01 February 2000

PLANNED CHANGES in the 0800 and 0500 freephone numbering system have been dropped by Oftel following intensive lobbying by telemarketers.

The changes were purportedly necessary because of a shortage of 0800 numbers. However, the watchdog now plans to reclaim blocks of unused numbers from BT and offer them to businesses.

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, which claimed the changes would cost its members millions of pounds in lost business, welcomed the news: 'It was evident all along that Oftel; had underestimated the scale of the problems a change would have created. Advertisers have invested heavily in the promotion of 0800 numbers and many place 'golden numbers' at the centre of their long term customer service and marketing strategy.'

The watchdog is also seeking legislative changes to enable 'golden numbers' to be bought and sold on the open market.