The use of costly numbers for customer service and complaints lines has been banned in many sectors. So why are financial providers excluded? We’re calling on the Financial Conduct Authority to act.
You can’t help but wonder whether forcing customers to pay through the nose to make a complaint is a ploy to deter them from doing so.
Companies, of course, have various arguments for why they need to use expensive 084 and 087 numbers for their customer service and complaints lines. But the fact remains that plenty of companies don’t use them, so people just don’t buy the arguments any more.
Costs vary enormously
The cost of calling these numbers varies wildly; for example, your mobile provider could charge you anything up to 41p a minute. If you have no idea what you’re going to pay – and plenty of us don’t – that’s all the more reason not to call.
More than 65,000 of you joined our Costly Calls campaign for helplines to be on basic-rate numbers. December saw two major changes. The government got embarrassed about its own use of costly numbers for helplines, issuing guidance to departments not to use them for key public services, particularly those for vulnerable people or people on a low income.
It also announced that travel companies would be covered by the Consumer Rights Directive, which bans the use of costly helplines. From June, these firms won’t be able to charge premium rates if you want to call their customer services and nor will shops – high street or online – as the rules also apply to them.
Financial services excluded
But the rules don’t cover financial services, the industry probably most famous of all for generating complaints. Which? research last November found that nearly three quarters of 242 customer service or complaint lines for financial firms, including high street banks, were expensive 084 or 087 numbers. The list of shame included HSBC, Lloyds Bank and Nationwide.
We’ve called on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to act. It says it would prefer companies to change voluntarily, but we believe this is going to take too long.
Our campaign has won over Barclays and Barclaycard, which have agreed to change their helpline numbers, as has RBS and TSB, but there are plenty of others which haven’t.
The FCA just needs to require all financial companies to do what these banks have already done, so why doesn’t it do so?