There has been a change to the permitted use of non-geographic numbers for post contract customer helplines, following EU Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU, the majority of which will be implemented into UK law as ‘The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013’.
So, what does this mean for UK business and how might your business be affected? Below is meant as a guide only and it is always recommended that if in any doubt as to the potential impact of these new regulations customers should always seek independent legal advice.
What are the changes?
The Regulations will affect companies who are operating Non-Geographic Numbers for customer helplines that are called by consumers. This will not affect other lines that companies might operate such as business to business sales lines. Therefore, if a company operates one of these Non-Geographic consumer helplines they may not be able to charge more than the basic call rate from this summer. However, there are exemptions, as some business types will be allowed to continue to offer Non-Geographic Number helplines to their consumer customers. These exemptions are listed later in this article.
The regulations state:
Help-line charges over basic rate
41.—(1) Where a trader operates a telephone line for the purpose of consumers contacting the trader by telephone in relation to contracts entered into with the trader, a consumer contacting the trader must not be bound to pay more than the basic rate.
(2) If in those circumstances a consumer who contacts a trader in relation to a contract is bound to pay more than the basic rate, the contract is to be treated as providing for the trader to pay to the consumer any amount by which the charge paid by the consumer for the call is more than the basic rate
It is important to remember is that this applies to consumer-to-business contracts. It does not apply to business-to-business contracts.
A consumer is an individual acting for purposes which are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.
A customer helpline is a line used to call a company about something the customer has already bought. As such, there is no requirement to cease using all non-geographic numbers ~ only those used to contact a company about a contract that has been concluded.
Calls to numbers such as 01, 02 and 03 are considered as charged at “the basic rate”. This is the same for mobile numbers that usually begin with 07.
Which numbers are included within the Directive?
084, 0871, 0872, 0873 and 09 cannot be used for customer helplines. Even though 0870 is not currently a revenue sharing option, it is likely not to be compliant with these new regulations.
Can I run a 084 number alongside a 03 number?
The good news is Yes. However, the consumer must not be bound to pay more than the basic rate, so it is possible to run both numbers alongside each other. To help, Ofcom have made a series of 0345 numbers, many with a 0845 equivalent, available to assist with the changes. If you want to operate a 03 equivalent number we would encourage you to contact Evoke Telecom Services Limited to discuss your options.
What are the exemptions?
The following exemptions have been identified in the Regulations:
- residential letting contracts
- package travel contracts
- timeshare contracts
- construction and sale of immovable property including building of new properties
- gambling as this is covered by the Gambling Act 2005
- supply of consumables by regular roundsmen such as milkmen
- purchases from vending machines
- supply of a product by a health care professional under arrangements for the supply of services as part of the health service
- single telecom connections (e.g. payphones and café internet connection)
- financial services are generally exempt although warranties, credit agreements and insurance which are offered in conjunction with the sale of a non-financial goods or services, will still need to meet the requirements for cancellation of ancillary contracts and additional payments not being a default option.
What date do these new provisions take effect?
These regulations apply to contracts concluded by the company operating the helpline on or after 13th June 2014.
Where can I find official guidance?
Guidance from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) can be found via the following link:
How can Evoke Telecom help?
Our experienced team are available to help customers find the best way forward for their business. We can support the maintaining of functionality currently in place or where necessary look to offer alternatives to deliver an optimum customer experience. Telephone numbers can be pointed into existing or new routing plans to ensure the customer experience does not change. Most importantly Evoke are in most cases able to help customers to retain full visibility of inbound call traffic to ensure delivery of the best possible customer experience.
To find out more call the team NOW on 0800 840 3688 or 01509 278278