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Sunday, 12 September 2010

0845 telephone numbers and public bodies (DWP, HMRC, NHS)

I have just published an updated briefing on this issue. Please refer there for detail and links.

This includes a pre-announcement of the launch of a specific timely campaign aimed at all public bodies (especially DWP, HRMC and the NHS) using 0845 telephone numbers.

The cost of calling 0845

0845 numbers are expensive to call because they are subject to revenue sharing. Part of the call charge (all of it in the special case of BT) is passed on to subsidise use of special telephony facilities by the user of the number.

Public bodies should not be using these numbers. The same special facilities are available with 03xx numbers, on which revenue sharing is prohibited. Calls to 03xx numbers must be charged on exactly the same basis as calls to ordinary "geographic" numbers. Very few public bodies have carried out the plan for them all to switch from 0845 to 03xx.

I have provided a briefing in response to an unanswered ministerial question from Caroline Lucas MP- "what does it cost claimants to call 0845 numbers used by the DWP?"

·       On average - £1.24 per 10-minute daytime call vs. £0.51 for the same call to a 03xx or geographic number.

·       From a public payphone - £2.40 vs. £0.60

·       From a PAYG mobile - £4.15 vs. £1.65

·       From a contract mobile - £2.00 vs. 0

·       From a Virgin Media landline - £1.12 vs. 0

My proposal

With the CSR in prospect, the expense involved in carefully planned renumbering exercises is out of the question, so I propose a simple solution.

The 0345 equivalent for every 0845 number is available for use as an alternative. Public bodies which use 0845 numbers should therefore simply bring the 0345 equivalents into use as "alternatives", announcing -

"All telephone services can be accessed by replacing the 0845 code with 0345 and dialling the remaining digits as stated".

This will save the expense of re-printing literature and the confusion of giving two different individual numbers, which has always been the obstacle.

The loss of subsidy will be more than covered by the saving in time and direct cost gained by avoiding the need to make unnecessary call-backs. A return call is currently offered to all those who cannot afford (or are reluctant to pay) the premium involved in calling 0845 numbers.

I strongly commend use of the call back policy by everyone who does not benefit from the uniquely regulated, exceptionally low, rates charged by BT for calls to 0845 numbers. Providing the 0345 alternatives would however be a much cheaper option for the public bodies (and therefore all of us as taxpayers), as well as stopping the absurd situation where callers have to pay at a premium rate whilst waiting to get through to ask for a call back!


  1. 0845 numbers have the added benefit of revenue sharing, where the service provider and the business receiving the call share the revenue. 0845 numbers are beneficial to people on both sides of the telephone line. These numbers allow customers to call one number and reach the person or business they need no matter how many times that the person or business might change phone numbers.

  2. "These numbers allow customers to call one number and reach the person or business they need no matter how many times that the person or business might change phone numbers."

    That is true for all 03, 08 and 09 numbers. However with 084, 087 and 09 numbers the extra costs incurred in providing those features are borne by the caller. With 03 and 080 numbers, those costs are borne by the called party.

    "0845 numbers are beneficial to people on both sides of the telephone line."

    Calls to 0845 numbers incur a 2p/min Service Charge to the benefit of the called party. This inflates the call cost for the caller and prevents the call from being included within their inclusive allowance of calls. That is not a benefit.

    0845 calls are charged at a discounted rate when called from a BT line or from a Vodafone pay-as-you-go mobile. Those rates are not typical in the marketplace and will be exposed as anomalies once Ofcom's "unbundled tariffs" system comes into effect in June 2015.


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