It will soon be illegal for 0845 numbers to be used for customer service
Contact centres are facing a major change on 13th June 2014. From this date onwards, it will be illegal to provide an 0845, 0870 or a similar number for a customer service line.
This is part of a wider European Directive that affects the whole of the EU, and is based upon the principle that no customer should have to pay more than the national rate to receive customer service support. The law was passed on 13th December 2013 under ‘The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013’.
Worryingly, many contact centres seem to be unaware of the upcoming changes. Yet unless you are already using an 01, 02 or 03 number for your customer service line, your company will be affected. Even companies providing free 0800 numbers will have to make alterations, as these numbers are charged beyond standard rate when called from a mobile phone.
However, these changes only apply to customer service lines. Therefore sales lines, advanced support services and services paid for through the cost of the call (i.e. horoscopes and TV voting) remain unaffected.
Customers will be able to take you to court for non-compliance
Any company which fails to comply with the new law and still offers a 0845 or 0870 number for their customer service line after 13th June 2014 will be putting themselves at risk of court action.
This is because your customers will be within their rights to take your company to court and successfully reclaim the excessive charges made to them. Trading Standards are also at liberty to get involved in bringing non-complying companies to justice.
Switching from an 0845 to 0345 is a straight-forward process
While the impact of the changes will vary from business to business, the worst-affected are expected to have to update all their company literature, plan for the loss of income which will result from switching to zero or standard-charge lines, and add additional phone lines to their system.
The changes in brief:
- If you are currently using 01, 02 or 03 numbers for your customer service line, you will be unaffected by the upcoming changes to the law
- If you are currently using an 0800 number for your customer service line, you will also need to have an 01, 02 or 03 number in place by the 13th June 2014 for customers calling in from their mobile phones
- If you are using any number beginning with 084, 087 or 09 for your customer service line, they must be changed to 01, 02 or 03 numbers by 13th June 2014
For businesses making the switching from an 0845 number to an 0345 number, it is a fairly straight-forward affair. This is because you should already have been assigned the 03 equivalent of your phone number when you signed up with your provider. Therefore it is simply a case of requesting the switch (which should be free of charge).
Unfortunately, companies wishing to switch to an 01 or 02 number, as well as those needing to add an additional phone line to accompany their existing 0800 number, will incur the charges associated with these installations.
The best advice for affected businesses is to act early, and try to generate some positive publicity for doing what is best for your customers.
Jonty is editor of Call Centre Helper, the UK’s most popular Contact Centre Magazine