Calls from mobiles to Freephone numbers free from 1st July

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Great news for consumers, but UK businesses need to count the cost of its impact

On July 1st, all calls made from mobiles to Freephone numbers (0800 and 0808) will at last be free in the UK.

Currently mobile phone companies charge customers up to 20p a minute to dial what are free numbers from a landline phone. The net result is that millions of people dialling what should be free services run by the NHS, the government and company call centres end up paying hefty charges.

The changes were fought by the mobile phone networks, which have been making tens of millions of pounds a year from customers calling the numbers.

In 2013, EE even threatened to take legal action to block the move.

This move from Ofcom is great news for consumers, but will have a financial and practical impact on any UK business that uses Freephone numbers for inbound calls.

Says Justin Hamilton-Martin, CEO of Ultracomms:

“Businesses will almost certainly see the number of Freephone calls (for which they pay, not the consumer) increase; after all, most of us are using our mobiles more frequently. There is an upside to this of course – such as consumers reacting more spontaneously to promotions that they see while out and about – but apart from additional costs, businesses could also see the overall number of calls increase, thus placing more pressure on customer-facing staff.”

Justin Hamilton-Martin lists three steps that companies can take to mitigate the impact:

  • Migrating to ‘03’ numbers (which cost no more than a national call rate to an 01 or 02 number)
  • Offer customers the option to request a call-back to avoid lengthy hold times)
  • Plus promote other ways to contact a company (live chat for instance).

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