Windsor Telecom joins consumer telephone number debate

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Following an EU directive Ministers are about to start looking into the use of different types of telephone numbers by companies. Neil Sherring, Chairman of Windsor Telecom wants to make sure the consumers and businesses get the best deal.

Changing from an 0844 number to an 0800 number may be easy, but it may also mean the call centre gets outsourced to India

Recently Consumer Affairs Minister Norman Lamb announced a full review of the use of different types of telephone number by businesses.

A lot of businesses use different types of non-geographic phone numbers for different purposes. For example some might use 0800 numbers for a sales line and then 0871 which generates a small revenue of up to 5p a minute for customer service or technical support.

Windsor Telecom is the UK's second largest supplier of special numbers and CEO Neil Sherring had this to say, “I think it is really important that the watchdog examines all sides of the argument. Of course no one likes the idea of consumers spending hours in a call queue waiting for an operators and paying premium rates but generally speaking these instances are few and far between."

“British businesses are constantly under pressure to reduce costs, but consumers need to express a preference. Services like customer and technical support are cost centres and businesses have to do what they can to reduce those costs to avoid going bust. Changing from an 0844 number to an 0800 number may be achievable but it may also mean the call centre operation gets outsourced to India or the Philippines."

“Recently I bought a new computer part and found I needed technical support to help set it up. I had the choice of either calling in my local computer guy (who will charge me) or calling the manufacturer's technical support line which was a 0906 number costing £1 a minute. I actually called the 0906 number and had it fixed in 5 minutes and was glad I did. By providing me with an 0906 number they were actually able to provide a very efficient support service that was cheaper than getting the local computer guy to fix it."

“But also, it's not necessarily so bad for businesses forced to use local numbers starting 01 and 02. It is now possible to “port” those numbers onto Windsor's system so that local landline numbers can now enjoy all the benefits of non-geographic numbers. A business could now move from Bridgend to Brighton and keep the same number and manage the number is various clever ways. Or the other option is to use an 03 number (charged at the same rate as 01/02 numbers) and these can give a company a instant national presence”

Windsor Telecom Chairman Neil Sherring is hopeful, “This kind of consultation is very difficult because there are any number of conflicting views to incorporate. We hope the resulting guidelines are a good balance that supports British business and gives fair play to the consumer”

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The full consultation is here:

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Neil Burrows
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