News - 2009
 

I'm sure you already know about new proposals by Ofcom that threatened closure of our 0870 service from 1st August. Well that was last month!

Since April, our design team has been working really hard to try to solve this problem for you and they've now come up with a novel and low cost solution. It's been hard work, but worth it!

Call Commission for 0870 Use

From now on you'll be able to use your call commission to pay for 0870 calls. All at the touch of a button. Just go to your account's commission page and in one click you'll instantly convert your commision to prepaid calling credit!

No £250 limit, no Commision Statement, just instant conversion. From that moment on, your 0870 calls will continue to work after the 1st of August!

This is a permanent feature so, if you use other codes for service or help desks, you can use these calls to help pay for your 0870 service, so it's effectively free of charge!

Topup your Credit

If you haven't got much call commission, don't worry! You can topup your call credit with PayPal or any normal credit/debit card. Just go to your commission page and there's another new button. Click it and you'll be whisked to Paypal. Now topup in just a few clicks - in a slick, easy and safe way.

Our 0870 rates are pretty competitive too because there's no monthly fee, no monthly bill and call charges start from just 2 pence per minute for VoIP and 4 pence per minute for ordinary calls.

Better still your 0870 number is even more flexible. Now you can direct your 0870 calls to all UK mobiles and an even bigger range of international destinations!

So 0870 may still have a place in your communciations portfolio. Don't forget it has excellent access from overseas, unlike 0844 and 0871, and has a well established corporate image. Even better, BT and others are already charging 0870 at the same level as ordinary 01 and 02 numbers and Ofcom expects mobile operators to stop ripping-off your customers with their 0870 over-charging. We expect Ofcom to deliver on that promise.

Your Prepaid Credits don't expire - No evaporation!

As Flextel is an ethical company, you won't be surprised to discover that your prepay credits don't expire. You'll also enjoy having no monthly fee or monthly bill to deal with. With Flextel you only pay for the calls you use.

No calls means - no monthy charges. How refreshing!

Free trial of 0870 to VoIP (using SIP)

For those "tech heads" who want to use VoIP (SIP protocol), no problem! Its really simple and you'll also save money. Just enter your SIP address (looks like an email address) into your 0870 number destination. There is no need for prepaid credit, since we're giving it away for at least the next three months, to see if you like it and find out how well you think it works!

By the way VoIP also works on all your other codes e.g. 0844, 0871 and 070 numbers.

What else has Flextel done to help with 0870?

We've been really busy and there's quite a list, but here's a quick summary of the key points...
  1. Changed Number Announcement - free & easy!
    • Look for "Change Number Announcement" in the reroute screen,
    • Select it,
    • Type in the changed number and you're done.
    • This service is planned to be free - indefinitely - There is absolutely no cost to you.
    • It's ideal for those who want to migrate from 0870 to alternative Flextel Numbers.
  2. Voice Mail & Faxmail
    • 0870 calls to voicemail and faxmail services will remain free for now.
  3. Conference
    • You can still use this powerful service on 0870 at highly competitive rates.
    • Remember your callers should soon pay less for calling 0870,
      so you're intra-company conference calls may actually cost you less (e.g.from mobiles),
      but do check prices with your phone supplier, to be sure.

Enhanced Flexibility

Now, using prepaid credits, both 0844 and 0871 can be routed to a huge range of destinations. So they're now as flexible as 070 Personal numbers.

 

0871 changes on 1st August

It's not just 0870 that changes on the 1st August, Ofcom has decided that 0871 numbers should be treated like a type of premium rate number and that they should be regulated by Phonepayplus after the 31st July, 2009.

Although we think this is another daft idea and that Call-Price-Labelling would have been a much fairer and effective solution for consumers and 0871 users alike, regrettably Ofcom just didn't think it through. PhonepayPlus has been landed with this complex job and has only relatively recently finalised the details.

Flextel has already applied to PhonepayPlus and been approved as a "Network Operator". So, if you use 0871 numbers you really should register as an "087 Service Provider", before the 1st August.

087 Service Provider Registration

Although it sounds complicated, PhonepayPlus are keen to make it easy for you. If you are using any 0871 numbers, you simply register as an 087 Service Provider with PhonepayPlus, using their online form. This is a free service. Once registered, you will be emailed your Service Provider Registration certificate with your unique service provider registration number (SPN). This is a 12 digit combination of numbers and letters. Finally you simply log your SPN in your Flextel account(s) and email your certificate to us at ask@flextel.com. That's all you need to do.

Do I need to register my 0871 services?

The "Register your services" section of the PhonepayPlus website is a voluntary part of the process. Technically registration is completed once an SPN is generated and you have sent your certificate to Flextel, as your Network Operator. Registration can be a useful best practice exercise for Networks and their clients to complete - but it is not obligatory for it to be completed. If you feel your 0871 service needs this, then go to the PhonepayPlus registration page and follow the simple guidelines.

Once registered you also need to make sure you understand and follow their Compliance Guidelines. If your use of 0871 is not business-business only, then you must indicate the price of the call to consumers. This can be done on stationery and adverts or by using an announcement at the start of the call. The choice is yours. PhonepayPlus are keen to help you and this is what their Guidelines say:

"Don’t panic! Reading the section ‘What is changing?’ may sound like you’ve got an awful lot to do; but you don’t need to reprint all your stationery overnight, repaint your van and recall any products with your phone number stamped on them. If you follow some simple steps to compliance, the changeover needn’t be a headache at all."

However, you must keep your SPN safe and notify us by entering your SPN in the special box to be found in your Flextel account.

This is a new area for Flextel and for PhonepayPlus and the people there are working hard to adjust their approach for the 0871 market. They're expecting quite a few questions and have been very helpful so far. As we move forward Flextel will work with PhonepayPlus to ensure any teething troubles are ironed out. As long as you use your 0871 in a fair and reasonable manner, you'll have nothing to worry about.

You can be sure the team at Flextel will do their best to give you help and friendly advice. However it remains your legal responsibility to ensure that you comply with the new rules and the only definitive advice available is to be found at PhonepayPlus itself. Flextel cannot give you legal advice in this matter. For more information see our 0871.

Help and Advice

Look out for developing FAQ's over the next few weeks. For instant help on any of the above, please call our team or email Flextel customer support (see details below).

Finally, I wish to thank you all for your continued support, loyalty and helpful advice. Many of you have been very patient, supportive and considerate over a challenging period. I'm always grateful to hear your suggestions and feedback, good or bad, because in constructive critisism you often find a great new idea.

Will Goodall
Founder & Chairman
Email: ask@flextel.com
Main : +44 870 3210 100

PS - About Ofcom's Future

So perhaps Ofcom have done us all a favour? Even though Ofcom's 0870 plans have now turned out to be rather ridiculous, it has made us "up our game". Well perhaps, but I really don't think so. We have just made the best of another damaging mistake, by a bloated, arrogant and out-of-control Quango and we're not alone in our view.

Like Ofcom I also hope that the mobile 0870 overcharging rip-off will stop soon. Ofcom thinks that "there is a good chance that ... our proposals will lead a significant proportion of 0870 calls to be charged at geographic rates". Which in English, is that, with luck, mobile 0870 calls could cost the same as 01 & 02 calls. Ofcom need to make sure this works. So we'll be watching, waiting and writing to Ofcom, at the right time to remind them, just in case those at Ofcom forget about it and simply try to sweep it quietly under the carpet. As if they would!
 
 

As you may be aware, new proposals, made by Ofcom on the 23rd April, threaten forced closure of our 0870 service from 1st August. All our other 08, 07 and Geographic services remain unaffected.

We know that Ofcom have massively underestimated the cost that this closure will have on the many small businesses that rely on 0870 numbers. Although it is now under two months to go, we still have not had any firm wholesale prices from Ofcom. This means that we've no idea what is possible on the 1st August. So on the 3rd June we wrote to Ed Richards, the Chief Executive of Ofcom, about this mess. The other reason why we wrote to him was to explain why we think that Ofcom's changes may not be legal.

Background

After a year of uncertainty, Ofcom suddenly issued its revised statement, delayed for over a year, on the future of the 0870 service, giving users only 3 months notice.

Ofcom also published consultation proposals deciding the new rates for 0870:
http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/resolve0870calls/

The proposed rates, imposed on Flextel by Ofcom, are well below direct costs and appear to slavishly support BT, in its well publicised attempt to destroy the important 0870 market:
http://business.scotsman.com/business/BT-calls-on-Ofcom-to.2642029.jp

The 184 page statement (and 108 page consultation) do not make easy reading to the general public, nor do they clearly highlight what the implications of their proposals will be to businesses using these numbers.

However, once you have waded through the spin and jargon, it becomes clear that Ofcom is proposing rates to the industry that are below cost (i.e. loss making) to all but the few largest operators, like BT. (Ofcom have used an antiquated model, seeded by BT, in their cost calculations and have not factored in the cost of international call extension and the loss of EU and international trading).

Despite the obvious damage done to Flextel and other small operators, mobile operators will still be free to charge what they like for 0870 calls, so consumers will still be unprotected from rip-off 0870 charging.

But what does all this mean to you?

The Ofcom decision means that on 1st August:
  • The 0870 service cannot continue in its present format.
  • 0870 calls can no longer be extended free of charge to UK destinations, Ireland, US or to the many EU countries that are currently supported.
  • In simple terms the free 0870 service, as you know it, will be closed.
  • It is not clear whether porting 0870 numbers is feasible under the new rates.

What can Flextel do to help?

  • Flextel will continue to allow 0870 calls to the Flextel voicemail and faxmail services.
  • Flextel will provide a free Change Number Announcement to allow migration over to alternative Flextel Numbers.
  • A scheme to provide customers with alternative desirable or personalised numbers is being developed.
  • Flextel is working to enable 0870 to VoIP(SIP) destinations, by the Ofcom imposed deadline. This may help some hi-tech customers to continue to use 0870 in a limited manner.

For help on any of the above, please call or email Flextel customer support (see details below).

Responding to Ofcom

Flextel has been actively engaged with Ofcom for a number of years and will continue to battle to create a better and fairer marketplace for all. Our philosophy and previous interactions with Ofcom are available at:
www.flextel.com/ofcom/

Last year Ofcom also had its knuckles rapped by the Competition Appeals Tribunal, and it is likely that a similar appeal may be made against this ill advised and wholly unnecessary intervention. Ofcom is a very young regulator, being just five years old. Like any five-year-old, it is full of enthusiasm, but has much to learn about tinkering with complex life-critical systems.

You will understand Flextel is deeply disappointed that Ofcom has refused to listen to our constructive arguments, failed to protect innovation and appears to remain firmly within the shadow of BT. This is how we objected to Ofcom's latest proposals.

Very recently Ofcom has started implying to some of you, that we have had over two years to warn customers of this closure. This is not the case. We have only known since the 23rd April, about Ofcom's latest proposals. These are significantly different from any prevoius proposal. In simple terms, they offer Flextel (and all other 0870 service providers) even less money than last time. They also have lost the key consumer protection from 0870 overcharging. We have written to Ofcom, warning them that they are misrepresenting the true situation, in a manner that is damaging our business reputation.

Naturally, even though Ofcom's 0870 plans have now turned out to be rather ridiculous, we did expect Ofcom to be sensible enough to either give up or at least allow a reasonable time for you to adapt to its latest "big idea".

All our other services remain unaffected and Flextel holds very significant cash funds, available for investment in the development and expansion of our service.

To be clear Flextel is not in any financial difficulty and has no debt. Indeed, for its size, Flextel holds very significant cash and property reserves spread across a number of banks; an enviable position that BT and other public companies might desire. However, Flextel is not a charity and has no choice but to close its 0870 service, to avoid a good revenue stream from becoming seriously loss making.

Please contact us for free advice on how you might best to deal with this Ofcom-generated challenge.

Finally, thank you all, for your continued support and as always we are keen to hear your suggestions and feedback.

Kevin Archer
Marketing Executive

Email: ask@flextel.com
Main : +44 870 3210 100
 
 
 

As you may be aware, new proposals, made by Ofcom on the 23rd April, will effectively close our 0870 service from 1st August. All our other 08, 07 and Geographic services remain unaffected.

We know that Ofcom have massively underestimated the cost that this closure will have on the many small businesses that rely on 0870 numbers. However, you may still have an opportunity to warn Ofcom of their mistake, by responding to their consultation, outlined below.

The Ofcom Statement

Last week Ofcom suddenly issued a revised statement, delayed for over a year, on the future of the 0870 service, giving users only 3 months notice:

Ofcom has published several consultation proposals for 0870, follow the link below to find out more:
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/0870calls/

The proposed below-cost rates imposed on Flextel by Ofcom, appear to slavishly support BT, in its well publicised attempt to destroy the important 0870 market:
http://business.scotsman.com/business/BT-calls-on-Ofcom-to.2642029.jp

The 184 page statement (and 108 page consultation) do not make easy reading to the general public, nor do they clearly highlight what the implications of their proposals will be to businesses using these numbers. However, once you have waded through the spin and jargon, it becomes clear that Ofcom is proposing rates to the industry that are below cost (i.e. loss making) to all but the few largest operators, like BT. (Ofcom have used an antiquated model, seeded by BT, in their cost calculations and have not factored in the cost of international call extension and the loss of EU and international trading).

Despite the damage done to Flextel and other small operators, mobile operators will still be free to charge what they like for 0870 calls, so consumers will still be unprotected from rip-off 0870 charging.

But what does all this mean to you?

The Ofcom decision means that on 1st August:
  • The 0870 service cannot continue in its present format.
  • 0870 calls can no longer be extended free of charge to UK destinations, Ireland, US or to the many EU countries that are currently supported.
  • In simple terms the free 0870 service, as you know it, will be closed.
  • It is not clear whether porting 0870 numbers is feasible under the new rates.

What can Flextel do to help?

  • Flextel will continue to allow 0870 free calls to the Flextel voicemail and faxmail services.
  • Flextel will provide a free Change Number Announcement to allow migration over to alternative Flextel Numbers.
  • A scheme to provide customers with alternative desirable or personalised numbers is being developed.
  • Flextel is working to enable 0870 to VoIP(SIP) destinations, by the Ofcom imposed deadline. This may help some hi-tech customers to continue to use 0870 in a limited manner.

For the help on any of the above, please call Flextel customer support on 0370 321 1000.

Responding to Ofcom

Ofcom have proposed these changes must happen by 1st August 2009. However, the closing date for responses to the consultation is next Thursday, 7th May 2009.

Details of how to respond are available at:
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/0870calls/howtorespond//

It is Flextel's view that it is definitely beneficial for you to respond to the consultation and make Ofcom aware of how these proposals will affect your business, especially in these particularly challenging times. Do not worry about the closing date, Ofcom always claim to be ready to accept new input. They also claim to be an evidence-based organisation, which means Ofcom shouldn't be driven or confused by the media hype over 0870. So write to Ofcom and, even better, copy your complaint to your MP. Ask him or her to find out why Ofcom isn't taking a balanced view about 0870 and protecting your interest as an 0870 consumer.

Remember, it is only a few months since common sense lobbying by Flextel customers successfully forced Ofcom to rethink proposals for the closure of the 070 service. Ofcom now sees the benefit of the 070 service, not just the complaints about scams, which naturally occur in all markets.

Last year Ofcom also had its knuckles rapped by the Competition Appeals Tribunal, and it is likely that a similar appeal may be made against this ill advised and wholly unnecessary intervention. Ofcom is a very young regulator, being just five years old. Like any five-year-old, it is full of enthusiasm, but has much to learn about tinkering with complex life-critical systems.

Flextel and Ofcom

Flextel has been actively engaged with Ofcom for a number of years and will continue to battle to create a better and fairer marketplace for all. Our philosophy and previous interactions with Ofcom are available at:
www.flextel.com/ofcom/

You will understand Flextel is deeply disappointed that Ofcom has refused to listen to our constructive arguments, failed to protect innovation and appears to remain firmly within the shadow of BT. This is how we objected to Ofcom's latest proposals.

Very recently Ofcom has started implying to some of you, that we have had over two years to warn customers of this closure. This is not the case. We have only known since the 23rd April, about Ofcom's latest proposals. These are significantly different from any prevoius proposal. In simple terms, they offer Flextel (and all other 0870 service providers) even less money than last time. They also have lost the key consumer protection from 0870 overcharging. We have written to Ofcom, warning them that they are misrepresenting the true situation, in a manner that is damaging our business reputation.

Naturally, even though Ofcom's 0870 plans have now turned out to be rather ridiculous, we did expect Ofcom to be sensible enough to give us all a reasonable time to adapt to its latest big idea. However without your help in changing Ofcom's attitude, sadly we have no choice but to admit that Ofcom is just not listening and therefore must plan for 0870 closure now. All our other services remain unaffected. Please contact us for free advice on how best to deal with this Ofcom-generated challenge.

Finally, thank you all, for your continued support and as always we are keen to hear your suggestions and feedback.

Kevin Archer
Marketing Manager

Email: ask@flextel.com
Main : +44 870 3210 100