ComReg wants overhaul of ‘lo-cost’ phone numbers

The telecommunications regulator has proposed that all 1850, 1890, and other non-geographic numbers should be charged at the same price as calls to a geographical number in future.

It follows concern expressed by ComReg about the lack of awareness among many phone users about the different uses of the various so-called ‘lo-cost’ numbers and how much they cost.

ComReg is to carry out a review of the use of non-geographic numbers (NGNs)

of which there are five classes — 1800, 1850, 1890, 0818, and 076. They are used to provide a range of telephone services such as charity helplines, telephone banking, marketing campaigns, information services and customer inquiries for utility companies.

ComReg has signalled that it also wants, over time, to reduce the number of NGN classes from five to two.

It is proposing to phase out the 1850, 1890, and 076 numbers in the next two to three years to retain just the 1800 freephone and 0818 “universal access” classes.

1850 numbers are based on a shared cost between the caller and service provider with the phone user charged on a per call basis. 1890 numbers are similar except callers are charged on a per minute basis. 076 numbers, which were introduced to facilitate making calls over the internet, are also charged on a per minute rate.

Calls using NGNs on mobile phones can cost up to 45c per minute. Research carried out on behalf of ComReg showed that the cost of NGN calls was not sufficiently transparent with tariffs for calls made from mobile phones particularly high.

ComReg said the NGN platform was not working effectively for either consumers or the organisations which use it to provide services. It has proposed two measures to address the situation — the retention of 1800 as a freephone number and the introduction of a pricing tariff for the other four NGNs.

ComReg is suggesting 1850 and 1890 calls would cost the same as an equivalent call to geographic numbers such as the Dublin 01 or Limerick 061 numbers and wants calls to NGNs included in consumer bundling packages.


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