Two-thirds of SMEs still not complying with Ofcom’s Clear Calling Policy

Seven weeks after Ofcom introduced it rules on clear calling a survey shows that up to two thirds of companies, including household names, are not complying with the new rules.

The new rules came into effect on 1st July and required companies using 084, 087, 09 or 118 numbers to display clearly the cost of calling wherever they were promoted. There was an acceptance that printed materials would take time and existing stocks could be used up but it was an expectation that websites would be changed immediately.

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A study carried out by independent telecoms broker and consultant Equinox, in the first week of August, surveyed 100 companies that use these numbers and found that 65% of them had no information on the cost of these calls on their websites. David Millett, Director of Equinox said, “It is quite clear that the majority of companies, particularly smaller ones have not made the necessary changes and as such are leaving themselves open to fines. It could be argued that Ofcom could have done a better job in promoting the scope of the changes as could have the telecom providers of the numbers themselves.”

“In addition website designers should be advising their clients of the risks they run by not amending their site/s. Other companies in the broader marketing community such as printers, advertising display providers and signage for vehicles need to help their clients avoid the potential penalties when producing materials. However ultimate responsibility lies with the company themselves.”

“It also raises the question why some companies expect their customers to pay extra when calling to buy their products or services when others use standard geographic numbers or 0800 which are now free to call from mobiles or landlines,” he added.

While financial services companies seem to have cleaned up their use of such numbers in a previous campaign and now mainly use 03 numbers, many other industries are showing a mixed approach.

Within the hotel sector, Travelodge uses 0871 numbers but clearly state they cost and comply with the guidance as shown below, as does their main rival at the budget end of the market, Premier Inn. But other chains such as Qhotels, albeit using cheaper to call 0845 numbers, provide no information on the cost.

Other companies involved in travel are generally compliant but Royal Caribbean don’t make it easy – unless you actually click on the phone number the charges are not displayed – in Millett’s view that is not within the spirit of the rules.

Within football both Chelsea and West Ham use 0871 with the correct information for fans to book their tickets, whereas Arsenal uses an ordinary 020 for their ticket office. It is not just in the premiership that fans have to pay more – promotion chasing Derby County use 0871 numbers for their ticket office whilst arch rivals Nottingham Forest uses a local Nottingham Number. However, overall compliance within the football industry was pretty high. Although football ticket site 1st For Football tickets use an 0871 with no guidance on the costs.

However it is at the smaller end of the market where compliance falls away dramatically where barely 1 in 10 companies with a number are correctly displaying the cost of these calls. Equinox found a whole range or charities, locksmiths and plumbers using these premium numbers and not complying with the Ofcom rules.

ave Millet concludes, “If companies must use these numbers it is essential that they display the full cost of calling them as was intended by the Ofcom rules. For callers I would recommend checking on the saynoto0870 website which has many of the underlying numbers behind the premium rate numbers which you can call direct. Or check to see if the company has a number that can be used when calling from overseas and just call that one instead. For example Chelsea FC show this on their website which partially undermines having the 0871 in the first place.”

The formal guidance for business, taken from the Ofcom website, is as follows:

Review all your materials and advertising. If your business or organisation is contacted on a number beginning 084, 087, 09 or 118, you must ensure that your service charge is clearly displayed wherever you advertise or promote that number. The service charge should be prominent and in close proximity to the number itself. The recommended form of wording is: “Calls cost ‘x’ pence [or ‘x’p per minute], plus your phone company’s access charge.” This is likely to mean that your service charge should be provided alongside the related number in all communications directed towards current or potential users of the service, where the use of the number is promoted or advertised. These communications are likely to include as a minimum:

  • Any broadcast advertisements on television or radio;
  • Any press advertising;
  • Any online advertising, including paid-for search listings;
  • Advertising bill boards and posters;
  • Public notices, press releases and other public relations material which promotes access to the service offered on the numbers, or promotes contact with the organisation using the number;
  • Point of sale displays and other fixed advertising;Packages, wrappers, labels, tickets, timetables and price lists;
  • Service directories; and
  • Company websites.

Businesses and customer can find further details at

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