Are 0845 numbers bad for business?

It’s getting harder than ever for many businesses to attract new customers and to persuade them to part with their hard-earned cash. Travel businesses in particular are feeling the squeeze with a recent survey by ING Direct suggesting that up to 40% of Brits are planning not to go on holiday this summer.

In such a tough environment it would seem crazy to put up any unnecessary barriers to deter potential customers. Yet that is precisely what many travel companies appear to be doing by asking their customers to call an 0845 number to make an enquiry or a booking.

As the cost of calls to geographic numbers has dropped in the last few years due to the popularity of call plans, so 0845 numbers, which are not included within the minutes allowance of a mobile or landline contract, have become comparatively very expensive. Even with some landlines (my Virgin plan for example) calls to these numbers cost over 10p per minute, day or night.

Some companies such as have moved away from non-geographic 08 numbers to the standard dialling codes. Director Stuart Lodge explains why:

About 5 years we noticed more passengers were using mobile phones to call us. And were, quite frankly, being charged exorbitant rates by phone companies to dial 08 numbers. In defence of 08 numbers they did offer excellent call stats, in that they showed you where your most effective marketing lay. Now we only use geographical numbers and our consultants have 0207 direct dial numbers. Passengers recognise a Central London number and feedback is positive.

Yet a quick flick through a recent AITO directory shows 25 out of around 150 independent tour operators still using an 0844 or 0845 number for their main sales and enquiries line. They presumably feel that customers are not deterred from using these non-geographic numbers and are perhaps even encouraged to call them.

I’d love to hear the argument for retaining these numbers; it’s hard to see it from a customer perspective now that most call plans on both landlines and mobiles are inclusive of geographic calls but charge for 0845 numbers. I know that when I am searching for a service or product and when I’m faced with two otherwise equal choices I will always use the use with the landline rather than the one with an 08 number, to avoid incurring an additional charge.

Ben Colclough from adventure travel specialists Tourdust is another in favour of using geographical numbers:

0845 numbers are seriously unfriendly. They aren’t cheap to call and most frustratingly aren’t included in most mobile contract plans. It is just as easy for a travel company to buy a normal geographical number nowadays, get all the benefits that an 0845 gives and keep customers happy. The problem is of course that changing phone numbers is always a risky business.

Is there any way around paying for these charges? A good website to be aware of is Say No to 0870 ( which keeps a very comprehensive (if visually ugly) directory of landlines for most of the culprits. It’s a very handy site to use if you’re going to spend 30 minutes on hold to a government office, an energy company, a rail operator or a telecoms provider (all of whom share equally dreadful customer service reputations).

But for travel businesses (or any consumer facing companies) who are trying hard to survive in these difficult times, surely an 0845 number is one extra hurdle that they could do without?

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

16 Responses to “Are 0845 numbers bad for business?”

  1. In my opinion yes they are. I refuse to call 0845 numbers just because of the rates. I’d rather send an email and wait, which also turns to bad business because of the time it takes to reply. I feel you have made some great points here.

    My business does use 0845 also but i’m looking to get that changed to a normal landline number in the next month or so. I have to admit I get most support communication via email or tickets and this is probably because of what you have mentioned in your post.


    June 23, 2011 at 11:14 am
  2. What Glen said!

    Plus, I’d rather they had 0800 numbers, with UK based operator answering, not a machine. (Leeds? How are you spelling that, sir?

    And, there needs to be an easily findable and accessible ‘real’ number, for overseas clients, and those who would prefer to use it.

    June 23, 2011 at 11:59 am
  3. As an habitual mobile user I find even 0800 numbers annoying. Tricky thing is it is expensive to get 0207 numbers now and 0203 is not yet trusted as a London number I don’t think. Or am I wrong?

    June 23, 2011 at 10:20 pm
    • Bill F #

      The dialling code for London is ’020′ followed by two groups of four numbers. Unfortunately a lot of companies don’t write this down properly.

      So 020 3xxx should be just as recognisable as 020 7xxx

      June 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm
  4. I’m Dave from SAYNOTO0870.COM and I’m moderator and I help out finding alternatives.

    All users of 084x numbers benefit from subsidy from callers as I explained here:

    It’s to be expected that call providers (the telephone companies we make our calls with) will pass this in higher charges.

    This is the same as with other retailers. For example, supermarkets charge premium brands and budget “no-frills” have a lower retail price.

    As a long-term campaigner on this issue I recognised the need for a non-geographic number type that was charged the same as geographic calls with all providers. It was a huge breakthrough in 2007 when 03 numbers were introduced. It is disappointing that users of non-geographic numbers have, in the main, shunned them.

    Coming back to 084x numbers; all users of these numbers should openly declare that they benefit from calls. That way, consumers will be able to see what they’re doing; imposing service charges. Think of this as retailers putting price tags on shelves.

    This would pressure organisations to move away from these numbers. For example, would banks really say that they needed to impose a service charge on customers of 2 pence per minute for speaking on the telephone? (The service charge is the benefit they get; callers’ telcos add their own access charge).

    Cases where such a charge is justified are pay as you go dial-up internet and dial-through providers such as those that allow calls to be made to abroad at lower rates than the main providers such as BT and Virgin Media.

    One last thing. There are references to “0207″ and 0203″ numbers on this page. The majority of Greater London has one area code, 020, and has had so since 1999 when the two old areas, 0171 and 0181 were re-unified. The 7 and 3 are the first digits of local numbers and it is customary to put a space between the code and local number, hence a “020 number” and not a “0207 number”.

    Users of landlines in the Capital (whether their local number starts with 3, 7 or 8) thus dial eight digits to ring another within the same (020) area.

    June 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm
  5. George #

    This article is a good piece of common sense. There is no doubt that consumers dislike 0844 and 0845 numbers as well as 0843, 0870/1/2/3. They are all expensive compared to normal geographic numbers.

    It is worth noting that the Federation of Small Business is also strongly against use of these numbers as their members say that the costs are hurting them.

    If a business wants to expand, increase its trade and improve its customer facing image it should make as convenient and economical as possible for its customers to contact it — so it should use normal landline numbers.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:19 pm
  6. Dave #

    I found an article the other day that explained 0845 to me and i found it useful, just like this article. I purchased an 0845 number and it’s been fine. I think if you use your 0845 number in the right target audience then it will be ok.

    A main reason i got an 0845 number is it is cheap to run and i’m not concerned about the customer calling me on that number. I get more work from business to business calls anyway and they don’t seem to care on the number, meaning i have a cheap monthly bill while keeping my physical location hidden to prevent losing business due to the location i am in.

    The article was:

    June 27, 2011 at 10:40 am
  7. similar thing in Spain with the 902 numbers!

    June 28, 2011 at 9:05 am
  8. Andy Jarosz #

    Many thanks for the responses and apologies for the late replies. The site has been down for a while last week but is now back up and running on a new server. Thanks especially to Dave from for taking the time to reply and for sharing you post about the mechanics of 084x numbers – very informative and well worth a read, as is your forum post on this topic (thanks for that link too). Good to hear so many others share this view, including the FSB.
    I wonder if there have been any large scale public polls about the perception of 084x numbers? From personal comments here and on Twitter the views appear overwhelmingly one-sided….

    July 19, 2011 at 10:19 am
    • George #

      Yes there have been some public polls, but not very well publicised. See the archive of E-Petitions to Number 10.

      Third largest response in the Health category started November 2009 “… prevent local health centres and hospitals from using 08 numbers such as 0844, 0845 or 0870″ achieved 51450 signatures.

      Fifth largest in the Health category started February 2008 “…..prevent the use of non-geograpic numbers by General Medical Practioners and out of hours doctor services” achieved 28584 signatures.

      First in the telecommunications category started April 2007 “…compel all organizations using non-geographic numbers (e.g. 0845, 087* prefixes) to also publicize an equivalent geographic number (e.g. 01* / 02* prefixes) where they can be reached (and which can usually be called more cheaply than an 0845 / 087* number)” achieved 43023 signatures.

      July 21, 2011 at 7:51 am
  9. Steve Artherton #

    I was shocked to get my mobile bill from Vodaphone as I had gone over my allotted min’s for the month I think twice about calling these numbers now especially when they ask you to hold, are these companies making money from the calls if not why do they use 0845 why not Skype which if free Skype to Skype or go back to BT where you can have cheaper calls within the UK.
    We seem to be spending small fortunes just to keep in touch or go about our daily lives.

    It seems the same old story RIP OFF Britain get what you can from Joe public.

    July 20, 2011 at 10:03 am
  10. Hi Andy,

    We’re about to launch and got an 0844 number right from the off. What non-geographic numbers provide is the ability to retain your number for the long haul regardless of where one might relocate after growth instead of having to change a number the moment you leave the vicinity of your current exchange.

    We’re now looking into switching to an 0344 number which is charged at local rate from a BT landline AND is included in mobile inclusive minutes. I just wish OfCom did a better job of advertising this. Think for the interim, well have to advertise this number and either our 020 landline number or our mobile number the last seven digits of which mirror our non-geographic number.

    Hope that adds some info to this discussion.

    Saqib Khan
    Founder, Bedouin Travel

    0844 786 1000
    0797 786 1000
    020 8530 4050

    July 21, 2011 at 11:00 am
  11. Andy Jarosz #

    Hi Saqib and good to hear from you.
    I can see the benefit of an 0844 number from the point of view of a business – exactly as you pointed out, it offers permanence when you never know where your office may be in 5 years.
    From a customer perspective however there are no benefits and the fact that so many appear to change their buying decisions, even on big purchases such as travel, based on an emotional objection to paying for a phone call, should ring alarm bells to anyone using them. Smart move to include the 020 and mobile numbers too.
    Hope all’s well and hopefully we’ll catch up at WTM again.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm
    • Geographic 01,02 numbers can be moved to IP telephony so you never need to lose your number again if you move area. Speka to us and we will show you how.

      June 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm
  12. Kevin #

    I refuse to call 0845 and 0844 numbers as Virgin and most phome companies don’t include them on their call plans. Any orginisation that uses them are losing out as I know there are many others like myself who will just not phone them!!!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm
  13. Simon #

    Totally agree with all this, excellent discussion.
    An 08 number puts me off a company as I think, they must know they are expensive for customers to call but continue to use them. I then feel they obviously don’t care so I will not deal with them.

    If I have to deal with a specific company I find the landline on saynoto0870.

    A few weeks ago in a voicemail from Natwest complaints deot the guy asked me to call back on 0844 emphasising it was a local rate call. I didn’t call back, I emailed reminding him also that it was not local rate from a mobile.

    He was one of these sturly types and just ignored me.

    January 12, 2012 at 9:20 am