Three makes 0800 numbers free
It’s not often that companies change policies before the statutory date, much less if said policy makes them pots of free cash. However, that is exactly what mobile operator Three has done, scrapping mobile charges on 0800 numbers a full 15 months before the required date.
From today, the cost of calling 0800 numbers from mobile phones will be free for Three customers and the cost of any other number beginning with 08 and 05 to will be cut to 5p a minute. Mobile networks currently make an estimated £600m a year by charging their customers up to 40p a minute to ring 08 numbers, according to YouGov figures.
The tariff will apply to all new contracts, but existing customers will be able to sign up without having to extend their existing contracts beyond their original termination date.
Charges on 0800 and other 08 numbers have already been the subject of some scrutiny, and the regulator Ofcom has already announced price caps and greater transparency on all 08 numbers and free 0800 calls. However, these rules will not be enforced until 26 June 2015.
Three is Britain's smallest mobile operator with nine million customers, but such a bold, consumer-friendly move can only be good for its image, if not immediately for its bottom line*. It remains to be seen whether the other mobile phone companies choose to follow Three’s lead, or risk losing customers over the price of a free call.
"People are confused about the cost of calling 0800 numbers from mobiles, so we welcome Three making these calls free for new contract customers," said Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which! "We are also pleased to see cheaper calls to 084 and 087 numbers. We call on other providers to follow its lead," he finished.
* Three has also announced some changes to its all you can eat data plans, limiting the tethered data allowance (but not the total data) to 2GB. So that might save them some money.