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MONEY

The Spanish phone numbers to avoid if you don’t want to be overcharged

Calling certain phone numbers in Spain can result in nasty surprises on your phone bill. Here are the Spanish phone prefixes that tend to overcharge as well as other useful tips to avoid these numbers.

man in Spain calls expensive phone number
There are ways of recognising which Spanish numbers will charge you extra for making a call. Photo: Joshua Woroniecki/Pixabay

One of the most common surprises you can get on your Spanish mobile phone bill is an extra charge which falls outside the tarifa plana (flat fee) conditions of your contract, linked to a phone call you made to a particular number. 

These are usually numbers with a special pricing prefix (prefijo de tarificación especial). 

They don’t start with a 6 as is the case with most mobile phone numbers in Spain and they don’t have the three-number provincial landline prefixes which start with 9 but are never followed by a 0, as seen in the map below. 

So which phone prefixes should you watch out for?

According to Spain’s top consumer watchdog OCU, they usually start with a 9 or an 8 and are then followed by a 0 (zero).

If you’re having to call special pricing prefixes in Spain often it may be advisable to speak to your phone company to see if there are more suitable contracts for you, or instead use a pre-paid sim card to keep a closer check on expenses.  

You are also able to block your phone from making calls to these ‘special’ prefixes.

With Movistar this is done online from your user profile, for Orange you have to call 1470 and Vodafone users usually have these numbers blocked by default on their contracts.

800+ numbers

Calling a phone number with the prefix 800 is actually free but  numbers higher than that can come with a high extra charge. They are phone lines in which a service is provided during the call, with your company and the company providing the service each charging extra.

803: Adult services 

806: Entertainment services such as gambling or tarot.

807: Professional services such as doctors or consultancy companies.

Tip: Checking the fourth number can give you an idea of whether the phone call will cost you. If the fourth number is 0 or 1, calls from the mobile cannot have a price higher than €0.65 per minute. If the fourth number is higher than 6, you must have expressly authorized your phone company to allow you to access this type of ultra-expensive services. Each minute will cost you from €1.3 onwards.

And there is no fixed maximum limit, it can be the one decided by the company that offers you the service.

900+ numbers

Calling a number starting with 900 is also free and is often used by companies for customer service purposes. 

901: Normally it is used by Spain’s Public Administrations, the Tax Agency or Spain’s Social Security. Dialling a 901 number will result in you paying part of the call. And it isn’t cheap. OCU’s table below shows the rates for a five-minute call with different phone companies in Spain, for both landline (fijo) and mobile (móvil) numbers.

902: People who dial this prefix must pay the full cost of the call, which works out to be roughly €3 for a five-minute call from a mobile and €1 from a landline.

905: These numbers are used for televoting services although a fixed amount is paid per call as it’s a special rate.

907, 908, 909: These phone numbers are used by companies that connect to the Internet to provide a service, although it must be expressly approved by the customer.

READ ALSO:

118 numbers 

118 numbers are over-the-phone guidance services that vary in price.

According to a report by Spain’s National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) the average price for a one-minute call was €5.56.

To avoid surprises, certain measures have been adopted by Spanish authorities such as being informed previously that 118 numbers cost extra, a ten-minute limit on calls and if the call costs more than €2.5 euros callers must be informed.

OCU has requested that phone calls to these numbers are by default blocked for phone contracts.

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For members

ENERGY

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain. 

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