/ Money

Are you still spotting costly 0845 numbers?

Tired man with phone

Customer service shouldn’t cost you a fortune, but some businesses are taking too long to phase out pricey numbers on their customer helplines. Have you spotted any culprits?

It’s two years since the Consumer Contracts Regulations came into effect. On 13 June 2014 companies were prohibited from using pricey phone numbers for customer lines – so why are we still seeing them advertised?

While plenty of companies have been receptive and made the appropriate changes, we continue to spot numbers starting 084 or 087 for customer service lines on posters and websites – calls to these business rate numbers can cost as much as 18p per minute from a landline, and 51p per minute from mobiles.

If you’re contacting a company’s customer service phone line because you have a complaint to make about the level of service you’ve received, or an issue with a product, then having to shell out more of your cash just to resolve an issue is nothing but rubbing salt into the wound.

Are companies aware of the changes?

Are companies doing enough to live up to the change in consumer regulations? It would seem that in some cases, businesses just don’t appear to be aware of the changes.

Just a few months ago a friend got in contact with me after reading our Which? conversation on travel firms flouting costly call rules. He explained how his phone charger had developed a dangerous fire-related fault, so he sought advice via the manufacturer’s Twitter account.

He was advised to ring a premium 0845 number, despite the Twitter page specifically stating that this method of contact was for customer support. After pressing for an alternative, he was only given the option to live chat on their website, or e-mail them instead.

Why so slow?

Going back to travel firms, I’ve frequently spotted premium numbers being displayed on trains on my commute to and from Which? headquarters. Not only are these numbers being listed for customer service, but also for reporting faults with toilets and even security camera systems.

When we pressed on these issues back in August last year, we were told that alternative numbers had been established and that posters would be updated ‘over the coming months’. But this was nearly a year ago – so are some firms taking this seriously enough?

So tell us, have you spotted any premium rate numbers for customer service and support?

Thank you for all of your comments, we’re working our way through the numbers you’ve reported to us. Please do keep them coming. Thank you

S Nash says:
30 June 2016

Here’s a number which has appeared on my latest phone bill: 08459 724724

Kai says:
30 June 2016

So what about the financial services industry? I just spent £15 in the waiting line to UK Forex and had to give up 30 mins without anybody talking with me.
The government press release (from 2014) says the “Financial Conduct Authority is committed to considering whether they should introduce a similar measure on customer helplines for financial services shortly”, and that Which is expecting “the Financial Conduct Authority to introduce similar measures”.
Is the FCA still “committed to considering”? Might they have considered? Where is Which?

I think they’ve done it, Kal. I can’t remember the details but they are buried away in this Conversation somewhere [look for a magenta patterned dinner plate named Ian who is the ultimate expert on the dialling codes and their status]. It is possible that it remains legitimate to charge premium rates for the type of call you were making.

Ian says:
30 June 2016

The FCA regulations were published on 23 July 2015 and came into force on 26 October 2015. FCA document “PS15/19” contains the details and they can be found in Chapter 3.

The FCA thereby extended to banks, card companies and insurers the earlier BIS regulation that already applied to retailers, traders and passenger transport companies.

The BIS regulations were published on 13 December 2013 and came into force on 13 June 2014.

Halifax / HBOS investments, Head office 15 Dalkieth Road, Edinburgh, EH16 9BF
Telephone 08453661513
Fax 08453661514

Tony says:
30 June 2016

The Halifax use 0845 numbers for customer help and advice lines, they must be coining it in!

Yes they still are!😠
BOYCOTT the Halifax now

Take a look at the Halifax website . Nearly all their numbers are 0345 [basic rate] or 0800 [free]. Calls about bank accounts and savings accounts and nearly all regular services are on 0345 numbers. The only 0845 number I could see was for buying pet insurance.

Ian says:
6 July 2016

Branch windows still show the old 0845 numbers. Perhaps various paperwork and maybe cash machines are still showing the old numbers too?

If there is no Changed Number Announcement on the old 0845 numbers, callers will not know there’s a new 0345 number.

Kate says:
30 June 2016

Joie Baby sold a faulty product but then insisted on calling 0844 395 0012.

Despite being told the call was ‘local rate’, it actually cost 51p per minute.

Richard T says:
30 June 2016

Several foreign airlines seem to be ignoring UK regulations…
American Airlines
SAS (Sweden)
Singapore Airlines
All offer 0844 or 0845 numbers, even for after-sales issues.

Nate says:
30 June 2016

£5 phone call to 0844 249 0217 to cancel a subscription to Rock Sound. Their Web Site doesn’t mention any call costs.

this is not the number owner charging you its your tel co, levying surcharges! BT and others started doing this last year…….look at your service provider, they are the ones normally ripping you.

Ian says:
6 July 2016

All 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers are premium rate. Callers pay an additional Service Charge to the benefit of the called party and their telecoms provider. Since 1 July 2015, Ofcom regulations require this charge to be declared in close proximity to the number, everywhere the number is advertised or promoted.

Calls to geographic numbers starting 01 and 02, non-geographic numbers starting 03 and mobile numbers starting 071-075 and 077-079 do not incur this additional charge.

Irrespective of all that, regulations from BIS banned the use of 084, 087 and 09 numbers for after-sales enquiries on 13 June 2014.

Jim C says:
1 July 2016

Although hundreds of businesses have been identified here, it must represent a minuscule fraction of the actual rule breakers out there…

Lowri Beck Meter Reading Services 0845 702 3461 they put a card through my door as I was out. I didn’t use the number, I rang my energy supplier instead.

A sneaky trick by cold callers; they ring, I dont answer- I then retrieve the number via 1471 and call to identify the business. This happened on two occasions (in one day) with different numbers. One of the numbers had a message stating ‘this number is no longer in service’ – minutes after calling me 0845 619 0352.
The other has a recorded message stating ‘ this number does not accept incoming calls’.

Ian says:
2 July 2016

In some ways it is no surprise that premium rate 084 and 087 numbers are not being phased out.

The clamour for many years has been for companies to supply “alternative cheaper numbers”. Supplying an “alternative” number implies an 01, 02 or 03 number but running in parallel with the existing premium rate 084 and 087 numbers – and continuing to advertise both.

What is actually required is cheaper numbers that *replace* the premium rate numbers, with the expensive numbers phased out. Bonus points if the old number plays a Changed Number Announcement for those who are looking at old paperwork and third-party websites that haven’t been updated.

This is the point where I suspect that Which? hasn’t fully understand the finer details of the issue or the implications of exactly what was asked for, rather than what was actually needed.

Quynh says:
2 July 2016

Barclays Bank Plc

I am afraid I find this whole concept a total rip off. We have a national telephone system where the charging has been purposely designed by one company to be confusing and complicated so the end user pays excessive charges without even knowing it.

It should be simple and transparent:
0800 – totally free
0801 – 1p per minute
0802 – 2p per minute
0803 – 3p per minute
0804 – 4p per minute
and so on.

Someone somewhere must be laughing his cotton socks off at the whole concept of ripping of consumers so completely. I personnally think he/she should be in prison.

Ian says:
3 July 2016

There are a number of flaws with such a system.

The main one is that it would not release enough numbers at some price points while other price points would go completely unused.

However, the major problem would be the effect of inflation on prices over time. Are you saying the companies would have to keep on changing their number?

I would challenge your comments:

a) When everyone could see the total rip off, then they would stop going for special numbers and become more honest.

b) The cost of phone calls have steadily dropped over the years so inflation is certainly not a problem .

The telephone service should be for society not BT. Have you looked at their ridiculous price list ?

Ian says:
3 July 2016

The whole point of 084, 087 and 09 numbers is that on top of paying your phone provider for connecting and conveying the call, you are also paying an additional amount to the organisation that you called and their telephone provider. This payment is for the delivery of a chargeable service paid for as the call is being made. Ofcom’s reforms effective 1 July 2015 separate out the two components for all to see.

Regulation from BIS bans the use of these numbers by retailers, traders and passenger transport for post-sales enquiries. Regulation from the FCA bans the use of of these numbers by financial services for contact by existing customers. Guidance from the Cabinet Office effectively bans the use of these numbers by government departments and their agencies and by public services in general. Directions to NHS bodies from the Department of Health and contact changes for GP practices, dentists, opticians and pharmacies ban the use of these numbers for healthcare services.

Usage of these numbers for inappropriate purposes is in rapid decline. These numbers are returning to usage by genuine chargeable services, but are also home to a number of scams.

BT doesn’t really figure in all of this. Less than 45% of all calls made, orginate from a landline. Less than 40% of the calls that originate from a landline, originate from a BT landline.

Ofcom’s reforms have led to some simplification:
01, 02, 03 – inclusive, else ‘geographic rate’.
071-075, 077-079 – inclusive, else ‘mobile rate’.
080 – free to caller.
084, 087, 09 – Access Charge plus Service Charge.

Inclusive calls do not include numbers in CI or IoM.
055, 056, 070 and 076 numbers are non-standard and Ofcom is likely to reform these, perhaps next year.

BT’s price list is huge. It includes residential, business, payphones, mobile, international, internet, line rental, repairs and many other things.

Lloyds Bank credit card division

Pat says:
4 July 2016

0844 848 5848 Calls to this number (for Auto Train services in France) cost 7p per minute plus phone company’s access charge. They also charged a service fee on top of making a booking which took 45 minutes to complete.

Homebase still at it: 0845 640 7589

South Staffordshire Water use 0845 numbers for several departments.

“If your enquiry is urgent, please call us on 0845 60 70 456 and a member of our customer service team will help you” it says. Need a water meter, well that’s 0845 45 67 063.

I did think about making a complaint, but guess what, “If you want to make a complaint about South Staffs Water please call us first on 0845 60 70 456 and a member of our customer service team will aim to sort out your issue”.

The Co-operative Bank may be offering an incentive to join their bank but you’ll need them to pay for the 0345 numbers you have to call them on (up to 40p per min on mobiles)

Easier to walk in to a branch.

Ian says:
6 July 2016

Calls to 03 numbers are inclusive on landlines and mobiles, else charged at ‘geographic rate’ – the same as whatever you already pay to call family and friends on 01 and 02 numbers. The call price is set entirely by the callers landline or mobile provider and revenue sharing is not permitted

The usual way to pay for calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers is by purchasing a monthly allowance covering all of the calls you will make. This applies on landlines (e.g. anytime unlimited calls for around £8 per month on BT or Sky, the latter also including calls to mobile numbers) and on mobiles, both on contract (e.g unlimited calls for £20 per month ) and on pay-as-you-go (e.g. 200 minutes for £5, or 500 minutes for £10, etc).

If you choose to pay a per-minute rate for these calls this could be anywhere up to 12p per minute from a landline or up to 45p per minute from a mobile. You only need to make about 15 minutes of calls per week from a landline or 15 minutes of calls per month from a mobile, for an inclusive allowance to work out cheaper.

Phone providers offer a variety of different deals for calling landline numbers, 03 numbers and mobile numbers. It is down to the caller to get on the best deal that fits their pattern of usage. Why pay £45 for 100 minutes of calls at 45p per minute when a £5 top-up could give you 200 minutes? At that price it is utterly irrelevant whether you use all of the inclusive allowance or not.

Trevor Jones says:
6 July 2016

BT Billing Queries are 0845 600 6156. I had some issues over a new account for my business and have spent a bout £25.00 to sort it out. Really galling especially as BT made the problem in the first place. After much discussion I have obtained some compensation so we are quits. But why charge so much to resolve problems.

S Nash says:
7 July 2016

Capel Manor College
08456 122 122

Can I suggest that those who encounter costly numbers ring up the company or other organisation and ask for them to be changed. I have had reasonable success doing this and also having the term ‘local call rate’ removed. I have had most success with small companies, which have sometimes acted immediately and least success with large ones. It took a bit of correspondence to sort out Maplin and I don’t know if it was my efforts that resulted in the change a couple of weeks later. A brief email to Electrical Safety First, a charity, was all that was needed for them to update the 0844 number shown in routine emails about recent recalls.

As Ian has pointed out, much of the problem is out of date information, so it is worth checking websites before calling. The costly number may not be in use, as has been explained, but it may be wise to look up an alternative number in case the costly one is still active.