0870 Change Could Trigger a “Numbers Stampede”

Call centres are being warned that OFCOM’s changes to the charging structure for 0870 numbers could trigger a stampede to ditch the costly numbers and find cheaper alternatives.

By making snap decisions, companies could end up with numbers from unreliable providers, causing them major problems in the future, according to the response monitoring and analysis company, Mediahawk.

OFCOM (the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries) has announced that calls to 0870 numbers must be charged at no more than the cost of a call made to a geographic number, and that all rebates made for the use of these numbers should cease.

OFCOM’s decision means that 0870 numbers – previously viewed as a substantial revenue stream for many companies – will now become a cost, with charges of up to £0.03 per minute being imposed on the calls received by the owners of the numbers.

Harry Bott, Director of Mediahawk, says: “Companies with high incoming call volumes who depend on 0870 numbers are in for a shock. Income from the numbers will disappear and will be replaced by considerable costs”.

The OFCOM change is due to take effect in February 2008, leaving businesses little time to put numbers in place, change the information on letterheads, business cards and marketing materials, and migrate their customers to the new numbers.

Despite this, Bott warns against the knee-jerk reaction of going on to the Internet and getting the first range of numbers that come to hand. “There are businesses set up ready to cash in on the stampede for alternative numbers. Some of those won’t be around in a year’s time whilst others will put up their prices or have dubious and unreliable telecommunications arrangements behind them,” he says. “It’s a decision that needs careful consideration. Some companies won’t need to change their numbers at all, it depends on the call traffic and the cost of making the change.”

Mediahawk has set up a website to help companies grappling with the changes: www.0870news.com The site has a free calculator so that businesses can work out the cost to them of the OFCOM ruling. It also includes advice on choosing a new supplier and has a free, downloadable Word document on how to prepare for the changes.

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