Mobile phone operators hike up access charges

The price increase affects calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers

Mobile wallet

Mobile users may end up paying more for calls to certain premium rate numbers after mobile phone operators increased access charges to these numbers.

The call increases have come after Ofcom moved to make call prices more transparent by separating service and access charges in July this year. While the move was supposed to make things clearer for mobile users, it has had the consequence of mobile operators raising charges.

These service numbers are used by organisations for business purposes, especially for popular TV shows, such as Strictly and X Factor.

While businesses set the service charge, mobile operators set the access charge. This November sees mobile operator Three increase access charges by as much as 80 per cent with an access charge of 45p per minute for each call to a service number. This figure was previously 25p per minute.

Calls to Strictly Come Dancing currently cost 40p but will rise to 80p in November.

In August, O2 and Vodafone increased their access charges following Ofcom's new policy. At the time, the regulator said the separation of charges would benefit consumers.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said that as some prices have changed, people should "shop around for a tariff that's right for them."

"Phone providers are now offering a range of pricing options for these numbers, including per-minute access charges as low as 1p per minute," she said.

"Ofcom actively encourages organisations to use 03 numbers, which we set up to cost no more than a normal 01 or 02 number. They must also be included in a customer's inclusive minutes and discount schemes in the same way."

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, said that since the new system was introduced by Ofcom in July, some charges have increased by 96 per cent.

"Ofcom's new system relies on people keeping an eagle eye on what they will be charged before they pick up the phone.

"The charges are meant to be more transparent than before, but with significant price hikes since the new system was introduced, consumers need to be savvy to make sure they are not left out of pocket."

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