Phone Numbers In Depth » What are 0345 numbers and 0300 numbers?

What are 0345 numbers and 0300 numbers?

More and more companies and public services have started using numbers starting with prefixes such as 0300, 0333 and 0345 in recent years – but what are these '03 numbers' all about?

What are 03 numbers used for?

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.

Where did they come from?

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.

What's the difference between 0300 numbers, 0333 numbers and other numbers starting with 03?

All numbers starting with 03 work in the same way and are charged at the same rates.

The only minor difference is that numbers starting '030' are reserved for public services and charities, while numbers starting '034' and '037' are reserved for organisations who currently operate 084 and 087 numbers and wish to move to a matching '03' number.

What do 03 numbers cost to call?

The charging for 03 numbers is extremely straightforward: they cost exactly the same to call as a normal local or national landline phone.

Furthermore, wherever a phone company offers inclusive minutes or free calls to landline phones, calls to 03 numbers must also be included on the exact same basis.

Will calling an 03 number be expensive?

No. As explained above, the cost always matches that of a normal landline call – whether calling from a landline, a mobile phone or a payphone.

Calling an 03 number will only be expensive if the caller has no inclusive call allowance remaining or is on a very poor value phone tariff.

03 numbers should not be confused with more expensive numbers such as 0844 and 0871 numbers; they are completely different.

Are 0345 numbers premium rate?
Are 0300 numbers free to call?

Numbers starting with 03 are neither premium rate or freephone numbers.

Calling an 03 number costs exactly the same as calling a friend or neighbour on their home phone. While this means that they aren't necessarily free to call, there are no premium rate charges involved and the company receiving the call doesn't make a profit from any call charges you do pay.

Phone tariffs that come with inclusive minutes or 'free' calls to landlines include calls to 03 numbers in exactly the same way as normal landline numbers starting 01 or 02 are.

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