14 million BT customers will benefit from January 16th with the inclusion of 0870 and 0845 numbers in call packages making them free to call for the first time. The numbers will be free to call for Anytime and also during unlimited period of the Evening & Weekend call plans.
Calls to these numbers have tended to cost more than than standard calls with 0845 numbers aimed at being 'local' rate and 0870 as 'national', however they have traditionally never been included in inclusive calls packages so users always end up paying more to call them. Many people will find that their ISP operate an 0845 or 0870 number along with banks and utility companies for support services and resent having to pay extra to phone them to get a problem fixed. This is made worse by the fact that companies who use 0870 numbers actually receive a small proportion of revenue from the calls.
A long standing consumer campaign, saynoto0870.com, has existed to help users find alternative geographical numbers for companies who use 0845 and 0870 numbers so that the call can be made using inclusive minutes. Ofcom have also reacted to this by bringing in new number ranges such as 03 which are to be charged at the same rate as calling a geographic number and included in call packages for free calls in the same way.
If more providers follow BT and switch to including 0870 and 0845 numbers, then the 03 range may become obsolete as companies prefer not to renumber. One caveat for these numbers does exist- they exclude ISP dial-up numbers (used for modems) and indirect access numbers (used to dial via another provider to make calls).