Travel companies’ are to be affected by new consumer rights rules that attempt to overhaul the execution of customer service and complaints lines as higher rate phone numbers are to be banned from use.

According to the Government, and the majority of consumers, ‘it is inappropriate for callers to pay high call charges’ if they want to contact their chosen company once they have already done business with them, i.e. to complain or enquire.

Higher-rate phone numbers have been under scrutiny for a number of years because of the controversy that surrounds the charging mechanisms of the calls, which let mobile operators charge up to 41 pence per minute for calls to numbers with prefixes such as 0845, 0800 and 09. When these rules were originally outlined in the Consumer Rights Directive, travel companies were to be exempt. But, following campaigns from a number of watchdogs and organisations, the ban on using these high-cost numbers has now been extended to cover the industry, meaning that it’s likely that the majority (around 70%) of travel providers will be affected and now expected to provide a more consumer friendly number, by June 2014.

Companies have a choice of number ranges to choose from, it simply depends on the image that you want to portray. As the majority are already promoting non-geographic numbers (i.e. 08 and 09 numbers) they may like to keep the same UK wide image by switching to another non-geo range that stays in line with the new regulations and also allows them to keep the same call management setup. This would come in the form of the 03 range, which allows consumers to call from both landlines and mobiles at low rates. Callers will never be charged at more than the cost of a call to an 01 or 02 number, with the minutes also being included in most mobile monthly minute bundles, making the calls effectively free.

If you’re currently providing an 0844 or 0845 number then you will have automatic first refusal of the equivalent 0344 or 0345 number. Telecoms regulator Ofcom have ensured this will happen so that companies choosing to move over will not have adopt a completely new number, they will simply have to change just one digit.

Companies can also choose to switch to virtual geographic (01 or 02) numbers, which will allow them to operate numbers from their chosen areas of the country despite not being based there. The same call management features are available with these virtual numbers, so that the same setup can be used as the one already in place.

The use of these numbers provide companies with a more localised feel, so this may appeal to some companies as this is what their customers look for when selecting a company to give their business too.

It’s important to point out here that the new rules state that these higher rate numbers will only be banned from use for existing customers. This means that it’s only the customer service and complaints lines that will be affected. Those companies already providing a range of numbers for their different departments will need to assess which of those numbers will need to change.

For more information about the changes or for advice about switching numbers visit

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