Avoid falling into the premium-rate trap

Many of us have a nasty shock when we get our mobile phone bills
Many of us have a nasty shock when we get our mobile phone bills

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Opening your phone bill and getting a nasty shock is an all too common experience.

Opening your phone bill and getting a nasty shock is an all too common experience.

With the ever-increasing costs of next generation smart phones, it’s easy to forget that you can still end up paying through the nose just to call up some large companies.

Premium-rate telephone numbers are everywhere, but understanding how much they cost can be a tricky business.

Some landline providers will waive the charges for certain calls, but most mobile providers won’t.

And with a wide array of different numbers, all with different prices attached, it’s not hard to run up a huge bill without realising.

With help from Which? Magazine and Moneywise.com Streetwise has compiled a comprehensive list to help you identify how much you’re likely to pay when you dial various numbers.

· 01/02 numbers

Numbers beginning with these codes are geographic numbers which tell you which part of the country you are phoning. They are included in any free or discounted minutes on your home phone or mobile contract.

Without free minutes you’ll typically pay around 5p or 6p per minute at peak times and around 1.5p off-peak from landlines.

· 03 numbers

Introduced by Ofcom in 2007 as an alternative to premium rate numbers, 03 is a non-geographic phone code that will cost you the same to call as 01 or 02 numbers.

· 0500 numbers

These calls are free from landlines, but come with a charge if you call them from your mobile. For example, Vodafone charges 14p a minute and Orange charges 20p a minute.

· 07 numbers

An 07 number followed by any digit except zero is usually a mobile phone number. Calls from pay-monthly mobiles to other mobiles are usually included.

Calls from pay-as-you-go mobile phones typically range from 5p to 20p, though calls to other networks may cost more.

· 070 numbers

Watch out for 070 codes. They look like mobile phone numbers, but can cost up to 50p a minute. These numbers are intended to act as a forwarding service – known as personal numbers, they divert calls to the owner’s location.

However, because they are easy to mistake for mobile phone numbers, some conmen use them to try to trick you into calling them.

· 0800/0808 numbers

These calls will normally charge you if you’re calling from a mobile and are only free when dialled from a landline.

For example, 02 charges 20p a minute for pay monthly customers and 15p a minute for pay as you go customers.

· 0844 and 0871 numbers

These are revenue-sharing numbers where any money made from the call is shared between the company you’re calling and your phone provider, making them more expensive.

Numbers beginning 0844 or 0871 are rarely included in free or discounted minutes so calls will cost up to 5p a minute from a BT landline and up to 40p per minute from mobile phones.

· 0845 and 0870 numbers

Both of these potentially revenue-sharing phone numbers are free to call with some landline packages, such as Sky and TalkTalk, but most mobile phone providers will charge you between 14p to 40p a minute.

· 09 numbers

Phone numbers starting 09 are the most expensive type of phone number to call. They are often used for TV phone-in quizzes, but some companies can also use them for technical support.

The most you’re likely to pay from a BT landline is £1.50 a minute, but charges from mobile phones can be much higher.

How to avoid premium rate numbers:

· Use an alternative

Many companies have a separate number that can be used when calling from abroad which begins with +44; take off the 44 and add a zero and they can be called like ordinary landline numbers.

· Saynoto0870.com

This website offers an extensive list of alternative numbers for UK companies who use expensive 08 numbers. It has search tool and a free app for smart phones.

· E-mail instead

If you have access to the internet, sending an e-mail is a quick and efficient way of communicating with a company. It also provides you with a record of communication, which you may need at a later date.

If you’ve been incorrectly charged for premium-rate services you didn’t sign up to, contact premium-rate regulator PhonePayPlus.