The 070 number prefix is intended to identify those numbers as being “personal numbering” services which enable the holder of the number to be contacted whatever their location. 070 numbers have been widely abused, in particular for scamming purposes, in many cases with consumers believing they are responding to a missed call from a mobile number, which also commences with “07”.
In Ofcom’s statement Raising confidence in telephone numbers, published on 31 May 2007, we announced measures aimed at protecting against such abuses by two principal means:
- first, from 1 September 2007 Communications Providers have been required to provide free pre-call announcements (PCAs) for calls to 070 numbers where either the per minute or the per call charge exceeds 20p so that consumers would be aware of the maximum charges that could apply to such calls;
- second, we reiterated our earlier policy decision from 27 July 2006 to evaluate the long term future of personal numbers by reviewing the situation at the end of 2007. Our original intention was to migrate current 070 services to another number range by the end of July 2009.
Since the introduction of the PCAs in September, Ofcom has received a number of complaints about them. In particular, we have identified certain automated calling services provided on the 070 range designed to protect human life or property, where use of the PCAs has caused these remotely activated calling services to fail because of the dialling delay introduced by the PCA. This potentially endangers the life and security of people who depend on the reliability of such services.
Examples of this would be a personal safety or burglar alarm which, when activated, triggers an auto-dialler to contact a monitoring centre. The reason for the time-out is that in the event that the call is not completed, the unit will automatically disconnect and try again for a set period or a certain number of times. For many such units the duration of the time-out means that after the PCA has been played there is little or no time for the call to be completed before the unit disconnects and retries. Ofcom does not regard the use of such services as falling within the generally understood use of personal numbering services. One option would be to require these applications to be moved from the personal numbering range however, this would require a minimum of several months lead time and not address the risks quickly enough.
Given the risk of such services not working as a result of PCAs, Ofcom has already asked the major fixed line providers to lift the PCA in respect of three 100k 070 number blocks where we have identified such systems as being used. We have taken steps to identify the full extent of the use of such emergency-type service. However, given the widespread use of 070 numbers, and the number which have been allocated, it has been impossible to identify all of them. There remains, therefore, a residual risk which we are unable to eliminate, that there are still emergency-type services in use which we are unaware of.
In light of this risk we have decided that we will withdraw the requirement for PCAs on 070 numbers with immediate effect. We have already asked the fixed line providers representing the majority of users to remove the PCA, and one of the purposes of this statement is to ask all other Communications Providers to do so.
We will in due course undertake a consultation to confirm this decision, which will amend General Condition 17 and the designation of 070 numbers in the National Telephone Numbering Plan. In the meantime we will not enforce these requirements as they currently stand in relation to PCA on 070 numbers.
We continue to have major concerns about telephone number abuse, and remain committed to the identifying and reducing scams and other abuses by appropriate means:
- we will take appropriate enforcement action where we identify abuse on 070 numbers;
- we remind service providers that Controlled Premium Rate Services (“CPRS”) made on 070, rather than 09, numbers are subject to the PRS condition and therefore PhonepayPlus will have the ability to take actions if there are problems (where the call charge is 10ppm or above);
- in line with Ofcom’s earlier statements, we will commence a review into the longer term future of 070 numbers. This will examine the future use of personal numbering services after the ending of the 070 personal numbering range, in particular, action to bring forward the migration of current 070 services.