Operator aims to reduce the £600 million a year spent on calling 0800 numbers from a mobile phone
Three has become the first UK mobile operator (excluding MVNO’s) to offer free calls to 0800 numbers to its contract customers.
The news comes three months after Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards (pictured below-right) announced in December that all UK operators must cut the costs for so called free phone numbers (which are free on a fixed line) within the next 18 months. click here for original story
From today (March 18) customers signing to a Three contract will not pay for 0800, 0808 and 0500 calls, and be charged five pence per minute for calls to 084 and 087 numbers. Standard charges on mobile typically range from between 14 pence per minute to 40 pence per minute.
Existing Three customers can switch to the new plan without charge or extension on their current contract.
Three is also introducing a new service to allow its customers to set specific calling/charge limits to ensure they do not overspend on their deals.
The operator said in a statement today (March 18) it took the decision to cut the fee based on research conducted by YouGov, which questioned 2018 adults online between February 12 and February 13.
The research found 47 per cent of mobile users are affected by ‘bill shock’ (a higher than expected bill), whilst 10 per cent don’t realise they are charged for 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers, whilst 31per cent blame 0800 and 0845 charges for their higher bills.
Research also highlights that calls to 0800, 0845 and 0870 numbers cost UK mobile consumers an estimated £600 million a year.
The free calls to 0800 numbers, as well as the 5p per minute charge for calls to other 084 and 087 numbers, are illustrated in the table for Three’s new tariffs (click right to view in full).
There are data allowances of 500MB, 1GB, 2GB and unlimited data, with each offering unlimited texts, as well as 50, 100, 300, 600 or unlimited minutes. The monthly line rental depends on the smartphone chosen by the customer.
These are available to all new customers. Although these tariffs replace the operator’s existing plans, existing customers will not automatically be moved over to them and will continue as they are.
Three CEO Dave Dyson said: “We asked people what frustrated them most about their mobile bills and confusion around the cost of calling 08 numbers came out top by a big margin. These charges are often buried in the small print and they’re expensive enough to make most customers fear calling them from their mobiles.
“The cost of calling 08 numbers is something we want to address for our customers.
He continued: “UK mobile users are still afraid to use their devices in many circumstances. That’s why we’ve made it possible for our customers to use their home allowance abroad in 11 countries, including the USA. It’s why we’ve launched 4G at no extra cost and why we’ve committed not to raise our monthly recurring charges during the minimum period of a contract. ”
MVNO Virgin Mobile already offers free calls to 0800, 0845, 0870 and 0808 as part of its £22 per month VIP tariff.