IGNORING VIGOROUS protests from MPs, marketers and other business people, Oftel has ridden roughshod over their objections and is to press ahead with the introduction of new telephone numbers as from April 2000.

The controversial decision was taken despite criticism by the Trade and Industry Select Committee that the arguments for change were 'not convincing' and some of the proposals 'wrong'. Direct marketers, however, will be relieved to learn that whilst other codes are subject to change, the 08 and 09 prefixes are to be retained respectively for freephone and premium rate numbers.

Only four years after the nationwide introduction of the 01 code, new prefixes (02 and 03) will be allocated as from next year to London, Northern Ireland, Cardiff, Coventry, Southampton and Portsmouth. A further fourteen unnamed UK towns and cities will probably be required to change prefixes by 2005, and seven more by 2012. Codes 04/05/06 will be allocated to phase-two changes. Code 07 has been reserved for mobile phones and pagers.