The UK National Numbering Plan has a huge range of numbers and most of our customers’ numbering requirements are met by our 01, 02, 03, and 080 numbers which can be freely used without restriction but we often receive enquiries about Unbundled Tariff Numbers such as 084x, 087x, and other premium rate numbering.
Following the introduction of The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, which took effect in June 2014, there should have been an end to expensive customer service numbers. Indeed, with very few exceptions, businesses must provide a Basic Rate Number to contact them, specifically;
- Geographic Rate Numbers (e.g. 01, 02, or 03)
- Free to call numbers (0800 and 0808)
- Standard mobile numbers (07, but not 070 or 076)
Additionally, Ofcom issued a Statement in December 2013 which placed a number of obligations on Service Providers and Communications Providers alike to ensure transparency, and promote better awareness of call charges to consumers.
However, we still receive reports of these numbers being misused and, personally, I still see many companies using inappropriate numbers.
As a Communications Provider, we (and our customers) are bound by the General Conditions which have specific provisions to ensure that numbers are used in accordance with the National Numbering Plan (GC17) and the use of “Unbundled Tariff Numbers” (GC14) and this is reinforced by our MSA.
General Condition 17
17.7 The Communications Provider shall take all reasonably practicable steps to secure that its Customers, in using Telephone Numbers, comply with the provisions of this Condition, the provisions of the National Telephone Numbering Plan and the Non-provider Numbering Condition.
General Condition 14 (applies to Unbundled Tariff Numbers)
14.11 The Communications Provider shall—
(a) include or procure the inclusion in any advertising and promotion of the Unbundled Tariff Number the Service Charge which applies in respect of a call by a Consumer to that number; and
(b) ensure that the Service Charge is displayed in a prominent position and in close proximity to the Unbundled Tariff Number in any such advertising or promotion of the Unbundled Tariff Number.
In summary; this means that we expect our customers, and our customers’ customers, to;
- Always provide an 01, 02, 03 or 080x number for post-contract telephone calls (e.g. customer services). An Unbundled Tariff Number may still be used for dedicated sales lines (as long as this is their only function, and any after-sales is handled by a Basic Rate number), and for services which are paid for by the call (e.g. technical support numbers)
- Where use of an Unbundled Tariff Number is permissible it must – everywhere it appears – be accompanied by a phrase of the form “Calls to this number will cost Xp/min, plus your provider’s network access charge”
Terms to this effect should be included in your customer contracts.