Three’s 0800-inclusive price plan policy is the way ahead

I’m more and more impressed with the output from the team at Three, the UK’s challenger network.

I was delighted when they switched on 4G for their customers without additional charges. That was smart. All you needed was a 4G capable device and boom, you were entitled to 4G.

Their recent announcement about inclusive 0800 numbers did take me by surprise. For the longest time, operators have been quietly smiling with relief at the revenue certainty. Almost everyone has to make an 0800 call at some point and given our mobile devices are far more accessible than landlines, it’s far easier to make the call there-and-then… and end up paying almost premium rates. 

To be accurate, Three’s move is to zero-rate 0800, 0808 and 0500 calls. The usage of them won’t come out of your inclusive minutes. The other annoying ‘local rate’ number ranges (084x and 087x) are charged at 5p per minute.

By comparison, Vodafone — right now — will take 14p a minute for 0800, 0845 and 0870 numbers and a whopping 35p a minute for 0844 or 0871 number ranges.  That is the network’s standard rate policy. Here’s the link to have a look yourself

Even the most cost-conscious price plan watchers will routinely wonder why their £20 ‘unlimited’ deal seems to always come in at £24 or £28 a month, even though they were very careful with their activities. Research carried out by YouGov on behalf of Three reports that the average person makes 2.28 calls to 08x numbers per month or 27.36 calls per year, costing an average of £60.19 per user. That adds up. YouGov reckons UK consumers are paying about £600 million a year for 08x calls. 

Not for long, thanks to Three. 

They will put continued pressure on the other operators to eventually sort this out. 

So well done Three. 

There’s only one slight issue. With 4G, every Three customer automatically received that (provided they had a capable handset). The ‘free 08x’ calls plan is only available on new contracts at the moment. Come on Three… you could have gone further! 

(But, then, I recognise the complexity of getting the billing systems to talk to each other to make this happen, so fair enough). 

Yet another reason to consider Three for your primary operator service. 

Here’s the full release (and research detail): 

Brits shell out over half a billion pounds on 08 calls each year
Three responds by making all 0800 numbers free on its new pay monthly plans 

  • 0800, 0845 and 0870 callscost UK mobile consumers £600 million a year
  • Bill shock affects nearly half (47%) of mobile phone users
  • Three’s new plans make calling 0800 free and 084 and 087 calls 5p per minute

New research – conducted by YouGov – has found that mobile phone users are in the dark when it comes to the cost of making calls to 0800 numbers from their mobile phone.

Three quarters of people surveyed have no idea how much their operator charges them for an 0800 call and 10% think these are free, as they would be from a landline. Research also highlights that calls to 0800, 0845 and 0870 numbers cost UK mobile consumers an estimated £600 million a year.

The research also found that 47% of mobile phone users have experienced bill shock, with almost a third (31%) of these users saying this was caused by out of bundle expensive calls such as 0800 or 0845 numbers.

From today, customers who sign up to Three’s new plans can call 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers for free, while all other 08 numbers, like 084 and 087, will cost 5p per minute. These charges typically range from 14p to 40p. Existing customers can swap over from their existing plan without paying a fee and can keep their existing contract end date.

Dave Dyson, Chief Executive at Three, said: “We asked people what frustrated them most about their mobile bills and confusion around the cost of calling 08 numbers came out top by a big margin.  These charges are often buried in the small print and they’re expensive enough to make most customers fear calling them from their mobiles. 

“We believe in making mobile simpler and better value – the cost of calling 08 numbers is something we want to address for our customers.

“UK mobile users are still afraid to use their devices in many circumstances.  That’s why we’ve made it possible for our customers to use their home allowance abroad in 11 countries, including the USA.  It’s why we’ve launched 4G at no extra cost and why we’ve committed not to raise our monthly recurring charges during the minimum period of a contract. ”

Under the new plans, customers will also be able to set limits to stop them going over their minutes allowance and limit spending on expensive numbers.

They will also receive text alerts to help them understand when they are close to using up their voice and data allowances.

To celebrate that 0800 numbers are now free, Three is launching a selection of fun and pointless 0800 numbers on 17 March for people to call and enjoy, including a Singing Dictionary line, a compliments line and a 24 hours lullaby line.

And here’s the research detail:

All figures are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2018 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th – 13th February 2014.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Cost to UK consumers 

Research conducted by YouGov, the figure is based on the following calculation: 

–        Average amount of calls to 0800, 0845 or 0870 numbers per month: 2.28

–        Average call cost per min of calling 0845, 0870 numbers from mobiles: 22p

–        Average call length (10 minutes) x Call cost per min (22p) = £2.20 average cost

–        Average calls per month (2.28) x 12 months = 27.36 calls per year

–        Cost to one consumer per year – £2.20 x 27.36 = £60.19

–        Current UK adult population that owns a mobile (94% – based on Ofcom) = 42.2million

–        Percent of people who dial 0800, 0845 or 0870 numbers from their mobile phone = 23.64% = 9.98 million

–        £60.19 x 9.98 million = £600.7 million

–        Cost to UK mobile users per year = over £600 million

0800 and 08 calls 

All 0800, 0808 and 0500 calls are free for customers on our new plans, while other 08 numbers (like 084 and 087) will cost 5ppm. 0800, 0808 and 0500 calls sit outside of a customers’ voice minutes allowance, so they can make as many calls as they like to these numbers.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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