Telecoms watchdog Ofcom says new rules it is bringing in from August should make it cheaper to phone these so-called “national rate” numbers, and that costs will be clearer for consumers.
However, BT customers can already make free calls to 0870 and “local rate” 0845 numbers in their monthly phone packages. TalkTalk is also including these codes in its call plans from June, and other companies may follow suit before August.
Check your package
With the typical household spending about 30 minutes a month phoning these “non-geographic” numbers, packages that include 0870 and 0845 codes for free could take a welcome slice off your monthly bill.
But it is important to check the overall value of phone deals - both BT and TalkTalk have also recently increased their monthly line rental charges by almost £1 to £11.25, points out www.HomePhoneChoices.co.uk, an online comparison service.
And don’t assume all higher-cost phone numbers are included in packages. For example, www.Moneysavingexpert.com, a consumer website, says that BT still charges for calling 0871, 0844, 0872 and 0843 numbers, whose costs can be very similar to standard 0870 and 0845 rates.
Just say no
The website www.SayNoTo0870.com has a searchable database to find free 0800 alternatives and suggests some helpful ways “around the codes”.
Higher-rate calls can sometimes be sidestepped by using the “calling from overseas” numbers given out by companies – simply replace the 44 prefix with a 0. Or try phoning other departments of the organisation and asking to be put through: 0870 numbers are often reserved for complaints and queries, while profit-making sales lines are cheaper or even free.
www.Moneysavingexpert.com also suggests using an “override provider”. These involve dialling special numbers to access cheaper call rates, without changing your home phone company. The website has a free CallChecker tool for finding the best rate given the type of phone line you are using.