03 Numbers

Standard landline rate numbers

Numbers starting with 03 are standard landline rate numbers used by businesses, government and other organisations. They are not linked to any specific location and are used as a more flexible alternative to area-specific landline numbers.

What are 03 numbers?

Telephone numbers starting with 03, including those that start with prefixes like 0300, 0303 and 0344, are a type of 'non-geographic' number.

Organisations use non-geographic numbers instead of normal local landline numbers because they offer the following special features:

  • Flexible routeing – calls can be directed to virtually any destination with ease. This could include having calls answered in different locations at different times of day, or automatically sharing out incoming calls between different call centres depending on how busy they each are.
  • Easier publicity – organisations covering multiple locations can advertise a single phone number instead of different numbers for each area. Calls can then be automatically forwarded to the most appropriate office for answering, based on the caller's location.
  • Location neutrality – geographic landline numbers are firmly linked with specific localities. Using non-geographic numbers can help an organisation avoid appearing to be limited in scope to a specific geographic area, and also removes any need to change telephone numbers in the event of relocation or expansion into a different area.
  • Disaster recovery – standard geographically-routed landline numbers may become unreachable in the event of a fault or damage to the telephone network in the area they are linked to. Non-geographic numbers allow for incoming calls to be easily redirected to alternative locations when necessary.

Call costs for 03 numbers

All UK phone numbers starting with 03:

  • Cost the same to call as a normal '01' or '02' landline
  • Are included in calling packages on the same terms as normal landlines
  • Cannot generate money for the call recipient

It is a legal requirement that calls to 03 numbers are always charged at the same rate as calls to normal landline numbers starting with 01 or 02. If you are overcharged, you should make a complaint to your phone company.

Typical landline call rates »

History of 03 numbers

Prior to 2007, any company requiring the specialist call routeing facilities detailed above would have had to use either freephone numbers or a range of non-geographic numbers starting with 08 – including the well-known 0845 and 0870 prefixes. This had considerable drawbacks: a freephone number could be expensive for the organisation to run, but the alternative option of 0845, 0870 and similar prefixes could be considerably more expensive for people to call and had become increasingly unpopular.

In light of this, telecoms regulator Ofcom introduced 03 numbers. These were designed to offer companies the full range of advanced call routeing features while costing callers no more than a normal phone call.

Adoption of 03 numbers was relatively slow at first. However, in 2014 the EU's Consumer Rights Directive resulted in companies being banned from using more expensive 084 and 087 phone numbers for customer services, with similar rules for banks being put in place by the Financial Conduct Agency in 2015. This resulted in many companies switching over to 03 numbers during 2014 and 2015.

In July 2015, further rules came into force requiring organisations using 084 and 087 numbers to publicise the surcharges that applied when calling such numbers. Many more organisations switched to 03 numbers at this point, to avoid the complexity and potential negative image created by having to publicly declare the excess costs involved in calling their 084 and 087 numbers.

Official definition of 03 numbers and charges

The official National Telephone Numbering Plan issued by regulator Ofcom defines 03 numbers as follows:

"Calls charged at a geographic rate: calls charged at up to the same rate the customer would pay to call a UK geographic number, with calls to 03 numbers counting towards inclusive call minutes if the customer has remaining inclusive minutes to UK geographic numbers, and included in any discount structures that apply to UK geographic numbers."

Ofcom also bans any sharing of the revenue generated from 03 number call charges:

"Those who adopt or otherwise use non-geographic numbers starting 03 shall not directly or indirectly share with any end-user or any calling party any revenue obtained from providing a service on those numbers."

03 number types

Numbers starting with 030 are specifically reserved for public sector bodies, charities and other non-profit organisations.

Apart from this, all 03 numbers are charged at the same rate and work in the same way.

Prefixes currently in use:

Telephone keypad and the digits 0 and 3.