Numbering Review: Report of Market Research Findings
As part of the evidence base for Ofcom’s strategic review of telephone numbering a programme of consumer research was commissioned to provide a comprehensive understanding of attitudes and behaviours associated with UK telephone numbers among residential and business consumers.
Mobile phone handsets are the primary means of storing telephone numbers
1.1 Qualitative research suggested that residential consumers throughout the UK were quite similar in the way they stored and accessed telephone numbers. Eight in ten residential consumers with a mobile phone said that they used the memory facility on their mobile phone to store telephone numbers.
1.2 Fixed line handsets were used less frequently to store telephone numbers. 36% of residential consumers said that they used this method and 54% of business consumers.
1.3 Regularly called numbers such as those of friends and family are often memorised. Residential consumers estimate that, on average, 47% of their calls from a fixed line phone was made by recalling the number from memory.
Consumers tend to over-estimate the costs of calling all number types, but broadly understand the cost hierarchy.
1.4 When asked how much calls to different number types cost, residential consumers tended to over-estimate the cost of calls to all number types. Broadly speaking, consumers appear to understand the relative cost differentials: 64% recognise 0800 numbers as free to call from fixed line phones and estimates of the cost of calling other number types were ranked broadly correctly, with normal geographic landline numbers being perceived the cheapest to call and 09 premium rate numbers perceived most expensive. Consumers made relatively little distinction between prices for calls to 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871.
1.5 There is a clear correlation between estimated call cost and likelihood to call number types. Residential consumers are less likely to call numbers that they perceive to be more expensive to call and/or are unfamiliar to them.
Distinction between fixed and mobile numbers was valued primarily for identifying call costs, but also on a social level.
1.6 There was a mixed response, amongst both residential and business consumers, to the importance of having geographic significance attached to fixed line numbers. 43% of business consumers and 46% of residential consumers said that they would be concerned if the ability to identify location was lost. On the other hand, 39% of business and 37% of residential consumers said that they would be unconcerned.
1.7 Those who appeared to value geographic significance gave a number of emotional and practical reasons for this, including it being ‘nice to know’ and for businesses using it to identify where a customer is located.
1.8 Residential and business consumers were both more concerned (69% and 70% respectively) about the potential loss of the ability to distinguish between fixed phone and mobile telephone numbers.
1.9 The primary reason for valuing the distinction between fixed and mobile numbers was related to identifying call costs. Business and residential consumers felt that this distinction was a key indicator of cost because of the perceived difference in the cost of calling fixed and mobile phones. The distinction was also valued on a social level, as calling behaviours could differ depending on whether a fixed phone or mobile phone is being called.
Numbering changes are inconvenient to residential and business consumers
1.10 The qualitative research found that numbering changes were inconvenient and can be costly to residential and business consumers. Businesses that experienced a number code change in the year 2000 estimated that the cost to their business was an average of around £5,000. Updating stationery and loss of business were the highest estimated costs.
1.11 The costs to residential consumers of a number code change are more related to stress and annoyance than tangible financial costs. 63% of residential consumers said that a local area code change would be annoying and 40% said that it would be stressful. In a hypothetical situation where telephone companies offered residential consumers a one-off payment in return for agreement to change their phone number, residential consumers said that they would have to be offered £600 on average before they would agree.
6 in 10 businesses expressed interest in having a single number for fixed and mobile phones
1.12 The idea of a single personal telephone number for a fixed and mobile phones was more appealing to businesses (59% interested) than residential consumers (38%). A permanent number for employees appealed to two-thirds (66%) of businesses who said that they were interested in this idea.
When prompted, 88% of residential consumers say that they would use information about the cost of different call types
1.13 9 in 10 (88%) residential consumers said they would use information sources about the cost of different call types, with the most popular prompted source being the inside cover of the phone book (64% said they would use this information source).
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