The telecoms regulator, Ofcom vows to clamp down on scams that abuse premium rate 070 phone numbers, often mistaken by consumers for mobile numbers (which always begin with ’07’).
These 070 numbers were designed to be used as a “follow me” service, for example, where calls are diverted from one number to another, so the person being called can keep their own number private. This meant they were useful for things like classified adverts, such as those posted by individuals online or in a newspaper, as well as call management facilities run by small businesses.
The problem is, an estimated 20% of 2.6 million calls made to 070 phone numbers in 2017 involved some form of fraudulent activity. This includes fake missed calls and job adverts. In an effort to confuse consumers, people call the numbers expecting to pay the same as an ordinary mobile call, but sadly, an 070 number of this nature can cost callers anything between 45p and £1.10 per minute.
The Solution proposed by Ofcom is to impose new rules to cap the wholesale cost of calling 070 numbers. This is currently up to 39p per minute, but would be aligned with the existing cap set by Ofcom for calls to mobile numbers, taking it down to around 0.5p per minute.
Ofcom hopes this will remove the incentive for related scams to abuse 070 numbers and encourage phone providers to include them in free minute allowances, something they currently do for calls to mobiles.
Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s Competition Group Director, said:
“Millions of calls are made to 070 numbers, but many people aren’t aware of the high costs of calling them. This can lead to people receiving much higher bills than expected.
So we’re slashing the wholesale cost of connecting 070 numbers. There’s no reason why phone companies shouldn’t pass this saving on to their customers as soon as possible.”
This represents a significant change for companies that sell or make use of 070 phone numbers. It means they will need to contact all their customers and update billing systems etc. In light of this, the new measure will not be enforced until 1st October 2019.
“If any companies do move to other number ranges, it will be to ranges that our research suggests are more familiar to consumers, and people would have a better idea of the likely cost of calling them,” said Ofcom.
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