When the UK voted to leave the EU back in June 2016, there was immediate confusion about which laws and directives would remain the same, and which would change in the aftermath of the referendum. The UK is set to leave the EU in March 2019, in this article we will take a look at what changes may occur in the telecoms industry and, more specifically, whether call charges to 0808 numbers will be affected.

Will Brexit affect the telecoms industry?

The main issue in question when it comes to how Brexit will affect the telecoms industry is data roaming charges. The EU brought in a law scrapping mobile roaming charges on June 15th 2017, meaning that citizens travelling within the EU will be able to call, text and browse the internet on mobile devices, and pay the same price they pay at home.

Unsurprisingly, the changes were met with enthusiasm from British travellers, but unfortunately Britain is likely to be dropped from the arrangement once it leaves the EU, with phone operators able to dictate the roaming charges themselves. Three have already committed to keeping roaming free in Europe, but other networks are more equivocal.

Another issue that’s up in the air is the reform of Openreach, the network division of BT. Ofcom wants to make the two companies legally separate, and would need its powers to reform BT confirmed into UK domestic law, to ensure a more independent Openreach that will deliver for its customer base.

What will happen to the EU laws that are in place in the UK?

The day after Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, triggering Brexit, the UK government released details of its ‘Great Repeal Bill’. This bill aims to ensure that European law will no longer apply in the UK. All existing EU legislation will need to be copied across into domestic UK law to ensure a smooth transition the day after we leave the EU. The UK Parliament will then be able to “amend, repeal and improve” the laws as and where needed.

Will any laws or Directives be abolished?

It will be up to Parliament to decide which laws are kept and which are abolished. One Directive likely to be scrapped is the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive. This requires the EU to fulfil at least 20% of its energy needs with renewables by the end of 2020, through the attainment of individual national targets. The UK Climate Change Act has set its own target, and its likely that the UK will instead focus on this.

So, what will happen to call charges to 0808 numbers?

0808 numbers are one of the most recognisable number ranges in the UK, and are free to call from both landline and mobile. Calls to 0808 numbers have always been free from landlines, and since July 1st 2015, they have been free to call from all mobiles too. This ruling was brought in by Ofcom, and therefore would not be affected following Brexit.

But what about the Consumer Rights Directive?

The Consumer Rights Directive is an EU Directive brought in to simplify consumer rights in certain areas, mostly relating to buying and selling. The Directive was passed by the EU in October 2011. and came into force across all member states in 2014. Although the Directive does not affect 0808 call charges directly, it brought in changes regarding which number prefixes can and can’t be used for customer help lines.

The rules apply to all businesses that operate under distance selling regulations, such as mail order and eCommerce businesses, or any business that does not trade directly in person with its customers.

The rules state that all calls made to customer support lines, for example for product queries, customer service or general help regarding a previous purchase, must not cost the customer any more than a call to a standard geographic or mobile number would. This means that the following non-geographic numbers are NOT allowed for customer service lines:

• Premium rate services such as 0871, 0872, 0873, and any numbers starting with 09

• Non-premium rate but service charge numbers such as 0843, 0844 and 0845

• Numbers beginning 0870

The types of numbers that can be used are:

• Geographic numbers, eg. 01, 02, 03

• Any number free to call from a landline or mobile, such as 0800 or 0808

• Any mobile number that starts in 07 What is a Directive?

An EU Directive is a type of legislation ‘directed’ at EU Member States. It gives members an objective that they need to achieve, but it is up to each member to put their own legislation into place in order to achieve this aim.

Will the Consumer Rights Directive be repealed after Brexit?

Luckily for UK consumers, it’s highly unlikely that the Consumer Rights Directive will be repealed. This is because the legislation that the UK Parliament brought in to implement the Directive will still be part of our domestic law.

So 0808 numbers will remain free to call?

Yes, 0808 numbers will still be free to call from landlines and mobile phones. This makes them an ideal choice for businesses who want to come across as trustworthy and reputable. What’s more, they can be directed towards any other phone number, giving the company a national appearance, even if it’s just a local firm.

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