Capping 070 numbers

What’s in a number? Well far more than you may think, particularly when it comes to telephone numbers. So much so that the business phone number, or combination of numbers, which you choose to advertise may be the first indication of business size, or geographic spread, or indeed how you intend to maintain the customer relationship.

For example, advertising a freephone number, or a geographic number which is free to call from most mobile and landline inclusive packages, can be a great way of encouraging existing or potential customers to pick up the phone and get in touch. Equally, if callers regularly ask for the same information such as opening times or prices then offering a company information line can help to demonstrate that you understand and can react to customer needs.

In a similar vein, a choice of local or national number can indicate the spread of your business and whether you are looking to build a local or more widespread following. On the other hand the use of international numbers can promote business discussion across multiple international centres. For example a China 401 number enables businesses to open up their market place across China with the use of a single business telephone number.

However, there is one type of telephone number which has of late been the cause of concern to the telephone regulator Ofcom as well as the cause of bill shock for consumers. 070 numbers were originally designed to be a way of enabling individuals and businesses to keep their own number private by acting as a forwarding mechanism.

Whilst in theory this method of ‘privacy forwarding’ had benefits for small businesses and individuals; with some providers charging up to £1.10 per minute for forwarding 070 calls the cost of calling such numbers could be significant. Particularly so when the 070 prefix could easily be mistaken for an 07 mobile number. This led to some consumers facing significant and unexpected charges.

Ofcom’s concerns were also heightened by the identification of scams such as fake job adverts and missed calls which took advantage of the high cost of forwarding 070 calls. These, Ofcom estimated, accounted for more than 20% of calls to 070 numbers. As Ofcom’s Competition Group Director, Jonathan Oxley, commented: “Millions of calls are made to 070 numbers, but many people aren’t aware of the high costs of calling them. This can lead to people receiving much higher bills than expected.”

In order to address this problem Ofcom has placed a cap on the cost of calls to 070 numbers. With effect from 1 October 2019 the wholesale price cap for 070 calls has fallen in line with calls to mobile numbers; currently around 0.5 pence per minute. As a result, Ofcom believes the incentive to use this type of call as a means of scamming revenue will diminish.

070 numbers can be a valuable resource for some businesses and individuals. Hopefully now that the price cap has come into play the negative perception of such numbers which came about thanks to misuse by scammers will diminish and 070 numbers can take their place as a viable option within the business numbers mix.

Written by Alison