The ECJ rules that all post-contract telephone numbers for consumers must be basic rate numbers

The ECJ has recently ruled that all post-contract telephone numbers offered to consumers must not be charged at more than the basic rate (see Starman AS v Tarbijakaitseamet (Case C-332/17) EU:C:2018:721 (13 September 2018)).

Article 21 of the Consumer Rights Directive (2011/83/EU) (the "CRD") states that each member state must ensure that "where the trader operates a telephone line for the purpose of contacting him by telephone in relation to the contract concluded, the consumer, when contacting the trader is not bound to pay more than the basic rate". Article 21 of the CRD was implemented in the UK under Regulation 41 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/3134) (the "CCRs").

It has been an open point whether businesses could offer premium rate numbers in addition to the basic rate number eg, a basic rate number if the consumer is calling by landline, but a premium rate for mobile calls. The implementing guidance to the CCRs issued by the Department for Business Skills and Innovation states that provided there is a number available on which the consumer can call at no more than the basic rate, a business could additionally offer premium rate alternatives.

The ECJ's recent ruling means that any consumer-facing businesses should ensure that they do not offer any premium rate numbers for post-contract enquiries.

Finally, any businesses that offer premium rate numbers for pre-contract enquiries should bear in mind the requirements of UK Calling to specify the access and service charge applicable to each call.

For more information, please contact Robert Turner

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