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End of 0845 Customer Service Lines in the UK

Who will be lucky or unlucky? Friday 13th June 2014 marks the end for 0845 numbers for use in customer service. From this date, it will be a legal requirement for businesses to provide a standard-rate geographic number (e.g 01, 02 or 03) for their customer service lines.

From that same day it will be illegal to provide only an 0845 or similar rate number for customer service lines - this law is coming into place to ensure that no customer is forced to pay additional charges when making a complaint about a faulty service or product.

After 13th June, any customer that is forced to use an 0845 or similar rate number number to get through to customer service will be able to take the offending company to court and claim back any excess charges incurred during the call.

There are some technicalities to this, so here's what you need to know in a nutshell:

●The simplest rule to remember is that if you are calling to discuss or complain about a product you have already purchased (including exercising your cancellation rights), you should be given a standard rate number to call. This is so that the telephone number provided does not give the trader a contribution to their costs. That's not to say that companies cannot continue to provide 084/087 numbers also, but they must advertise the standard rate number (01,02,03) with just as much prominence.  

●The numbers affected include those that start with an 084,087 or 09 prefix.

The exception to this is if the service you are accessing through the call is 'paid for through your phone bill' (eg- television voting lines, horoscope lines). Companies will also still be able to use 0845 numbers for non-customer advice services (eg- paid for technical advice), as long as they clearly advertise the charges.

●There's more good news to come - June 2015 will see Ofcom alter 0800 and 0808 numbers so that they are free to call from mobile phones. Until then, companies should provide a separate basic rate number for you to call from a mobile.

●At the time of going to press, it appears that the above regulations do not apply to banks, insurance companies and investment brokers. These are regulated separately by the FCA.

0845 numbers will gradually be changing on Please Press 1 as companies publish the alternatives - if a) a company has not yet changed and you think it should have or b) they have changed their number and please press 1 needs updating, please let us know.

There is still some confusion on this topic, and lots of you are voicing your opinions on the new changes in forums such as Which? And Call Centre Helper. I'd like to hear what you think too, so please feel free to comment below.

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