UK businesses and consumers will need to update their phone records this Saturday or face dead phone lines or even find their calls diverted to Egypt.
The Big Number change kicks in on Saturday 22 April, changing more than 11.4 million UK phone numbers in London, Cardiff, Coventry, Northern Ireland, Portsmouth and Southampton.
But just a few days before the change, the National Code and Number Change organisation (NCNC) has warned that customers are confused over the specifics of the changes, despite a high general awareness.
"Many people find the code change confusing and are unaware that numbers are changing as well as a code change. We know from previous code changes that people don't learn things until they have to, and that is why the campaign has intensified over the last few weeks," said a spokeswoman for NCNC.
According to research from software provider Number Master, only 20 per cent of businesses feel they are fully prepared for the Big Number change. This is despite 76 per cent identifying that there could be serious repercussions from a reduced customer service.
Changes to numbers means many companies will need to update systems, including call barring, alternative network routing, private payphones, ISDN and call management systems. Stored numbers, both local and national, should also be upgraded to avoid missed or mis-directed calls.
Number Master also claims to have identified a bug when updating a London telephone number using Microsoft Outlook. It claims a number such as 020 7123 4567 could be reformated to read +20 7123 4567 - an international phone number in Egypt.
Steve Thorpe, membership services manager at the Telecommunications Users Association (TUA), said that although he would be surprised if TUA members were unprepared for the number change, he expects that public awareness is much lower.
"Although telecoms and IT managers have been informed, I expect that in large companies the information hasn't filtered down. Not changing numbers can have serious consequences, not just for businesses but also with equipment such as panic and emergency buttons that automatically dial a number," Thorpe said.
For full details of the number changes, visit http://www.thebignumber.co.uk/
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