01 January 1999

CLAIMS MADE by freephone advertisers about the cost of the new changes proposed by Oftel were treated with caution by the Commons Trade & Industry Se-lect Committee. The Committee invited the Freephone User Group to justify its claim that changing 0800 numbers from six to seven digits will cost advertisers £500m. FUG member, John Chaplin, managing director of Dyno-Rod, responded that any number change costs an average of £3,000 per company -’ covering the costs of new stationery, shop signage and vehicles, and notifying customers. For the 100,000 freephone numbers affected by the pro-posed changes, this would total £300m. Mr Chaplin added that many companies had invested huge amounts in establishing their numbers with the public and that a further £200m would easily be spent on advertising the new numbers imposed by Oftel. FUG argues that there is no reason why six and seven-digit numbers cannot co-exist and, following a meeting with the watchdog, was granted a stay during which further meetings and a workshop will take place. Oftel also seeks Government approval for a plan to auction so-called ‘golden numbers’ -’ easily memorable digits that currently change hands privately for between £20,000 and £50,000. Oftel argues that this money should be ‘used for the public interest’.