As the government starts to look at ways of making freephone 0800 numbers free to customers on mobiles as well as landlines, Jemma Fox of The 0800 Number Company hopes that this will spell the end of discrimination against mobile phone users.
It's been a bone of contention for consumers in the UK for quite some time that 0800 numbers are not free to call from mobile phone networks. Calls to a 0800 number from a mobile phone burn up the consumers call plan minutes which in some cases can prove quote costly.
The anomaly here, however, is that calls from a BT standard landline are free of charge. “You have to sit back and ask yourself what is the key purpose of a 0800 number” says Jemma Fox, Marketing Director of The 0800 Number Company and a specialist in this field. “The answer is that it allows customers and potential customers to pick up the phone and call a company for free. It is an incentive, a marketing tool. It allows customers to feel they can phone a company and not be penalised for it. You wouldn’t walk into a shop and expect to be charged for the privilege of looking round or asking something. The same principle is applied to phone enquiries. It benefits both business and individual, because the business gets more trade, and the individual doesn’t get a massive bill. Unless of course they’re a mobile phone user, in which case they get one almighty bill. This might not have been such a problem back in the day when a small percentage of calls were made on mobile phones, but now practically everyone has one. In fact, it’s a step behind that even, because not only are most people using their mobiles to make calls, but mobiles are overtaking PCs for internet usage now. This really is a long overdue case of playing catch-up. The status quo really discriminates against a large proportion of the population”.
For example, people in the UK who call the DWP (Department of Work and Pension) have been found less likely to have a landline which means they are more than likely to have to make phone calls to the Department of Work and Pension using a mobile phone. Calling the DWP 0800 phone number from a mobile phone will force those in need to spend money when they can’t really afford to.
The UK government has worked very closely with six mobile phone carriers in order to make phone calls form a mobile phone to the DWP 0800 number free. The providers are:
Telecoms industry experts anticipate that this is the first tentative step towards making calls to 0800 numbers free from mobile phones as well as landlines. OFCOM has already introduced four 03 prefixes which tackle the issue of call charges being imposed on a mobile phone number that would not be made had the same call been made from a landline. The 03 prefixes involved are: 0333 0330 0300 030.
Calls to 0300, 0303, 0333 and 0330 phone numbers cost the same to call as a standard landline number even when the call is made from a mobile phone. Typical 0300 and 0303 number owners would include those organisations whose website address ended with .gov.uk or nhs.uk. The 0300 and 0303 prefixes have been reserved for “not for profit organisations” and the public sector whereas the 0333 and 0330 prefixes can be used by any United Kingdom business.