By Lauren Howells

Communications regulator Ofcom has announced that it intends to put a price cap on all 070 numbers, which can reportedly cost callers up to £3.40 per minute.

Consumers struggle to tell the difference between 070 numbers and mobile numbers, resulting in ‘bill shock’

In a draft statement following its review of the 070 number market, Ofcom said that callers often struggled to distinguish 070 telephone numbers from normally cheaper mobile numbers, resulting in what it called ‘bill shock’.

According to the Mirror, premium-rate 070 numbers affect around 2.6 million people per year.

The telecoms watchdog also pointed out that as communications providers who hold 070 numbers could set high wholesale termination rates for calls made to their numbers, this had led to high retail prices, which in turn “harms consumers”.

It added that these high rates also provided incentives for the fraudulent misuse of 070 numbers.

Poor Reputation Blame

Ofcom said that it was these factors which had contributed to the “poor reputation” of the 070 number range.

In its draft statement, Ofcom revealed that it had provisionally decided to put a price cap on the wholesale termination charge for calls to 070 numbers. This will be aligned with the existing price cap set by Ofcom for mobile numbers, which is currently set at around 0.5 pence per minute.

Ofcom’s draft statement has now been submitted to the European Commission for review. The price cap is scheduled to come into effect 12 months from the date of the publication of the final statement, which is expected sometime in September this year.

Hospital inpatients often use 070 numbers

Designed to be used as a ‘follow me’ service, 070 numbers allow people receiving calls to keep their own number private, as calls are diverted from one number to another.

Ofcom to cap cost of 070 numbers

When an 070 number is called, the caller’s communications provider pays what is called a wholesale termination charge to the 070 service provider. The person making the call then has to pay a retail price to their communications provider.

Hospital inpatients can often utilise 070 numbers so that they can have the same number for the whole time that they are in hospital.

070 numbers established before mobile roaming

Since 070 numbers were introduced, the cost of calling mobile numbers has dropped, while 070 charges have remained high.

A  spokesperson for Ofcom said:

“These numbers are often mistaken for mobile numbers, but it’s important for people to know they generally cost a lot more to call. Those charges can lead to people receiving much higher bills than expected. So we’ve set out plans to address this by cutting the cost of calling 070 numbers.”