Regulator PhonepayPlus announces new rules to protect consumers using 0871 numbers

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Research undertaken by PhonepayPlus shows that millions of consumers are happily using services on the 087 number range (which includes numbers beginning 0871, 2, and 3 but excludes 0870). However, it also highlights some significant concerns around price transparency and the time some consumers are having to wait on the line before being connected to a service.

On 1 August, PhonepayPlus began to regulate 087 services under its Code of Practice. Providers now have to comply with rules that ensure that the price of the call is made clear and that, if there is to be a delay, the consumer should be able to make an informed decision as to whether to stay on the line.

The research reveals a lack of understanding around charges for 087 numbers among consumers and concern over the amount of time callers are prepared to wait to be connected:

  • 44% have experienced problems with the service they have received in the past six months;
  • 31% of people who use 087 numbers have no idea of the cost;
  • 40% do not know there is an additional cost for calling from a mobile. In fact, it can cost considerably more (around 4 x as much); and
  • Around 75% of all 0871 users felt that it was not acceptable if they were left on hold for more than 5 minutes.

However, 087 numbers provide access to a wide variety of popular services.

  • One in three people in the UK are likely to have called an 087 number in the last six months creating a market that in 2009 is expected to be worth £85 million.
  • Both large and small businesses receive calls via 087 numbers across a variety of sectors including ticket lines, tour and transport operators, financial services and technical helplines.
  • Calls from mobile phones account for just 13% of the volume of calls, but 40% of the market’s overall revenue.

Commenting on the change in regulation Paul Whiteing, CEO of PhonepayPlus, said: "Services offered via 087 numbers are generally useful and convenient but the cost to call them can vary widely, especially from a mobile phone. Our experience regulating other premium rate services will ensure the necessary safeguards are in place to protect consumers, especially around price transparency.”

Mark Burcher