Toll-free 0800 or "freephone" numbers are anything but free for UK cellphone users. 0800 numbers are currently free on landlines but billed as premium calls on mobile phones, incurring charges of up to 21p (about $0.33 US) a minute. A new proposal by regulatory agency Ofcom, however, would remove these charges, requiring cellphones to be treated the same as landlines. The 116 freephone prefix, used for helplines across Europe, would also become free for UK mobile customers, and the fees for paid lines (like TV show voting hotlines) would need to be spelled out more clearly.
Once finalized, the proposal won't take effect for some time. Ofcom is currently taking comments, and expects to have a final draft by the end of the year. After that, the agency expects an 18-month transition period while companies change their billing systems and advertising. For cell users, though, this proposal would remove one of the major barriers to cutting out the landline altogether. Combined with Ofcom's ongoing reduction of mobile termination rates (the fee charged when cell customers call a phone from another carrier), it could go a long way towards eliminating the extra charges that make mobile phone adoption less attractive.