Changes to the Law Regarding Customer Support Lines

Consumer Rights Directive - Changes to the Law for 084x, 087x and 09x Customer Support Numbers

From 13th June 2014 the law is changing. Under the changes, known as the ‘Consumer Rights Directive’, customers calling helplines for support or to complain can no longer be charged more than the basic rate call charge.

This change has not come from Ofcom, but from the Office of Fair Trading. It has been designed by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills as an extension to the EU Consumer Rights Directive to put a stop to "costly" calls for customers calling post-sale support lines.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has interpreted this directive to apply to all organisations, with the following exceptions.

Am I affected?

If your business is B2C (Business to Consumer) and uses a free / low cost number for sales and a separate 084x, 087x or 09x revenue generation number for post-sales customer support, you may be affected.


There are however a number of exemptions, listed below:

Exemptions

  • Business to Business (B2B) support lines are not affected.
  • Companies in the following sectors: gambling, banking, credit, insurance, pensions and investments, rental of accommodation, package travel, timeshares. Details of other exempt sectors covered can be found at the link below.
  • If you only have one number providing both sales and support. The implication here being that callers are not calling a free or low cost number to buy, then having to call a higher cost number to get support. Although not absolutely clear from the legislation, current opinion would indicate you are exempt.


If your business is covered by one of the exemptions above, you do NOT need to take any action.

If your business does not appear to be exempt, you need to take action.

Recommended Options

If your business sells B2C and is not listed in the exemptions above, you now have the following options:

  1. Change to an 0333 non-geographic number (our recommendation)
  2. Set up an 0800 toll free number (although this is not free on all mobiles yet)
  3. Set up a virtual 01 / 02 local number
  4. Our recommendation is to set up an 0333 number and start using it on your website and all correspondence you send out to customers.

Alternatively, you could wait for further clarification, which seems to be a popular choice for businesses where the 084x / 087x / 09x number is their only contact number for both sales and support.

What should I do with my existing 084x / 087x / 09x number?

We recommend keeping your old number active and linking it to an information line service playing a recorded message to explain the change and and provide callers with your new number(s).

We are happy to help you set this up.

If you have any questions or need further advice, please contact us on 0333 247 0000.

Our Comment

The new rules are confusing and in some cases are open to interpretation, depending on what you use the number for, whether it’s the only number callers can use to complain or get support and also which sector you operate in.

We are still awaiting confirmed guidelines from Ofcom (the regulator) but the whole matter appears to be very political and as such ill thought out and confusing at best.

By way of background, the real villains of the piece are the mobile operators. Calls to an 0844 or 0845 numbers from a landline usually cost around 5p/min, but from a mobile can cost up to 40p/min or more. Calls to 0333 number will be either be free, or charged at local rate on mobiles as well as landlines. Effectively, the cost of the call has been transferred from the consumer to the owner of the number.

More information and background

The Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) was passed by the EU in October 2011, and is part of a much bigger package affecting consumer rights. This part was transposed into UK law in December 2013. The CRD comes into force in all EU member states, including the UK, in June 2014. The CRD aims to simplify consumer rights in certain important areas, mostly relating to buying and selling.

You can read more here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-cuts-off-costly-calls

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265898/consumer-contracts-information-cancellation-and-additional-payments-regulations-2013.pdf

 

As a responsible business, we have an obligation to advise our customers on the permitted / non-permitted use of numbers we provide.

If any of the above is unclear please call us on 0333 247 0000 and we will be happy to clarify it for you and advise on which course of action (if any) is best for you.

Written by Matt