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Call Costs

When a call is made to a geographic landline number or to a mobile number there are principally only two parties involved. These are the caller's telephone provider and the call recipient's telephone provider. The caller pays for the call, either by the minute or through an inclusive calls package. The flow of funds to pay each of the providers for their part in handling the call is relatively simple, a simple Termination Fee is passed on to the call recipient's telephone provider.

When a call is made to a non-geographic number, the call is additionally routed via the non-geographic number provider and their services also have to be paid for. For 03, 080, 105, 111, 112, 116 and 999 calls it is the call recipient that pays for this. For 084, 087, 090, 091, 098 and 118 calls it is generally the caller that pays the running costs through the additional Service Charge element of the call cost. On this latter group of numbers, the call recipient may also benefit from a revenue share payment. Additionally, the caller's telephone provider may also take the opportunity to add a bit extra on to the call price in order to make extra profit. All of these actions further increase the call cost for the caller.

The flow of funds when calling the five most common number types are detailed below. These are calls to geographic numbers, mobile numbers, non-geographic numbers charged at geographic-rate, non-geographic freephone numbers and non-geographic numbers with an additional Service Charge. Some minor simplifications have been made, and these are detailed in the notes.


What does the caller pay to their telephone provider when calling each of these numbers?


What does the caller's telephone provider receive and from whom, when each of these numbers is called?


What does the caller's telephone provider pay out and to whom, when handling a call to each of these numbers?


What does the non-geographic number provider receive and from whom, when handling a call to each of these numbers?


What does the non-geographic number provider pay out and to whom, when handling a call to each of these numbers?


What does the call recipient's landline or mobile telephone provider receive and from whom, when the caller calls each of these numbers?


What does the call recipient receive when the caller calls each of these numbers?


What does the call recipient pay for incoming calls when the caller calls each of these numbers?


Notes

Sometimes, the call recipient's non-geographic number provider and telephone provider are one and the same company. Other times they are separate companies. The latter situation, where a Termination Fee is passed on, is detailed above.

For many small businesses using non-geographic numbers, the number provider is often a reseller and therefore a different company to the telephone network that owns the non-geographic number range. In this case, the flow of funds is very slightly different. The parent telephone network will take out a small fee for themselves. This comes either directly from the Service Charge originally paid by the caller or is paid to them by the non-geographic number provider from the Call Handling Fee they charged the call recipient.

Since 2003, BT's equivalent Access Charge for calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers had been zero due to the restrictions imposed by the "NTS Retail Condition". This came to an end on 1 July 2015, the same date as the Unbundled Tariffs system was introduced.

Since 2009, BT has counted calls to 0845 numbers as Inclusive Calls by subsidising the Service Charge from all call plan subscriptions. This must be seen as BT giving some of its customers a "discount" rather than being the normal cost of these calls.

From 1 August 2009 until 1 July 2015, calls from landlines to 0870 numbers worked much the same as calls to 03 numbers. The call recipent paid the Call Handling costs and there was no Service Charge. Many landline providers classed calls to 0870 numbers as inclusive calls. However, calls to 0870 numbers from mobile telephones have remained very expensive. After the re-introduction of the Service Charge on 1 July 2015, calls to 0870 numbers now work in exactly the same way as calls to all other 084, 087 and 09 numbers. Users must declare the Service Charge and may receive Revenue Share Payments.

Before 1 July 2015, landline telephone providers usually advertised the call price for 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers as the combined Access Charge and Service Charge. The overall call price varied according to the number called, principally because the Service Charge varied but additionally because the Access Charge varied with the number called. Calls from landlines often also incurred a connection fee. Calls from mobile phones were subject to variable and much higher Access Charge levels with the call price being built up to a fixed price point for all numbers with the same prefix. This hid the many different Service Charge price bands behind a highly inflated fixed call price. Both the Access Charge and the Service Charge varied according to the number called and the call pricing was not transparent. Calling a number with a lower Service Charge did not result in a lower call price.

On 1 July 2015, connection fees were discontinued on calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers. Also on the same date, each telephone provider set a single Access Charge per tariff covering all 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers and must declare it prominently in tariff lists. At this point, it became possible to properly compare tariffs for the first time.

Users of 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers no longer state what the call would have cost if it had been made from a BT line, they must instead state their Service Charge and mention that the caller's telephone provider will add their Access Charge. The Service Charge varies according to the fist six digits of the number called. The call price is the sum of the Access Charge and Service Charge.

Call pricing for 055, 056, 070 and 076 numbers has not been discussed here. None of these numbers have a Service Charge. However, several are charged at much higher rates than calls to Geographic Numbers, and many do not count towards inclusive call allowances. Ofcom are reviewing these number ranges.