Phone numbers with the prefix 40 permanently discontinued

Published: 12 January 2018

The National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) reminds that as of 1 January the so-called “blue number service” can no longer be used, as stipulated in the relevant NMHH Decree. Companies using phone numbers with the prefix 40 had two years to switch to numbers with other prefixes and they usually opted for either a toll-free (“green”) number with the prefix 80 or a landline number with a geographic area code. New contact numbers should be available on the websites of the companies concerned.

The increasing number of consumer complaints previously received about blue numbers led to the NMHH issuing a Decree in 2016 on the termination of this service in Hungary. With the interests of consumers in mind, the phase-out was implemented in two stages. This was necessary because, notwithstanding existing legislation, service providers charged the entire phone call on callers, i.e. subscribers, in many cases, even though the cost of the call should have been split between the calling and the called subscriber. Moreover, multiple rounds of negotiations with service providers did not yield any result.

Numbers with the prefix 40 were mainly used by companies with a large customer base, such as utility companies, banks or businesses producing consumer goods, as customer service numbers. During the two-year transitional period, these numbers were replaced with other numbers, mostly green numbers with the prefix 80 or landline numbers. Consumers may still see numbers with the prefix 40 appearing on companies’ products or in their information materials; in this case, company websites or customer service should be consulted for the new contact details.

History of the blue number

Blue numbers were introduced in 1997 to enable customers, most of whom used landline telephone service at the time, to call those numbers at local rates from anywhere in the country. This was achieved by charging the difference in rate between the long distance and the local call to the called party. With the spread of mobile phones, however, the concept of local call was no longer practical and service providers began to charge various rates, which often resulted in higher rates for blue numbers than any other domestic call. All this resulted in the service losing its very essence, i.e. information exchange at a discounted rate. In addition to changes in calling habits, the decline in importance of numbers with the prefix 40 was also accelerated by the fact that companies today use many other channels to provide access to customer service, including email, online call, social networks or chat services, with the added benefit of being free of charge.