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“Black September” Warning As UK Businesses Prepare to Face Record-High 0870 Phone Bills

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• 200% price hikes* as OFCOM legislation comes into force
• ‘A third’ of UK businesses could be affected

Opal, the B2B division of the TalkTalk Group, is warning that tens of thousands of UK businesses could face soaring 0870 telephone bills in September with increases of up to 200%, because of failure to act over new Ofcom legislation. 

On 1st August 2009, in an attempt to promote transparency for the consumer, Ofcom changed regulations around the use of the number sequence ‘0870’. The number is currently used by tens of thousands of businesses across the UK, to generate income through call rebates, often to finance enhanced call services.

However, Opal’s research indicates that up to a third** of UK businesses using the number sequence have been unable to implement the changes in time despite intending to – due to time and manpower constraints.

This means those businesses have now been automatically migrated to a new tariff from August 1st where they will be charged for all calls to their 0870 number usage for the very first time.  With increases of up to 200% more, it really could be black September for thousands of businesses as the first bills arrive since the new legislation. 

Geoff Wilson, Finance Director from Opal, said: “Although we appreciate the work done by Ofcom, there have been serious deadline issues. Switching to an alternative number by August 1st has heaped enormous pressure on businesses, and many have simply failed to make the required changes by the deadline.

“Some organisations will still be calculating the impact of changing their 0870 number to an alternative – working out where the number is currently published and trying to understand the cost of changing literature, websites and so on.”

The Ofcom regulation will force price hikes for all businesses that have failed to migrate to an alternative number sequence. For example, a business taking 50,000 peak minutes a month on its 0870 numbers and receiving a rebate of over £1,500 each month pre-regulation could be subsequently charged more than £1,200 post-regulation each month.

Wilson continues: “This means that many companies, often through no fault of their own, will now face enormous bills in September for essentially the same service, something that is made all the more challenging by the continued recession.

“While Opal has invested heavily in communicating the legislation early to its customer base, there remain many customers that have simply run out of time.  There is also no guarantee how much information other operators have been giving their customers and how effective they have been in doing this.

“However, it is not too late to act. Any business still to make the change away from ‘0870’ can do so quickly and easily, and Opal provides numerous options for replacing the lost revenues.”

More information about the options available to businesses are available from Opal direct. Visit www.Opal.co.uk for more details.

Ends

Notes to editors

*Workings are available
**Research is based on a snapshot of Opal’s own 100,000-strong customer base and sales data from UK businesses currently using 0870 number sequence.

0870 number sequences – the migration options
Option 1 –
Keep the existing 0870 number range – but lose any revenues it generates which are needed to fund enhanced call services and back-office functions.

Option 2 –
Change to an alternative sequence which generates revenues – but communicate the number change internally and externally. Check out our guide at http://www.opal.co.uk/consult/call_handling/non_geo/ofcom_reg.php

About Opal
Opal provides communication solutions to UK organisations, serving the needs of over 100,000 business and public sector customers and working with over 350 wholesale partners nationwide. Opal is the business to business division of The TalkTalk Group, who are the UK's 3rd largest communications network operator, with a total of 2.7m customers.  As the leading provider of 21st century network connections and applications for businesses, Opal has over 15 years’ experience in serving the needs of business customers across the UK through its team of over 850 dedicated business specialists. Opal understands the challenges modern business face. Whether businesses want to implement advanced IP solutions, enhance your multi site network or simply save ££'s on your inbound and outbound calls, Opal has the experience and solutions.

For further information, please visit: www.opaltelecom.co.uk or contact Will Ockenden or Eloise Garrett at Lucre on 0113 243 1117; opal@lucrecommunications.com