/ Money

Stop charging us to make financial complaints

Old phone handset

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?

Comments
Member

I would like to know why Ofcom has allowed financial services to continue to use expensive phone numbers. Perhaps it is time to tackle Ofcom and the other regulators that are not doing enough to support consumers.

Member

Ofcom regulates the telecoms industry and the supply of telephone numbers.

It does not regulate users of telephone numbers.

Member

OK. What I should have said is that Ofcom should be pushing financial services to stop using expensive phone numbers. It may not have the authority but it can promote change.

Member

The worst example I’ve seen is Creation which issues credit cards affiliated to a number of organisations such as the travel industry and football clubs. Creation uses a premium rate 0871 number for its customer services department – http://www.creation.co.uk/contact-us.html

0871 numbers are supposed to be regulated by PhonepayPlus but I don’t even see a price warning.on Creation’s contact page.

There is no justification for the use of above-basic-rate numbers by any industry sector. There should be a blanket ban with no exceptions.

Member
Malcolm Evans says:
25 November 2014

Can’t agree more. We have finance for car insurance through them and quite frankly, the customer support as a whole is laughable. Trying to contact them with regards an issue on the account is through their premium 0871 number, which is stated on their website as “no more than 10p a minute” from land lines.

They offer an online service to manage the account, which you can’t actually sign up to as there are always issues with trying to log into after registration and as such, you are then forced to use the premium number anyway.

With APR on the finance taken out applied, and additional charges, why must we then be levied call charges to rectify issues on accounts with customer support?

We will be seeing the remainder of the contract out, as only a couple of months remaining, but then will be seeking an alternative insurance provider who do not use Creation finance and have an underwriter who actually cares about the customer and not just their profits……

Member

Hi all, you might have spotted this today. The Prime Minister today called on the Environment Agency to stop using an 0845 number for its Floodline. This government helpline was charging callers up to 41p per minute. David Cameron said the use of such numbers should be ended ‘as quickly as it possibly can be’.

We also think it’s wrong that families hit by the recent floods are being asked to call high-rate numbers to make an insurance claim.

Our research last year found that 79% of home insurers used 084 or 087 numbers for their customer lines, including Aviva, Churchill and Direct Line. As with the banks, we want the financial regulator to ban insurers from using expensive numbers for customers. Here’s our petition again: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/premium-rate-phone-numbers/insurers-flood-victims-costly-phone-numbers/

Member
Linda says:
23 April 2015

I asked my bank (Santander) for the direct line number for my local branch as I did not want to use the 0845 customer services number. They gave me a number beginning 055 but did not say that this is a premium number. I only found out about this when my mobile phone bill showed a cost of just under £3 for 2 brief calls. I think this is a disgrace and will probably make a formal complaint about it.