So What Are Universal Toll Free Phone Numbers?


Universal toll free phone numbers, also known as Universal International Freephone Numbers (UIFN), are 800 numbers issued by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The purpose of these numbers is to provide a consistent toll free number that doesn’t change from country to country and is composed of an 800 prefix and an eight digit number.


Watch Out: Universal Numbers Have Heavy Restrictions and Limitations


Although universal numbers are currently available in 65 countries, there are a wide variety of restrictions and limitations in using them for marketing, sales and customer care activities:


  • Not Recognizable – Because of the fixed 800 prefix and number of digits customers may view the universal toll free phone number as a mistake when they see it displayed and not recognizable in a specific locale. Also, some countries may not use 800 prefixes for their toll free services.
  • Not Accessible from All Phones – Common restrictions of universal numbers can differ from country to country.  Restrictions on universal numbers may include not being able to call them from mobile devices, hotels, or coin phones.
  • Not Available on All Networks – Not all carriers carry universal numbers and there may be restrictions in dialing from PBX.


Fortunately, there are other options. By purchasing dedicated local and toll free numbers in the countries where your customers live, you can provide those customers with a number format that is familiar and that they can dial from any phone.  You can then forward calls from all of the different international phone numbers to your central call center—or to any phone you want, anywhere in the world.