In a remarkable reading of Ofcom's new rules on 0870 numbers, T-Mobile has decided to double the price of such calls for most of its customers, rather than cutting them as Ofcom intended.
Ofcom decided that 0870, 0871, 0844 and 0845 numbers should be considered "normal" calls, and charged at the "normal" rate, but the regulator can't mandate that such calls are included in the normally-bundled minutes, a loophole T-Mobile has decided to exploit.
08xx numbers are non-geographic; the idea was that punters calling them would pay a national rate rather than a price dependent on where they were calling from. But since their introduction long-distance calls have disappeared, everyone gets national minutes bundled with their contract and few people exceed their bundled minutes which incurs the high price of outside-bundle calling.
Except that 08xx calls have always been outside the bundle, making them more expensive than national calls, and it is this that Ofcom sought to address when the decreed that calls to 08xx numbers should cost the same as national calls. In case there was any confusion, Ofcom spelled out their intention:
"...0870 calls should be included in communications providers’ call packages price plans on the same basis as geographic calls."
This is the part that T-Mobile has chosen to ignore, putting calls to numbers starting 0870, 0871, 0844 or 0845 outside the bundled minutes and charging appropriately.
So, today a Flext customer calling such a number is paying 10 pence a minute, but come the end of July that jumps to 20 pence. Punters on the Just SIM or Solo tariffs will see the cost triple from 10 to 30 pence, while a Freetime customer phoning off-peak will be paying 40 pence a minute to call up the DVLA.
This hardly seems what Ofcom had in mind, but T-Mobile told us: "Ofcom’s guidelines suggest that 08 call rates should be charged in line with national/local calls. They have not enforced operators to include it in mobile allowances."
The operator's statement goes on to explain that Ofcom hasn't got the authority: "Ofcom cannot mandate that these calls be included in allowances, however, if we are excluding them from allowances then we are required to make it explicit to customers.”
So hopefully all T-Mobile customers have had the situation made clear to them, though most of them will probably be asking why it is that our regulator is prevented from regulating. ®