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TELEPHONE NUMBERING - 0871 - OFCOM CONSULTATION


ICSTIS Consultation - Make your thoughts known!
ICSTIS Consultation Deadline: 28th June 2007
Now Closed

0871 Consultation

About 0871 Numbers

All landlines have geographical numbers beginning 01x/02x. Numbers that start 08x (such as 080x, 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871 and 09x) are different as they can be directed anywhere and are known as Number Translation Service (NTS). In the case of 09x they are also referred to as premium rate numbers. A company that wishes to operate an 0871 requests a new 0871 number from a telephone number provider known as Communication Provider (CP) and then direct it to where they want - in many cases to existing 01x/02x numbers.

The differences between the various NTS (08x and 09x) number prefixes is the cost to the caller. Prices referred to are from a BT landline and can be anything from free (080x) to £1.50 per minute or per call. Numbers beginning with 0871 can cost different rates from 5p/min to 10p/min (or per call). However, most 0871 numbers cost the maximum rate of 10p/min anytime of the day most probably owing to the fact that there is currently no requirement for receiving party (companies/organisation, government departments, etc) using these numbers to disclose the price. The only way a telephone user can know how much they will pay is by looking up the number with their telephone provider and this can be difficult to find in some cases.

Therefore its the receiving party that chooses a number based on how much the caller pays from a BT landline. Hence if the receiving party requires just basic routing to 01x/02x with no revenue share (or very little) can choose 0845 but one that opts for 0871 is most likely after the revenue.

0871 calls involve what is termed as revenue share (micro-payment) whereby a share of the call cost is split between the CP and the receiving party. This revenue share can mean as much as 6p/min out of the 10p/min is given to the end company that consumers call. In other words 0871, like 0870 and 084x numbers, are stealth premium rate numbers - very similar to existing premium rate (09x) numbers except they are currently unregulated and in most cases many consumers are unaware that they are ringing a premium rate number.

From around February/March 2008, ICSTIS (the premium rate regulator) will take over as regulator for 0871 calls and owing to this has released a consultation with proposals/recommendations on what exactly ICSTIS will regulate concerning 0871 number range.

Summary

ICSTIS recognise that the parties affected by this issue are many and varied. Many consumers and consumer groups have an interest in the regulation of the 0871 number range whilst many companies and organisations across the UK rely on the 0871 number range (and therefore the money from the call) for some aspect of their business.

Everyone will all be affected by any regulatory proposals that ICSTIS decide upon. Additionally, due to the forthcoming removal of regulatory support for revenue share on the 0870 number range, there is likely to be high migration from that range to the 0871 number range. In fact, ICSTIS' pre-consultation research has indicated that the 0871 market is currently worth over £300m per annum, and the 0870 market is larger than this and if companies/organisation decide to use 0871 numbers then this market share will greatly increase.

Since Ofcom announced that revenue share on existing 0870 numbers will end, there have been a number of companies that have already started to use 0871 numbers already and this is likely to increase more and more as the deadline for revenue share on 0870 numbers comes closer. Revenue share on 0870 numbers is expected to end around February/March 2008 but may be subject to change if Ofcom decide to extend this deadline.

ICSTIS beliefs/Proposals

ICSTIS believes that despite the most widespread use of 0871 for things like customer services/call centres, etc, it believes that companies have (or will use) the 0871 number range not so much for the revenue (can be as much as 6p/min out of every 1minute spent calling) but instead for services like call routing, statistics, etc. However, if this were true and companies/organisations were mostly after advanced call routing and statistical facilities then why not use cheaper alternatives like 0845 numbers? Many 0845 communication providers, provide free call routing, etc on their 0845 numbers.

ICSTIS also believes that any proposed regulatory framework will be proportionate if it is applied to the 0871 number range with sufficient flexibility of application with regard to the context, use and cost generally of numbers on the 0871 number range. ICSTIS believes due to the lower amount of outpayment available, there may be less incentive for unscrupulous service and information providers to use the 0871 number range as a moneymaking ‘scam’. Equally, ICSTIS recognise from their research that there is some consumer concern about these services, especially with perceptions of ‘delay’ as a means of generating extra revenues.

Additionally ICSTIS believes that due to the lower cost to consumers where financial harm does occur, it accumulates at a lower rate than on other Controlled Premium Rate Service number ranges (09x) which can vary in cost from 10p/min to £1.50p/min (or per call). At this point, ICSTIS seems to keep forgetting that consumer awareness of 09x numbers is widespread so therefore consumers are wary of using 09x numbers but where it comes to 0871, consumer awareness of the costs involved and that they are in fact ringing a (stealth) premium rate number are rare. This potentially means that more consumers are likely to ring 0871 without a second thought so it's possible that in this case more consumer detriment is likely to occur on 0871 number ranges and not 09x which is currently regulated and things like being charged for being held in a queue is prohibited unlike what ICSTIS propose for the 0871 number range.

Possible things to mention in your response

  • ICSTIS should not try to hide the fact that 0871 are premium rate numbers. As a consumer we should be aware that 0871, like 09x, are premium rate numbers and that the company concerned is receiving revenue from the call in some way or another. If a consumer then decides to ring an 0871 knowing it's a premium rate number albeit lower rate than 09x then we can do so being fully informed that it's a premium rate number and that the company/organisation being called is receving money from the call, that it costs 10p/min from BT landlines (rates from other providers may vary).
  • Call queueing whilst being charged should be banned otherwise what is to stop companies currently using 09x numbers to move to 0871. For example, a company using a 10p/min 0871 number may generate more revenue by keeping the caller on the line than with a low 09x number costing anything like 15p/min or 25p/min and ICSTIS propose to do nothing about this at this time. It's been reported that ringing some companies may mean waiting in excess of 20 minutes+ before the call is answered.
  • Companies should not be allowed to present these numbers on a receiver's caller display because there is the possibility that the receiving party may call back and be unaware of the potential costs. It is also apparent that there have been a number of scams operating which entice phone users to call back on revenue generating 0871 numbers by giving missed or silent calls.

Questions/queries

If you have any questions/queries then please don't hesitate to post in the forum here.

Consultation Questions

There are 21 questions for this consultation however only some of them are applicable to consumers. Possible/suggested answers for applicable questions are given in red and are a guide only and it's fully recommended to use your own answers/comments.

For those that wish to fully read background information on the codes, statement of application and annexes mentioned in the qustions are best to read the full consultation that can be viewed here (in acrobat PDF format).

Q1: Do you agree with our proposal to create a Statement of Application for the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons and alternative suggestions)

Yes, in so far as it does not conflict with any of my other answers/comments/suggestions below.

Q2: Do you agree that the current application of Section 1 of the Code is appropriate to apply to the 0871 number range? (If not, please give your reasons)

Yes, in so far as it does not conflict with any of my other answers/comments/suggestions below.

Q3: Do you agree that this is a fair and proportionate application of the network operators’ due diligence requirements to the 0871 number range? (If not, please give your reasons. ICSTIS would welcome further information regarding quantification of costs)

Yes.

Q4: Do you have any further information and evidence regarding usual payment times? (Additionally it would be helpful to have responses that indicate to what extent Service providers rely on immediate payments from network operators to cover their operational costs)

n/a

Q5: Do you agree that this is a fair and proportionate application of a delayed payment mechanism to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes.

Q6: Do you agree that the current application of Section 3 of the Code is appropriate to apply to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes except that it is mentioned that within section 3 of the code that service providers also hold non-premium rate UK customer service numbers but that you currently think 087x numbers are ok. This is a contradiction as 0871 will be premium rate numbers hence why they will be regulated by ICSTIS. Therefore, it defeats the point of the service provider not holding a non-premium rate number but yet allow them to hold an 0871 contact number. It is suggested therefore that service providers be required to hold a geographical or 0870 number and NOT 0871 numbers.

Q7: Do you agree that the current application of Section 4 of the Code is appropriate to apply to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes, in so far as it does not conflict with any of my other answers/comments/suggestions.

Q8: Do you agree that it is fair and proportionate to apply ICSTIS’ current application of the prior permission regime under Section 5.1 of the Code to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes.

Q9: Do you agree that Option D is a fair and proportionate application of the undue delay requirements in paragraph 5.4.2 of the Code to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons and alternative preferred option. Additionally, please provide details of any other options you feel may be appropriate for ICSTIS to consider)

No. You state that you have received significant complaints concerning 0871 numbers as has Ofcom and at this time Ofcom is currently investigating scams on 0870 numbers. Once 0870 loses it's revenue share, most companies/organisations are expected to migrate to 0871 and this means scam artists will also do this. What you proprose to basically not do anything about call queueing is not at all in the consumer interest but only in the interest of companies/organisations using these numbers.

It has been stated by ICSTIS that many companies/organisations will use 0871 not for the revenue share (can be as much as upto 6p/min) but for the advanced network features. If this was true then companies/organisations would use other lower-rate non-geographical numbers like 0845 which offer the same advanced network features except in most cases revenue sharing isn't passed to the company instead being retained by the service provider to pay for the advanced network services.

Therefore, the primary interest in using 0871 is for the revenue share in addition to the advanced network features available but the difference is that many consumers currently aren't aware that 0871 is premium rate which is why many companies/organisations have already migrated to 0871.

Many companies/organisations would not dare move to 09x (not even at 15p/min) because in all likelyhood they are aware that consumers are aware that 09x is a premium rate and that this would cause many complaints so instead they have opted for 0871 where revenue still exists but without consumer knowledge that they are in fact ringing a premium rate number (albeit lower amounts) and according to your proposal, being able to gain revenue even whilst consumers are held in a queue. It's possible to be held in a queue for over 20minutes when ringing some companies on their 0870 now. This equates to the company getting over £1 for every call they get that lasts 20minutes just being in a queue. If a company gets hundreds or even thousands of calls a day then this adds up over the month and year. Therefore there can be an incentive to keep callers waiting.

I believe with the extra revenue possible from 0871 numbers that this is used to ensure that us consumers aren't charged for being kept on hold for undue delays and therefore consumers aren't charged for being in a long queue. I don't believe that with the extra revenue possible from 0871 numbers that this would add any extra financial burden on to companies/organisations operating 0871 numbers.

If this is still not possible then how about an announcement when first rung that states where you are in the queue and how long it's estimated you'll be before being answered. This would allow us consumers to know in advance that they could be a long time and can choose to ring back later, etc. Again, this could all be paid for out of the revenue from the call they receieve which ICSTIS believes is really only used for network features and not to deliberately gain revenue from the call.

Q10: Do you agree that this is a fair and proportionate application of the pricing information requirements under Section 5.7 of the Code to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes, except that because consumers will not be aware that 0871 is a premium rate number (unlike 09x where consumer knowledge that this is premium rate is greater), companies/organisations should also be obliged to say when they answer the call that "calls will cost 10p/min from a BT landline (other providers may charge more)." This really has hardly any financial impact on the companies/organisations using these numbers in fact the extra 10 seconds or so it takes to say this will cost us consumers but at least consumers would be fully aware that they are paying at least 10p/min.

Q11: Do you agree that it is appropriate to allow a three-month implementation period, as outlined above?

Yes.

Q12: Do you agree that this is a fair and proportionate application of ICSTIS’ scope of regulation in respect to content of services provided on the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes.

Q13: Do you agree that the current application of Section 6 of the Code is appropriate to apply to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your
reasons)

Yes, in so far as it does not conflict with any of my other answers/comments/suggestions.

Q14: Do you agree that the current application of Section 7 of the Code is appropriate to apply to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes, in so far as it does not conflict with any of my other answers/comments/suggestions.

Q15: Do you agree that the current application of Sections 8 to 11 of the Code is appropriate to apply to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes, in so far as it does not conflict with any of my other answers/comments/suggestions.

Q16: Do you agree that this is a fair and proportionate application of the funding model in Annex 1 of the Code to apply to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes.

Q17: Do you agree that this is a fair and proportionate method of collection of the funding levy to apply to the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes.

Q18: Do you agree that a minimum payment amount from each network operator should be £500 per annum? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes.

Q19: Do you agree that it is not appropriate for ICSTIS to create and promote a separate brand for regulation of the 0871 number range? (If not, please provide your reasons)

Yes, so long as ICSTIS doesn't try and hide the fact that 0871 is a premium rate number (albeit lower amount than 09x) and that Communication Providers (CPs)/Service Providers do not advertise the 0871 number range as 'national rate' which some CPs currently do this.

Q20: Is there any other way in which ICSTIS’ regulatory framework should be amended or otherwise so as to regulate the 0871 number range in a way that is fair and proportionate?

To discourage scams with missed phone calls/silent calls, ICSTIS should ensure that companies/organisations using an 0871 does not display via CLI (Caller Display Identity) their 0871 number. Instead, companies/organisations should use freephone or lower-cost number ranges. This would also save Ofcom having to investigate missed calls/silent calls (whether deliberate or not) as this is potentially in contravention of current Ofcom rules. Currently, Ofcom rules state that companies/organisations making phone calls (sales, etc) should not display any number costing more than the rate of an 0845 on CLI.

Q21: Do you agree that this is an appropriate wording for a Statement of Application based on ICSTIS’ proposals? (If not, please provide your reasons and alternative wording)

n/a

Responses/deadline

The consultation questionnaire can be downloaded in word format or rtf (rich text format).

The deadline for responses is Thursday 28 June 2007. Responses should ideally be emailed to Nathan Marshall, 0871 Project Manager, or alternatively, via snail mail to: Nathan Marshall, 0871 Project Manager, ICSTIS, Clove Building, 4 Maguire Street, London, SE1 2NQ.

 




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