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How different phone number prefixes can cost you more than you expected

If you’ve ever looked at a mobile phone bill and winced, you’ve probably had a recent experience with premium rate phone number prefixes.

It’s easy to forget you made calls to unusual numbers a few weeks ago – until your bill (or text update) informs you this month’s payment will be higher than usual.

However, the UK’s telephone number system makes it easy to understand in advance that premium rate phone number prefixes are being dialled.

Below, we review the dialling codes to be wary of. But first, we consider the numbers which shouldn’t impact on your next bill…

Free to good homes

Any number starting in 01 or 02 should fall within a monthly talk time allocation, or included minutes. These cover all the geographic area codes relating to specific parts of the UK.

If your contract also supports mobile numbers, the same is true of any number starting 071, 072, 073, 074, 075, 077, 078 or 079.

(We’ll come to 070 numbers in a minute).

Any number starting 080 is completely free, and won’t even count towards your minutes allowance. Many businesses run inbound 0800 services for this very reason.

The non-geographic 03 numbers increasingly used by big businesses should also count towards inclusive allowances in the same way as the other prefixes highlighted above.

If you need to ring an 0330 or 0345 number, it’s generally charged at local rates. The only thing to beware of is lengthy call waiting times eating into your monthly data allowance.

From here, things get more expensive…

Pay to play

While it’s easy to assume any number starting 07 belongs to a UK mobile, there’s one exception – premium-rate 070 personal numbers.

These personal numbering services were historically associated with scams, though Ofcom has subsequently capped their costs to consumers. Their long-term fate remains uncertain.

Any decision to phase out 070 numbers would mirror the fate of 0500 numbers.

Until 2017, these were used by some businesses, but like the 056 business numbers allocated as part of BT’s Millennial Midband service, they’ve now been phased out.

Their place has been taken by 084, 087 and 09 numbers – all of which are intended for business use, and each of which incurs a significant access charge.

These are the best known premium rate phone number prefixes, and it’s widely assumed anyone ringing on 0845 or 0870 number knows they’ll have to pay for the privilege.

The 09 number is less well-recognised, despite having been around for twenty years.

Finally, directory enquiries calls may be less necessary in the age of Google, but plenty of services still exist.

Each six-digit number starts with 118, and costs can be as high as £3.65 for a 90-second call.

That makes these some of the UK’s most expensive numbers to call. A single directory enquiries call could significantly affect next month’s mobile phone bill…

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