Who: Ofcom; the Committee of Advertising Practice (“CAP”)
When: 26 February 2015
Law stated as at: 7 April 2015
In late 2013, Ofcom announced that it would be changing the structure of non-geographic call charges. The reason for this change is a purported lack of transparency in the costs of using such numbers which means that consumers generally distrust using them through fear of racking up huge fees. On 26 February this year, Ofcom confirmed that the implementation date for these new rules will be 1 July 2015. The new rules will apply to all customer helplines which start with 084, 087, 09 and 118.
Under the new regime, which is aimed at prohibiting the bundling of tariff structures, the cost of calling service numbers will be made up of two parts:
- an access charge which goes to the caller’s telephone service provider; and
- a service charge which is the remainder, made up of revenue going to the service provider (i.e. the party being called) and revenue going to the company that provides the number to the service provider (known as the ‘terminating call provider’).
In addition, Ofcom has announced that all Freephone numbers (which begin 080 or 116) are being made free for consumers to call from all phones, whether landline or mobile.
Why this matters:
Businesses who ask users to call a 084, 087, 09 or 118 number are now obliged to state the service charge for any specific numbers provided in marketing materials. Additionally, they will need to make it clear that an access charge applies. CAP recommends the following format for disclaimers on marketing materials:
“Calls cost ●p [or ●p per minute] plus your telephone company’s network access charge.”
Marketers must ensure that all advertising materials are updated before 1 July this year.
On the flip side, the fact that Freephone numbers will be free to all callers means that advertisers need no longer state that calls from mobiles may be charged. Indeed, there is no obligation to give any pricing information when advertising Freephone numbers, although marketers may decide that they want to actively promote the fact that the call is free.