Friday, December 19, 2008

1890 and all that: Avoiding "LoCall" charges

The Irish telephone systems uses a "1890" number, sometimes called a "LoCall" number, to apply local charges to calls which may not be local. The rough US equivalent would be to allow people to call a long-distance number as if it is a local call within your area code. The problem is that 1890 is a "non-geographical" number (doesn't include an area code) which is billed differently from "geographical" (including area code) numbers. Typically, Irish mobile phone minutes or "all you can call" plans do not include 1890 numbers, so you have to pay for them seperately.

I used the "LoCall" 1890 numbers over the summer to use an international calling card from Ireland. I had assumed that the calls would come out of my prepaid Vodafone airtime minutes, as local calls do. But, no. The 1890 calls all showed up on my Vodafone bill, quite expensive.

Each 1890 number must map to an actual local phone number. What if you just call that number? It turns out that the problem is finding that local number. But, I was happy to see that there is a site called "SayNoTo1890" which allows you to find the non-1890 equivalent.

Aside from my Vodafone mobile bills when I am in Ireland, the 1890 situation is especially important to me because (a) I can't call 1890 numbers from outside of Ireland, and (b) My calls to Irish local numbers are free under my Vonage phone plan.

Today I needed to phone Quinn Healthcare in Ireland, but only their 1890 number was on their Website, and I could not find my Irish health insurance card. So how do I phone the 1890 number from outside Ireland? The solution was to look up SayNoTo1890 and find the Quinn Healthcare entry. I then called that number (in Fermoy, north County Cork) for free.

PS: You know what would be a neat iPhone or Blackberry or Nokia/Symbian application? An application which would simply map the 1890 number to the local number.

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