Special Services
Telephone Numbers

What are Special Services numbers?

Special services numbers (otherwise called Non-Geographic numbers) are '08' telephone numbers. Unlike ordinary landline numbers beginning '01' and '02', the numbers do not relate to any particular geographic location.

Businesses use them as contact numbers for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • To improve the callers experience through the use of network intelligent routing of calls. This could include call recording, area routing (your call automatically delivered to the nearest office), Disaster Recovery, and the “press 1” facilities.
  • To earn a share of the cost paid by the caller to subsidise their call centre operations. This allows more agents to be employed so as to reduce call waiting times.
  • To show, or to imply, a presence which goes beyond a small local area.

In the case of '0800' and '0808' freephone services, to enable callers to contact the business free of charge. Where these numbers are used, they are normally prefixed by the word FREEFONE.

When they were introduced over 25 years ago, '0845' was designated as 'local rate' and '0870' as 'national rate'. The caller would pay the same for these calls as they would for a local or national call. However, these designations became misleading and they have now been changed.

Why have the designations changed?

Consumers and businesses can now obtain telephone services from a huge variety of service providers. Almost all BT residential customers are now on an 'unlimited' plan, not the old standard rates. For BT customers who remain on BT standard rates (e.g. residential 'light user' customers), 0845 numbers are still charged at local rate and 0870 numbers at national rate. However, for most callers, it costs more to call 0845 numbers & 0870 numbers.

For BT customers, 0844 numbers are charged from 2p to 5p per minute and 0871 numbers at 6p to 10p per minute. For non-BT customers, the rates can be higher than this.

How much more do special services calls cost?

Here are some examples for daytime calls
(pence per minute inc. VAT):

Daytime call pricing (pence per minute including VAT) call type

Local or national call

0845 call

0870 call

BT Unlimited Weekend Plan




Talk Talk

Various talk plans



O2 Pay and Go Original




T-Mobile Combi Plans




BT Payphone (seconds per 10p unit)

40p first 20 mins
10p per 10 mins after



Prices checked July 2009 - check supplier for current position.

Some operators charge a connection fee or apply a minimum call charge, so very short calls can cost more than the amount quoted.

How should I describe cal costs in adverts?

You should not use the terms 'local rate' or 'national rate', or any reference to local or national rates. You should also not use words which could imply a local or national rate (e.g. 'Lo-call', 'low rate', 'national call', 'standard rate').

You do not have to state the cost of calling. If you wish to say anything about cost, the following examples should be acceptable.

0844 numbers and 0845 numbers
Calls will cost up to 5p per minute for BT customers. Calls made using other service providers or mobiles may cost more.

0870 numbers and 0871 numbers
Calls will cost up to 10p per minute for BT customers. Calls made using other service providers or mobiles may cost more.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. For further information, please contact your local trading standards service.

July 2009.

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