Special Freephone Tariff: Deal agreed to keep call costs affordable for helplines


Helplines have been facing the risk of significant price rises due to wider changes taking place within the telecoms sector.

Following extensive negotiations Helplines Partnership (HLP) proudly announces that a deal has been reached with the support of BT and other significant organisations within the telecoms sector which enables helplines to continue to have access to affordable free to caller (freephone) telephone costs.

“Freephone” means that the service provider pays for the call, rather than the person contacting them. Helplines using these numbers typically support people who are vulnerable, or for whom cost would be a barrier to accessing support. A big price rise could have meant helplines changing to alternative number ranges, reducing provision or even closing altogether.

Wider telecoms sector changes mean that calls to the general 080 number range are likely to become more expensive for service providers. However there is good news for the helplines sector.

Services using the dedicated Special Freephone Tariff (SFT) range will have their call costs capped at 2.1 pence per minute in line with current pricing. SFT numbers (which start 080880) are part of HLP’s established scheme of confidential freephone numbers exclusively for helplines.

HLP recognises the contribution of organisations within the telecoms sector that have worked with us to agree this approach. However, as wider regulatory changes are involved, it has not been possible to have a full solution in place for 1st July. We are working hard with the industry to ensure helplines do not suffer financially while new arrangements are established.

SFT is currently provided through four main providers. Of these, BT has confirmed that its SFT helpline clients will not face a price rise in the interim period. The position for other telecoms companies is less clear and helplines are advised to contact their provider directly for information on pricing.

SFT is recognised across the telecoms and voluntary sectors as a key mechanism to support helplines in delivering vital services. It is only available to helplines that offer socially important services which are free for the caller to access, and run on a not for profit basis. Helplines must have policies in place on safeguarding and confidentiality to be eligible.

For helplines that aren’t on SFT 080880xx numbers, these wider price rises may have an impact on services. Industry sources have indicated that charges for operating freephone numbers could rise by between 1.6 - 2 pence per minute.

HLP has produced a numbering guide for helplines which explores the options available. Helplines which are affected by wider 080 number price rises can get in touch with us directly for more information and to explore eligibility for the SFT scheme.

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