The Cabinet Office has issued new warnings to government departments to stop using 0845 and 0870 numbers as their main point of telephone contact.
In the new guidelines, it is stated that ‘it is inappropriate for callers to pay substantial charges’ when consumers need to contact important government services.
A recent survey carried out by the National Audit Office found that calls to high-cost numbers, particularly the 0845 and 0870 ranges, cost the UK public over £56m in 2012.
For departments wishing to continue providing a non-geographic number to their callers, the guidance states that the 03 number range is now to be the default choice, with geographic 01 or 02 numbers being encouraged to be used when possible.
The guidelines states that departments will be able to continue providing the higher-cost numbers, but this will only be acceptable if they also provide an 03 number alongside, or they are able to provide a written explanation as to why they have chosen not to comply with the new guidelines.
These new changes have been introduced after new evidence that shows that lower income households are more likely than other households to not have access to a fixed line, as well as the majority of these households are more likely to use pay as you go mobile phones. As calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers are significantly more expensive from mobile phones, the government are attempting to make themselves more digital friendly.
Mahmood Mazhar, CEO of 03NumberShop, welcomes the new guidance: “It is vital that both businesses and the public sector keep up with digital developments and as more and more people are using a mobile phone to make calls, it is imperative that this is taken into consideration when selecting a phone number.
“03 Numbers provide a more conscientious image to those providing the numbers, so this will not only lower call costs but it will also help to instil trust from the general public.”