Some phone numbers have had "special" charges for some time.
0845 was "local" and 0870 was "national" and this dates back to the times that local and national call charges made sense. The problem is that over time these have stayed expensive as inclusive packages and lower costs have meant that "normal" calls (01, 02, 03 numbers) are lower.
There have also been various "Premium rate" services, which OFCOM can regulate (as Communications Act says they can). These are now generally in 09 numbering.
The problem is that it is a mess. Some numbers cost as much as £6 a call, some are free, and it is not clear. Mostly 09 is expensive and 08 is not so much. People using 0845 and 0870 are being encouraged to move to 0345 and 0370 at "normal" rates.
So OFCOM have made some rules and said that the new system applicable to 084, 087, 09 (and 118) calls is that they have a service charge and an access charge. The service charge is set by the range holder, and the access charge by the telco you use to make the call.
The idea is that instead of saying "Calls charged at 50p/min from a BT landline but may be more from other operators and much more from mobile" you now get "Calls charged at 50p/min plus your telcos access charge".
Sounds sensible, until you realise many retail telcos, even BT, have an access charge of 10p/min and one charges as much as 44p/min. This access charge has to be the same over all codes (except those "inclusive" in bundles) which makes a mockery of those that are 1p/min or 5p/min, etc.
It will confuse people that services advertised as "1p/min plus your telco's access charge" are costing them 45p/min from some telcos!!!
But it is worse - how does a telco know what the service charge is. After all, no telco has contracts with every service provider (range holder) directly. So they have a contract with some carrier (maybe even BT directly) to route the calls. As a telco, how do I know what to charge for a number.
Well, OFCOM have distanced themselves from any responsibility saying we have to look at the contract we have with our carrier to find the cost of the service charge. However, they have only made this new system apply at retail to consumers, and not to our carriers. It seems our carrier does not have to do anything. To be fair, they are, mostly, doing something sensible, but OFCOM are not insisting that they do. They don't have to tell use the service charge for each number.
OFCOM suggested the BT Carrier Price List as a reference, but if I was BT I would expect OFCOM to pay me to run that database! OFCOM won't actually tell me what the service charge is for each number even though they REQUIRE that I charge calls to that number based on the service charge (and my access charge). That is MADNESS!!!
Seriously, WTF are OFCOM on?
1. No definitive list of service charges. BT CPL is already wrong and out of date.
2. Access charge means calls cost massively more than they used to for many numbers.
If, as OFCOM have said, telcos should use the contracts with their suppliers as the reference for service charges - what is to stop a telco selling all 084/087/09 at £10/min, and its customer using that as the reference for all such numbers? Not OFCOM rules for a start - heck! these rules do not apply to "business tariffs" let alone CP to CP tariffs...
We already have issues that OFCOMs right to regulate Premium Rate numbers comes from the definition in the Communications Act. We have a few 0871 numbers that were never "Premium rate" and we still provide no "service" via these, only communications (fax to email) as per their original numbering plan allocation. As such OFCOM have no legal right to regulate our use of these numbers as "Premium rate". Thankfully it is mostly academic but they really lack clue some times.
Update: OFCOM have stated "The charges that you apply are a contractual matter between you and other elements in the supply chain." which makes no sense. It means that we basically can change whatever we want as the other elements in the supply chain supplying us have no reason to follow the new OFCOM rules (as we are not consumers). It means that the price consumers get charged is not fixed or clear at all.
Update: OFCOM now suggest we contact each and every range holder, having previously suggested the BT CPL which seems incomplete. I have asked them to confirm which GC compels a range holder to tell us the information.
Update - based on replies from OFCOM:-
It appears there is no regulatory requirement for a range holder to tell us the service charge for a number range. They may have a contractual incentive to tell parties they contract with, but not us.
It appears there is no regulatory requirement for the CPs with which we have a contract to tell us the service charge for numbers they route. As we are not consumers, but another CP, there seems to be no regulatory requirement for the charges we pay to be based on a service charge plus access charge or for any access charge to be consistent. As such, even though we may know what we pay for a call, we cannot, from that, determine a service charge to charge our customer.
So, it seems, OFCOM have made a regulation but have failed to join the dots and provide a means for us to comply with that regulation.
OFCOM tried to maintain a master list and failed - yet they expect every single tiny telco to somehow maintain such a list in order to comply with the regulations. If OFCOM can't manage it - how the hell are we expected to? Heck! OFCOM have a legal ability to require telcos to answer questions and still they did not manage this!
Update: I have re-read the GCs, and the "service charge" is defined as the charge set at the first CP handover point, i.e. what we pay to carriers. That means that when an advert says "calls cost 20p/min plus your telcos access charge" it will not in fact be the case. We would charge the "service charge" which is what we pay (which is more than 20p/min) plus our access charge. What a crazy system. I have asked OFCOM to confirm.