NTS Services - Background

Before the introduction of competition in the UK telecommunications market, BT was the sole provider of freephone services. BT used the code ‘0800’ for its freephone service.

Following the ending of the BT monopoly in 1982 with the granting to Mercury Communications (now Cable & Wireless) a licence as the second UK telecommunications operator, Mercury were allocated the code 0500 in the 9-digit scheme for their freephone service.

When other network operators were granted licences to operate telecommunications services after the duopoly review in 1991, a further demand for freephone numbers arose - specifically in the 0800 code. At this time the UK Numbering Scheme was already running very short of new codes and to address this, the PhONEday changes had been announced. These changes would greatly increase the number of codes available and, at the same time, introduce the 10-digit scheme (i.e. 11 dialled digits).

In order to make freephone numbering capacity available in the 0800 code to the newly licensed network operators, blocks of 1,000 unused 0800 9-digit numbers were returned to Oftel by BT. These were then made available to all network operators as blocks of 10,000 numbers in the 10-digit scheme. Additionally, to give parity across all network operators for new freephone service and to comply with the Scheme, BT and C&W ceased to offer 0800 and 0500 9-digit numbers for new service in the latter part of 1997.

The 800 code has become recognised internationally as the code for freephone. 0800 numbers however have now largely been exhausted and so the new freephone prefix of “0808” has now been allocated.

0870 Number - Background

0870 numbers are often used when an organisations clients demand the highest possible levels of customer service. The call rebates paid to the company, from calls to 0870 telephone numbers, allow it to offset its customer service investment in additional call centre staff and interactive voice recognition (IVR) computer systems.

The success of 0870 was shown through its wide use throughout the UK, being widely used by the Government (it is said that the government makes £1.25million from calls to the DVLA) and prestigious organisations such as the BBC.

When the 0870 number range was created it was charged at BTs then standard national rate charges of 7.91p daytime, 3.95p evening and 1.5p weekend. Over time call rates have dramatically reduced (ITC can offer national rate charges of under 2p daytime for customers with over 10,000 outbound minutes) hence allowing a call payment to be made to the company owning the 0870 telephone number.

Over the past eight years there have been a small but regular flow of press articles complaining about the payment for calling 0870 telephone numbers that companies receive. Web sites have even been written about the subject. However the public has shown little interest in the subject and a ground swell of dissenting opinion has never been generated.

The reason for this may be that the public would much prefer to have well trained contact centre staff quickly answer their telephone call even if this means that they pay a few more pence for their call.

That it is also common for the public to be asked to call a “09” premium rate number to vote in television shows may also be another factor for this lack of interest from the public in paying slightly more for a land line call.

Please note – Ofcom plan to cease call rebate payments for 0870 numbers shortly. Click here for further details and options.

If you would like one of our telecommunications consultants to contact you for further advice, please email contact@it-cts.com with your details.

0870 Number - Future

The historical description of the 0870 number as a “national” rate telephone number is now far from reality and Ofcom have decided that a pricing change must take place.

As such Ofcom plan to reduce the call charges for customers calling 0870 to the same as charges to geographic numbers (01 and 02 telephone numbers).

With regard to ceasing the rebate on 0870 numbers the telephone networks tell us:

"Officially it will be under 8.2 of the contract - 30 days notice of price changes. If we can provide more notice we will.  The current plan for 0870 only at the moment is that we aim to have an interconnect offer by April 2007. This early date is if Communication Providers move to dispute to Ofcom - there is sufficient time for a dispute ruling to occur before compliance by 1st February 2008.”  

So working on that basis – 0870 numbers will lose their revenue rebates between April 2007 and 1st Feb 2008.

The change imposed by Ofcom will have a large impact on companies who use the call rebate payment to offset their contact centre customer service costs. These companies will need to move to another telephone number, such as 0844 or 0871.

If you would like one of our telecommunications consultants to contact you for further advice, please email contact@it-cts.com with your details.

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