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Difference between toll free and local numbers

Published in Customer service phone numbers

A question we often receive at customer service: should we register a virtual local phone number or a toll-free phone number? What is better for business? The answer to this question: it depends.

It depends on what type of organization you are. What are your business objectives? In this article we will provide guidance to come to the right decision for your business.

Importance of leads, competition and projected customer lifetime value

How much is a potential new customer worth to your business? How competitive is your market? And what is the projected customer lifetime value?

An example where a 0800 toll free phone number is a no brainer is a law office. A law office is nothing without new cases coming in every day for the lawyers to work on. There is a lot of competition in legal. And 1 successful case can lead to tens of thousands of Euro's revenue.

Therefore it can be argued that a 0800 phone number is an absolute must for a law firm.

Also businesses where calls almost always mean a new order merit a 0800 phone number. For example, pizza delivery chains or taxi companies.

Regional versus nationwide

For businesses that operate nationwide a 0800 phone number makes the most sense. This phone number is not tied to any city or region. It will appeal to potential customers in all parts of the country.

A local area phone number kind of limits your business to a certain area. Not very useful if you have ambition to play on a national level.

But: if proximity to the customer is important to your line of business like (for example) a plumber then a local landline number makes sense. The potential customer recognizes immediately that your business is in his or her direct vicinity.

If you run a multi-location business then it is good to know that you can register multiple virtual local landline phone numbers. For example if you run a pest control firm with establishments all over the UK you can register a London 204 phone number, a Liverpool 151 phone number and a Manchester 1618 phone number all at the same time. You you can forward these phone numbers to any other phone number you want. This can be at your company headquarters. Or in corona times of working at the homeoffice also to the home of yourself or employees. In this way you can portray a local presence anywhere.


Toll free phone numbers usually cannot be reached from abroad. Thus toll free phone numbers are only relevant for national use. In some cases toll free phone numbers can actually be called from abroad, but the toll free condition ceases, and thus foreign callers will actually be charged. Which defeats the purpose of a toll free phone number in the first place.

Do international toll free phone numbers exist? In short: no. There was an initiative to create a European toll free phone number. But it stranded. It proved to be too difficult to realize. In case of failure who is responsable? Therefore 0800 phone numbers are only really useful on a national level. But of course we can register and activate multiple national toll free phone numbers. For example a British 0808 phone number, a German 0800 phone number and a Spanish 900 phone number can all be purchased and run from 1 account at Belfabriek.

Local phone numbers can be called from abroad when callers add the prefix of the given country. So for example, if you have a London 204 phone number, then the phone number that potential customers can call from abroad: +44 204 xxx xxx.

Cost for the number holder

Obviously toll free phone numbers are more expensive to operate for the organizations operating them. The number holder pays the whole calling rate.

Traffic charges approximation:

7 cents per minute peak

5 cents off-peak

4 cents per call

When delivered to mobile: 14 cents per minute surcharge. Settlement per second.


As you can see both types of phone numbers have their benefits and drawbacks. Toll free phone numbers are the best choice for companies that operate in industries where customer lifetime value is high, competition is fierce and/or almost every call means a sale. Toll free phone numbers are very suitable for national operating organizations. Toll free phone numbers due to their positive reputation are also the best choice for organizations like charities.

Local landline phone numbers on the other hand are ideal for businesses where proximity to customer is paramount. And for companies looking for a more economical business phone number to operate.

Whichever number you pick: functions like call recording, a phone menu, caller waiting queue, the ability to forward calls to any other phone number, and so forth are always included for free. Other providers charge extra for these useful functions. But Belfabriek wants to keep business telephony simple and transparant.

Do you still have questions? Feel free to contact us !

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