Do you know how much a phone call costs?

(28/04/2016)With an ever growing range of phone tariffs and providers, we look at whether people really understand how much a phone call will cost them.

Phone Costs

It used to be easy to work out how much a phone call was going to cost you. Especially in the days before mobile phones. You had a local-rate charge, a long-distance charge, premium rate numbers and possibly a low-rate deal for evening calls.

No such simplicity in the 21st century. These days you have a huge range of tariffs for different numbers, plus a hugely complex range of providers, many of whom charge at different rates. And don’t forget that the rules for calling from mobiles are often different than those for calls from landlines.

Confused? Most people are. And many official websites don’t help. This week I’ve been contacted by a Resolverer called Ian, who has gone to the brilliantly helpful trouble of putting together a chart defining exactly how much each type of telephone call could cost you. He says that many websites provide out of date information – and that even the Government’s own website hasn't been updated to reflect changes that came into force in summer 2015!

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Call cost confusion

Ian believes this call cost confusion can be unravelled. Better still, he reckons that if you’re careful you can get a deal with inclusive calls that means you should never pay more than the basic monthly cost.

Here’s what Ian said to me:

“It's now very clear that if you have a deal with inclusive calls and you can avoid calling 070, 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers, there should be nothing further to pay each month.

“Landline providers are starting to include calls to mobile numbers in their deals.

“But inclusive calls don't usually include landline or mobile numbers in the Channel Islands or Isle of Man.

“Some landline providers include calls to premium rate 0845 or 0870 numbers, but this is becoming less common. In general, and due to the introduction of various regulations, customer services, financial services, public services and healthcare services no longer use these types of numbers.

“Service numbers with a Service Charge that is more than 7p per minute or per call are defined as Controlled Premium Rate Services (CPRS) and subject to additional regulation by PhonepayPlus.”

So what’s the cost of your calls?

The information in the table below was compiled from looking at the price lists of a large number of landline and mobile providers to find the lowest and highest prices for each number range as well as noting which ranges count towards inclusive allowances.

Call costs set by the caller's landline or mobile provider

These call costs vary both by the provider used and the phone tariff chosen to make the call.

  Call costs set by the called party and their telecoms provider
Number Prefix Telephone Number Type Approximate Cost From a Landline Approximate Cost From a Mobile
01 Geographic Number Inclusive in allowance, else 2p to 12p per minute Inclusive in allowance, else 3p to 45p per minute
02
03 Non-geographic Numbers Geographic Rate
071 - 075 Mobile Numbers Inclusive in allowance, else 3p to 32p per minute Inclusive in allowance, else 3p to 45p per minute
077 - 079
080 Non-geographic Numbers Free-to-Caller No charge No charge
084 Non-geographic Number with Service Charge 2p to 12p per minute plus Service Charge 5p to 45p per minute plus service Charge 
087
09
118 Directory Enquiries with Service Charge
070 Personal Number Charged at a Premium Rate 4p to 65p per minute 30p to £2.50 per minute

Call costs set by the called party and their telecoms provider

This element of the call cost varies by the number called, not by which provider or tariff is used make the call.


  Regulations
Number Prefix Telephone Number Type Call Costs from Landlines and Mobiles
084 Non-geographic Numbers with Service Charge Access Charge plus 1p to 7p per minute or per call
087 Access Charge plus 1p to 13p per minute or per call
09 Access Charge plus 1p to £6 per call and/or 1p to £3.60 per minute
118 Directory Enquiries with Service Charge Access Charge plus 1p to £7 per call and/or 1p to £3.60per minute

Regulations

On 26 December 2013, the Cabinet Office published guidance for central government departments, their agencies and private partners and other public sector organisations recommending they replace their premium 084 and 087 numbers with cheaper 03 numbers, see Customer service lines: government guidance.

On 13 December 2013, BIS published the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 and they came into force on 13 June 2014. Regulation 41 requires retailers, traders and passenger transport companies to use numbers starting 01, 02, 03 or 080 for post-sales helplines, see Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013: Regulation 41.

The FCA has since extended the rules to cover financial services such as banks, card companies and insurers. The regulations were published on 23 July 2015 and came into force on 26 October 2015, see FCA Policy Statement 15/19, Chapter 3.

Many former users of 084 and 087 numbers have since swapped to the matching 034 or 037 number. Others have chosen a new 01, 02, 03 or 080 number.

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