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0870 Phone Numbers
Expensive phone numbers in disguise

"National Rate" ... by whose book?

In the UK, expensive Premium Rate phone lines are regulated by ICSTIS and have to be clearly labelled in a non-deceptive way to declare how expensive they are per minute. However, 0870 numbers seem to have, at least so far (2006/01) exempt.

When 0870 numbers first started, they seemed mostly harmless, as they were simply "National Rate", and were sometimes described as "non-geographical numbers", and the calls to them cost the same price from any phone in the UK (unless you were too close to the place, where you'd have to pay a national rate to make a local call!).

But now, 0870 numbers stand out like (non)geographical features in the Badlands of Montana, as the 0870 numbers have stayed as high up as they were but the base-level has fallen away. These days, a phone call from one end of the UK to the other only costs a small amount, ie much less than an 0870 number which is still stranded high at British Telecom's official standard rate. And, if you've got a snazzy unmetered phone deal such as Tiscali SmartTalk, standard national and local calls are free. This makes 0870 numbers look especially over-priced.

Some people take a very definite stance on this, and some go so far as to refuse to phone any 0870 numbers! Champion of the campaign to do something about 0870 numbers, Colin D Campbell, has quite a lot to say about this! See www.cdcnottm.co.uk, and especially the page http://www.cdcnottm.co.uk/AAP.htm where you can see the 0870ishness is not going on unopposed! Also see http://www.xyroth-enterprises.co.uk/noto0870.htm

The main resource aimed towards the Down With 0870 campaign is www.saynoto0870.com where a community spirit of information is kept.

Another way to help to see the end of 0870 expensive phone numbers is to "vote with your feet". You place your business where you like, so: Choose companies with genuine basic phone numbers in preference to those with expensive 0870 numbers.

Note: If you're a company and your phone number is 0870 something, you can easily avoid this criticism by simply offering people a basic alternative phone number!

As I have Tiscali SmartTalk myself, I find 0870 numbers to be very offputting and I will be more likely to call a company if they have a standard basic phone number. For me, even well-intentioned local rate numbers are not as cheap as the free standard long distance phone numbers, so I ask companies what their actual phone number is. There is a knack to this: To find out a company's "proper" phone number, don't talk about geographical and non-geographical phone numbers because you'll only confuse the people working for the company. Instead, ask "What's the International Number?". This, as well as giving you a first class respect for being International, also tends to get you the actual number very quickly and easily as it's a standard question with a standard answer. The answer is +44 followed by a number. You can use this (international) number from in the UK just by replacing the +44 with 0.

Really, 0870 expensive phone numbers should be under the remit of ICSTIS along with expensive 0905 and 0906 premium rate numbers.

Update 2009: According to some TV commercials by BT, 0870 and 0845 numbers are going to be free if you switch to BT with your inclusive call time. Is this true?

Also, it's worth knowing that people putting up Internet advertisements do not generally like any phone numbers to appear at all! You can see at Zyra's website Shopping Portal, the online connections go through preferably without the phone numbers! Buy online and save money.