0500 Freephone Numbers to be withdrawn from service

Telecoms /

Ofcom is proposing the withdrawal of the 0500 Freephone number range and has issued a consultation; the Ofcom 0500 Number Consultation closes on 8th January 2013.

Concerns over consumer confusion

Many of you will not even be aware of 0500 numbers, which is one of the main problems with them in Ofcom's opinion. Research has shown that few people are aware of them, few people call them and only a few organisations use them. In over 8 years of supplying numbers to tens of thousands of end users, we have never been asked to supply a 0500 number nor to port a 0500 number to our network.

  • The 0500 number range was created in 1982
  • The 0500 range was allocated in its entirety to Mercury Communications
  • The 0500 range was closed to new allocations in 2001
  • All 0500 numbers in use are 10-digits long
  • Cable and Wireless Worldwide is the only range-holder for 0500 numbers
  • A large proportion of 0500 calls are to a small group of numbers
  • Most calls to 0500 numbers are to fewer than 30 organisations

Ofcom feels that, if the range is withdrawn, it would reduce consumer confusion thereby enhancing the clarity and simplicity of the Freephone system. We agree and would welcome the withdrawal of the 0500 number range.

I would also like to say that in my opinion 0808 numbers are also confusing to consumers. They are more widely used than 0500 numbers, but they are still not as popular as 0800 numbers, which are generally recognised by everyone as being a freephone number.

Numbers on numbers

  • 15% of telephone users claimed to be aware of numbers starting with 0500.
  • However, only 25% of those who said they were aware of 0500 numbers could identify them as Freephone.
  • Overall 4% of people with telephones were aware of and understood that 0500 numbers were Freephone.
  • Only 6% said they knew how much it costs to call 0500 numbers (though this does not imply their perception was correct); this compares with 55% for 0800 numbers.
  • Only 4% of telephone users said they had ever called an 0500 number.

All of this talk about freephone numbers makes me think about how we are all ripped off by the mobile operators. This is the thing that Ofcom should spend more time addressing in my opinion. Why should the people of the UK pay to dial a freephone number from their mobile? Anyway, this subject warrants a separate blog on another occasion.

Mark Burcher