My Department has several measures in place aimed at reducing the potential cost for telephone callers. This includes the provision of a “Freephone” service for callers to the Homeless Women, Families and New Communities, and Homeless Men’s Units. A dedicated team handles all calls to these services.
Another measure is the use of “LoCall” numbers, operated through the “1890” platform. These numbers, facilitate customers making contact with the appropriate section in my Department at a low cost to the caller, when calling from a landline number. “1890” is just one of a group of non-geographic numbers (NGNs) which are used by a wide variety of service providers in Ireland. The original intention underpinning the use of this facility by my Department was to enable customers to make national calls for the equivalent cost of a local call.
The telecommunications landscape in Ireland has changed significantly since then and I am aware that these numbers were introduced at a time when landlines predominated. As such, I also understand that "1890" numbers do not always result in a cost saving.
My Department is mindful of the cost of "LoCall" numbers for some customers and endeavours to ensure that where “LoCall” numbers are listed on the Department’s website, a landline number is always listed first, ahead of the available “LoCall” number. Furthermore, where “LoCall” numbers are listed on the website, they are accompanied by a notification advising customers that rates charged may vary among different service providers.
Also, it is worth noting that where customers have any concerns about call charges, staff of the Department will always facilitate a call back. Customers may request such a service online/ in writing. All enquiries in relation to a range of schemes can be submitted via this link - www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/secure/GENENQ.aspx.
The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has published the final Consultation and Decision D15/18 (Document 18/106) in relation to five classes of Non-Geographic Numbers - 1800, 1850, 1890, 0818 and 076.
ComReg has introduced two measures designed to address the cost of using such numbers and also tackle confusion among consumers about the differences between the numbers. The changes being introduced by ComReg are:
From 1 December 2019 a call to an NGN number will cost the same as a landline number. No separate charge will apply for NGN calls.
From 1 January 2022, the five NGN ranges will be reduced to two. The 1800(Freephone) and 0818 will remain.
My Department will continue to use measures introduced by ComReg to help minimise the cost to the public of contacting my Department by telephone.