Gone are the days of confusion surrounding the 0800 number. There was a time when “free” did not necessarily mean “free” and consumers were racking up bills larger than expected when using their mobiles to phone 0800 numbers. However after a major review and overhaul by Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, 0800 numbers have been free from both landlines and consumer mobiles in the UK (though excluding the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) since July 1st 2015.
To understand what type of companies and organisations now purchase 0800 numbers, it is useful to understand how they work. In essence, the cost to the caller is nil and the cost of the call is picked up by the organisation receiving the call. It is worth noting that not all 0800 numbers are therefore free from public payphones as the cost to the organisation receiving the call can be notably larger.
Any business, organisation or individual can set up their own 0800 number with an 0800 number provider. However, they are more commonly used with the following:
Business customer service and sales
There are numerous advantages to both large and small businesses to using 0800 numbers for their customers to call. By far the biggest advantage is that by having an 0800 number the volume of calls received has been proven to be significantly higher than if the business has a local area code. Most of the general public know that 0800 numbers are free to call and will therefore be more likely to make the initial enquiry knowing that they will incur no cost, whether local to the business or somewhere else in the country. Businesses can also appear as more of a ‘national’ entity by using the 0800 number, negating the need for a local code. It is also likely to give a business an advantage over a competitor who does not have an 0800 number. Importantly for business growth, statistics around incoming calls can be gathered to assist a business in determining which advertising campaigns are the most effective for them. Finally, there is little hassle involved in a business transferring to an 0800 number as they can be redirected to an already existing number.
Charities, by nature, exist to help individuals or organisations. Therefore, it would be against their ethos to use number codes that would incur the caller large costs. 0800 numbers can also be easier to remember as they do not have to stick to the more rigid number system of local codes. Childline, the national children’s helpline, is a well known example of this with their number being 0800 1111.
Free information services
As with the business example above, by using 0800 numbers, information services will aim to generate customers through having a free and accessible phone number. Tesco were one of the first major supermarkets to use an 0800 number for their customer services. Many information services will have several 0800 numbers to direct the caller to the most appropriate call handler on the receiving end.
Access to prepaid calling cards
As a consumer, this is an area where it will pay to do some research. To use a prepaid calling card, the caller has to phone an access number first. Whilst the actual call to the access numher is free, there is usually a cost added for the call following. This can be up to 5p per minute. It is therefore sometimes better to use access numbers with local area codes.
In summary, there are benefits to both the organisations that have 0800 numbers and the callers dialling them. 0800 numbers, or their varients (see other blog posts for more information on these) have been in use for decades and they look to continue to be in use as long as people continue to make phone calls.