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Consumer Rights Directive – Phone Numbers

By Chris Dawson May 12, 2014 - 3:30 pm

Stuart AndersonStuart Anderson is the Multi Channel Marketing Manager at Spark eCommerce Group, a UK provider of order fulfilment, contact centre and eCommerce services. Stuart has been examining the EU Consumer Rights Directive and today and noticed that many smaller retailers still use non-geographic telephone numbers. If that’s you you’ll need to update your phone numbers over the next couple of months and here’s what you need to know:

Changes to the EU Consumer Rights Directive are coming, and will affect online retailers.

The EU Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) was passed by the EU in October 2011 and aims to simplify consumer rights relating to distance selling. From June 2014, these laws come into play.

What do you need to know?

This guide covers the telephony changes which are taking place; it’s worth reading the full guide to be aware of the non telephony changes. The new rules apply to any business which operates under distance selling regulations, such as online marketplace traders, mail order and eCommerce retailers.

The laws mean that any telephone call to customer support lines relating to a previous purchase must not cost the customer any more than a typical standard geographic or mobile rate. These NON geographic numbers are no longer allowed:

The following numbers ARE NOT permitted for customer service calls:

  • Premium rate numbers including 0871, 0872, 0873, and any numbers starting 09
  • Non premium but service charge numbers including 0843, 0844, 0845
  • Numbers beginning 0870

The following numbers ARE permitted for customer service calls:

  • Geographic rate numbers such as 01, 02, and 03 numbers such as 0333 numbers
  • Any number which is free to call from a landline or mobile
  • Any mobile number beginning 07

The above rules apply to customer service calls only. If a customer is calling to make a purchase, then numbers which incur a charge above the standard geographic rate ARE permitted.

There are exceptions, with organisations in financial services excluded for example. So please double check the full details to see if they apply to you.

What should you do?

If your call centre number has an IVR which directs to sales AND customer services, make sure this number complies with the above. You may need a separate number for sales and customer service.

If a customer incurs a charge above the standard geographic rate, the number will need to be changed. I’d recommend an 0333 number, which is now the best practice. You’ll then need to update any locations where this number appears, such as your website or eBay/Amazon store, social media profiles, blogs, collates in customer orders, returns forms, and any direct mail such as flyers or catalogues. Changing the number on all of these sources can take time, and could be expensive. Make sure you’re prepared for the 14th June when these laws come into force.

Will these laws effect you? How are you preparing for these changes?

  • fusion
    3 years ago

    Wasn’t aware of this which is a bit annoying since we just updated our telephone numbers with our 0845 number. It was free from our provider and is a national rate number so no charges but I guess that it will cost mobile , hence why we would now need to change them again?

    The main reason for the change was because we have the same number as a hospital that is not too far from us and we get calls all the time from them and they get call from our customers.

    • 3 years ago

      Fusion, just to point out that if the number is a sales line, you can continue to use the 0845 number. If the number is used as a customer service number, then unfortunately, you will need to change this again. I’d recommend using an 0333 number. Good luck.

    • fusion
      3 years ago

      Thanks. It’s just one number we use for both as sales are mainly online based so will have to change unfortunately.

    • Chris
      3 years ago

      Why would you not just have a local number anyway?

    • fusion
      3 years ago

      Because we had customers calling up a local hospital which had the same number (Different area code). The 0845 number was a number that could be used instead of our 01 number

    • Ian
      3 years ago

      0845 numbers are not “local rate” nor are they “national rate”.

      0845 numbers were “local rate”, but only from BT landlines and only until 2004. That was when BT scrapped the call price differential based on distance and moved their subscribers onto inclusive call plans for calls to 01 and 02 numbers. That instantly made 0845 and 0870 numbers relatively expensive as these were not included.

      Calls to 0845 numbers incur an additional 2p/min Service Charge to the benefit of the called party. Callers are therefore subsidising the additional costs incurred in running the non-geograpic number and the business sees a discount on whatever they otherwise would have paid for the line. From June 2015, Ofcom requires all users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers to declare the Service Charge.

      Since 2009, BT includes 0845 numbers in some call plans, but almost no-one else does. BT can do this as they are the largest supplier of 0845 numbers to businesses and therefore most 0845 calls terminate back within the BT network. BT cross-subsidises these calls for their own subscribers. Other providers are unable to do this.

      Ofcom made 03 numbers available in 2007. These are inclusive calls from landlines and mobiles, else charged exactly the same as calling 01 ad 02 numbers. Any additional expense in the running of the line is picked up by the called party. Running costs for 03 numbers are substantially less than those for 080 numbers.

      In June 2015, calls to 080 numbers will become free from all mobile phones. Users of 080 numbers will pay a greater per-minute rate to make that happen. They are also likely to be subject to a lot more incoming calls than previously. The next 12 months is the time to seriously look at whether your future is with 080 or with 03 numbers.

  • Alex
    3 years ago

    Is this article correct in so far as you can have a 07 mobile number (costing some people 35p p/m to call but you can’t have an 0871 costing usually from 5 to 10p p/m?

    Is this correct or did some dumb ass EU technocrat (or whatever we call them nicely these days!!) get their sums wrong when converting the Pound? Maybe the reason is all mobile calls in Europe cost under 10c regardless of network? Perhaps international mobile calls are free in Europe? Or maybe there was some confusion when calculating exchange rates? Perhaps such confusion would be avoided in the future if the UK joined the Euro? Or maybe the Technocrats are just simply dumb? I don’t know… but it does seem a bit crazy and not great for consumers!!!

    Dohh!!!!

    Nice one Brussels. Can anyone tell me who’s running for MEP?

    • 3 years ago

      The legislation allows mobile numbers simply because for some traders it is their main, or only, way of being contacted. The high cost of calling a mobile from a landline is down to the pricing policy of the caller’s provider, not down to any inherent high cost for calling mobile phones imposed by the mobile networks. The proof of that is that calls to mobile phones can be inclusive from other mobile phones.

      Several years ago, the Mobile Termination Rate was around 4p to 5p/min. Ofcom intervened and has reduced it in steps. Now (May 2014) that the MTR is under 1p/min, calls to mobile phones from landlines should be dirt cheap. The final reduction in April 2015 to under half a penny per minute will put the MTR into the territory where inclusive call plans on landlines could include calls to mobile phones.

      When you call a mobile phone, the person at the other end is not making any money from the call itself. Their mobile phone provider receives much less than 1p per minute to cover their costs.

      Calls to 0871 numbers are excluded from the “basic rate” definition because the caller incurs a Service Charge of 7p to 13p/min to the benefit of the called party. The person at the other end is making money from the call as is their provider.

      The legislation includes calls where the caller pays their provider for the call, but the call recipient earns nothing:
      01, 02, 03 – geographic rate or inclusive
      071-075, 077-079 – mobile rate or inclusive
      080 – free from landlines (and from mobiles after June 2015)

      The legislation excludes calls where the call price includes a Service Charge benefitting the called party and/or their provider:
      084, 087 – Service Charge numbers,
      070, 090, 091, 098 – Premium Rate numbers.

      From June 2015, all users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers will be required to declare the Service Charge wherever their number is advertised.

  • JD
    3 years ago

    0800 numbers are not free to call from many mobiles. Does this mean that they will no longer be allowed for CS calls?

    And if so eBay will need to change their CS number before 13th June.

    Unless or course they no longer wish to interfere between seller and buyer.

    • Kyle
      3 years ago

      This had me concerned as well as a lot of places are blanketly claiming that all 08 numbers are now unusable.

      However section J2 from “CONSUMER CONTRACTS (INFORMATION, CANCELLATION AND ADDITIONAL CHARGES) REGULATIONS” December 2013 says that 0800 numbers are allowed due to Ofcom changes coming next year.

    • JD
      3 years ago

      Ofcom plan that 0800 numbers be free to call from mobiles from June 2015. But that pre-supposes a fair number of things (!).

      And it suggests that it’s now ok to break the law for a whole year!

      Methinks someone has dropped one. We need a lawyer.

    • Ian
      3 years ago

      Calls to 080 numbers are not free from mobiles. If businesses want to stay on the right side of the law the suggestion has been made to run an 03 number in parallel until June 2015 (see e.g. the main Tesco “contact us” page). Before June 2015, businesses will need to make a decision as to whether to have only an 03 number or only an 080 number or to retain both.

      An 03 number is an inclusive call for many, else costs the same as calling an 01 or 02 number. There is no cost disadvantage to the caller, but a big cost saving to the business compared to 080 numbers (especially in light of the increased running costs for 080 numbers that will take effect from June 2015).

      Choosing to have only an 080 number after June 2015 will make the call free for all callers but will cost the business a LOT more to run. In many cases, the business will be paying an enhanced running cost in order to allow people to contact the business for “free” when most of the callers already have inclusive minutes available that they could have used to call an 03 number.

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