm Skycom, has welcomed Ofcom’s proposal to make phone calls to 0800 freephone numbers free from mobile phones, as they are from landlines.

Ofcom issued the proposal last week, noting that currently, the vast majority of 0800 phone numbers incur a charge for mobile callers of up to 21p a minute. In addition, Ofcom points out, unless the caller is using a BT line, they are unable to tell how much they will be charged for such calls. Currently, callers are told: “This call will cost you X pence per minute on a BT line, calls may vary on other landline and cost considerably more on a mobile.”

Under the new structure, Ofcom expects call cost descriptions to follow the format: “This call will cost you X pence per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.”

The proposals are part of what Ofcom describes as: “detailed plans to tackle consumer confusion about how much it costs to call businesses, public services and other organisations on 03, 08, 09 and 118 numbers”.

Under the new proposals, Ofcom also proposes to clarify and simplify how calls to 08, 09 and 118 numbers are charged for. Services provided on these numbers include information, banking, directory enquiry and entertainment services.

Barrington-Brown says: “0800 should mean free to call. Skycom believe this is a major consumer issue, with almost £2bn a year being made by the mobile phone companies on calls to non-geographic numbers. These latest proposals will not be implemented for at least nine months and could take many years, meaning calling 0800 phone numbers from mobile phones will still be costing consumers up to 21p a minute.

“Skycom decided some time ago not to wait for Ofcom to pull their finger out, and so developed the 0800 Wizard to help users avoid these excessive charges by using their bundled minutes – calls made by users of our 0800 Wizard average 5 minutes and 5 seconds in duration and they are therefore saving up to £1.08 on every call. Anyone with an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Windows smartphone can download the Skycom 0800 Wizard app for free.”

According to figures from Ofcom, consumers pay around £1.9 billion for calls to non-geographic numbers each year. Such calls account for around 12 per cent of the UKs total mobile call traffic volume, and generate 10 per cent of the total revenue for mobile networks. Subject to the results of a consultation, Ofcom intends to make a final decision on the new rules by early 2013.