Non-geographic and premium rate number services

by Colin Bryant, TelecomsAdvice

Non-geographic numbers were introduced so that special services could be provided at different rates to those normally charged for calls to STD geographic numbers. So, for example, businesses could advertise one number nationally which could be connected to a local service centre (depending on recognition of the calling number) or to a centralised call centre either in the UK or off-shore - that number could be a 'free' 0800, local rate 0845 or national rate 0870 number. The 'translation' of a non-geographic number to a geographic number is called Number Translation Service (NTS) - and it can also apply to 09 premium rate numbers, 070 personal numbers, 020-7  and possibly other number ranges.

With the advent of competition in telecom services there are many different local and national rates from different suppliers, and suppliers have been able to share revenue with holders of non-geograhic numbers if the call volume they generate is high enough. So a big organisation advertisng an 0845 number can actually make money by getting you to call them and keeping you on the phone. If they have an 0870 niumber they can make more money and with an 0871 they make more still.

But what does the consumer care as long as it doesn't cost them any more than the local or national call they were expecting? Well first of all the standard local/national rates do not apply to calls from mobiles - your operator can charge you what they like and it will probably be extra to your inclusive calls package. Even so-called 'free' 0800 calls will be probably be charged. Similarly your landline calls may be part of an inclusive package - non-geographic calls are likely to be extra. Check your operator's website for details of these charges. Follow-me-anywhere 070 personal numbers are similar in operation (but are proposed to be banned from revenue sharing by Ofcom) and then we have the widely recognised 09 premium rate numbers.

Premium rate service numbers are not such an issue because most consumers know, or should know, they are paying more for the call and PhonepayPlus (formerly ICSTIS) is on the case, but confusion around 08 call charges abounds.

Paid for services charging small amounts or 'micro-payments' have grown around the revenue sharing model which was not specifically designed for this purpose and among the majority bone-fide businesses the system is open to abuse by unscrupulous operators and scam artists comitting small amount theft agaist hundreds of thousands or millions of consumers with potentially huge illicit gains.

An Ofcom consultation process has been undertaken affecting Premium Rate Services PRS see

An Ofcom consultation process has been undertaken affecting Number Translation Services see

An Ofcom consultation process has been undertaken affecting Personal 070 numbers see

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011

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