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Customer Helplines and 0845/0870/0871/0843 Dialling Codes

From 13th June 2014, new laws were introduced by the BIS (Department of Business Information and Skills) and managed by PhonePayPlus (the regulator for premium rate numbers) which covered the usage of many number prefixes which are not geographic, mobile or 'local' area codes.

The changes  apply to consumer contact numbers available to make complaints or report problems with a service or product (for example a missing delivery or a product which has arrived faulty etc.) to your supplier (the person or company from whom you have purchased the goods or services). Under the new rules, that company must provide a complaint number on an 01, 02, 03 prefix, a mobile phone number or a 'freephone' (0800) number.

(1) If you are not a business providing goods or services to consumers, you can continue using any prefixes for your dial-in numbers.

(2) You can continue to provide Technical Support lines on 0845 numbers, provided the line is not provided to also make complaints or customer service (administration/logistics).

(2) A company is not obliged to provide a customer complaint or contact number at all. So, you can have 'no phone number' but if you do have a complaints/customer service number, it must be a local call (01/02/03 prefix - a local call rate for callers.


(3) In most cases,  companies do not get any income from 0870/0845 numbers, your telco does, so if you switch prefix, there may be higher costs associated which you will either have to absorb or pass onto your customers in other ways.

How this might affect you

If you run a company and offer a customer service or complaints line to consumers, you need to change its prefix to a local call prefix or mobile number. Helpfully, in most cases, Ofcom have reserved 0345 numbers to transfer your existing 0845 service. For example, if you currently have 0845 111222 then you can migrate to 0345 111222 etc. Your service provider may charge for the migration or administration and the provision of that number may have different costs compared to your old prefix.  If you use any VoIP services through an ITSP  and you use an 0845, 0870 or other such number for 'customer service' then you may need to change to one of the new prefixes, such as 0345, which is a local call rate for callers and also required to be included within mobile phone plan minutes. If you need to change your number, contact your line provider or service supplier.

For more details on this topic from PhonePayPlus, click here.


Editorial Comment:

For some reason, PhonePayPlus and Ofcom now refer to 0845/0843 prefixes as "premium rate number ranges" but they were actually created to provide callers a cheaper way for callers to call 'national' companies as a lower call rate than the long distance charges that would otherwise apply. i.e. if a national company advertised an 0845 number, it would be cheaper, so you might be more inclined to call. These days, most telcos don't distinguish local and 'long distance' domestic destinations, which made 0845 numbers more costly than local calls, their cost has increased and, for some reason, they are excluded from mobile minute plans. 0845 numbers (and other non-geographic codes) provide mobility, flexibility and income to help pay services. 0345 will provide the same mobility and flexibility, but any service provider will have to charge for their service to your supplier now, which will have to be passed onto you some other way (added to cost of goods).  We live in a competitive world, and you can buy your fridge from many places - people often choose the cheapest supplier, but that company may also operate an 0870 number for complaints.  

Note : This guide is intended as a summary only and cannot be relied upon for definitive explanations and is our own interpretation. We are not able to provide advice on compliance or the new rules. Please refer to the authority for specific legislation and requirements.