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MPs SCEPTICAL ABOUT FREEPHONE COST CLAIMS

News, 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’.