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Skype offers cut-price phone sex

Premium-rate numbers added to UK speed dials

Skype is slashing the price of premium-rate phone calls made via its broadband-based calling service. From now on, anyone using its VoIP (voice over internet protocol) service to dial a UK number with an 09 prefix will be able to do so for less than if they dialled from a standard analogue landline.

While many British businesses use 09 numbers as a way of recouping the expense involved in providing support to customers or for advice and information lines, Skype cites services such as ‘professional, advisory, counselling and entertainment spaces’ among the sorts of business that depend on an 09 prefix for revenue. It goes on to state that ‘the 09 series is particularly popular’ for ‘the likes of purchasing mobile ringtones and advisory lines such as love, relationships and astrology’.

Skype offers cutprice phone calls via a broadband connection or a wi-fi hotspot to subscribers to its Skype, SkypeIn, SkypeOut and other VoIP services.

Customers fed up with the expense as well as the inconvenience of hanging on a premium-rate telephone line to get through to IT or utility support staff can at least draw heart from the fact that doing so over VoIP will now cost a lot less.

Skype breaks down the premium-rate numbers into five price bands, ranging from 29 pence a minute including VAT for the cheapest number rising to £1.73 per minute for the most expensive calls. To establish how much you might save, you need to enter the number in question into a query box on the Skype home page at http://www.skype.com/go/rates-premium – a neat way for the company to judge interest.

In the interests of research, we found a few 09-prefixed numbers to compare pricing. While we found the site rather temperamental, we were able to establish that of the handful of numbers we were able to get it to register, the savings weren’t exactly breathtaking. And in at least one case, calling the number via Skype actually cost more.

Skype said it would charge us £1.50 a minute (£1.73 per min inc VAT) for both an astrology line and a phone sex line that were in any case advertised at that price. However, for a number advertised online at £1 a minute, the Skype service also said it would charge us its top rate of £1.73 a minute.

Perhaps the moral here is not to be seduced by marketing hype any more than by premium rate phone sex listings. Or perhaps who this service is really aimed at is lonely hearts who find themselves the other side of the globe and keen to hear some, er, words of encouragement from back home.

Parents or business owners concerned about users being able to dial up numbers offering adult content or racking up huge bills are assures that Skype account owners can block access to 09 numbers through their My Account settings.

Of the many VoIP-based setups, Skype is the best known, with 171 million registered users worldwide and online auction house eBay as its parent company.


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