/ Money

We want to ban all costly customer helplines

Costly calls campaign image

We’ve heard you loud and clear – companies shouldn’t use expensive phone numbers for their customer service and complaints lines. That’s why we’ve launched a new campaign demanding a ban on costly calls.

We were pleased to see that the Consumer Rights Directive would put an end to pricey 0844 and 0871 customer helplines.

However, we weren’t happy that some sectors were being let off the hook. This includes financial services, travel companies and public bodies.

Getting irate about high-rate helplines

If you want to complain to your bank by phone, chances are you’ll have to call an 0845 number. HSBC, Natwest, RBS, Santander, First Direct and Halifax are all prone to this practice. You might need to call the Student Loans Company, the Environment Agency Flood Line or the Redundancy payments service helpline. Yes, you guessed it, more 0845 numbers.

Many of you spotted the missing companies here on Which? Conversation, including Kate:

‘No company should be immune from this, banks and government departments should be included too.’

In our poll, more than 5,000 of you agreed that all companies should scrap high-cost helplines. So we’re calling on the government to extend the ban to the travel industry, for the public sector to lead by example, and for the financial regulator to bring the finance industry into line. You can add your signature to our Costly Calls campaign here.

Paying a premium just to complain

Our research found that three-quarters of us are put off phoning customer services if we have to use a high-rate number, and three in five are put off making a complaint.

It’s outrageous that you’re faced with a high phone bill just to ask a question or make a complaint. It’s no wonder that two-thirds of people think companies do this deliberately to deter them from complaining.

You shouldn’t have to pay a premium to make a complaint or ask for help. We want an end to all costly calls for customer service and complaints, and new rules so that all companies have to provide a basic rate number. There should be no exceptions.


Jak hit the nail on the head. No effective reporting of companies thumbing their noses at the legislation. Instead, the people who are losing money to these people have to go through a third party and receive no follow up whatsoever. I contacted CAB regarding my ongoing issue with Very to be told I had reported it to them and there was nothing else to be done. Also there will be no update on my complaint. ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ springs to mind.

The primary role of the Citizens Advice Consumer Service is to advise you of your rights and how to exercise them. The relevant Trading Standards department may choose to take action in response to the report forwarded by CA and on consideration of the public interest that it serves with a sense of priority.

If Very has refused to pay in accordance with the law, then the fair telecoms campaign would be very interested in drawing attention to this case, especially if CA is failing to advise you accurately.

(It is interesting to note the comments in this conversation seeking central control vs. the individual consumer rights conferred by the regulations, especially given the very clear position taken by Which? on this question.)

Very are just one company. I have taken particular annoyance with them because I was once put on hold for about 15 minutes for no real reason. For sometime I suspected they were extending call times and asked if the company was making money from these calls. I was told they did. Now they say the calls cost the same as a local call. I have tried to get straight forward answers to straight forward questions by email but get disjointed replies. As each email is sent and replied my annoyance increases. I raised the point of 084 numbers being used for post contract calls and no alternative number but they replied that they had looked carefully at the situation and they were correct in using the 084. If you would like I could forward the email correspondence to you so you can see if I am correct in my assumptions or if I am wrong possibly explain how I got it so wrong? Obviously I can’t do any of this within this forum but if you have a web site with contact details on it or an email address I can forward it to, then please let me know. Thanks

This conversation site does not immediately post contributions with links in, so I must invite you to Google for the fair telecoms campaign website. We are happy to respond to all communications.

Just added to the Blog is a media briefing on some of the major companies that appear to remain in breach of the terms of the Consumer Contracts Regulations (including Very).

As an aside I have now received a letter from Very requesting payment of a default charge which if remains unpaid in 28 days the will charge interest at 39.7%. Yet again they urge me to telephone them on 0844 822 4646. Do I ring them? Can I then sue them for the charge incurred by me? I would be more than happy to drag them to small claims court to make an example. I now feel as if I am being harassed into making that call.

Judy Rose says:
24 January 2015

The government told GP surgeries they should stop using 084 and 087 numbers. My surgery promptly introduced a generic number, but has retained the 0844 one, and as it is a very busy practice, the generic number just rings and rings or is engaged most of the time. The 0844 number, on the other hand, has the usual ‘sorry to keep you waiting’ and ‘you are now number 2 (or 3 or whatever) in the queue’. If you really need to get through urgently to cancel an appointment at the last minute for legitimate reasons, or because you urgently need to see or speak to a GP, you have no choice but to hang on, thus incurring expensive charges whether using a landline or mobile. Last time this happened to me, the wait was SEVENTEEN minutes and the call a further FIVE which didn’t do my phone bill any good at all!

A firm of “Financial Advisors”, Positive Solutions of Newcastle is STILL, in June 2016, sending out letters with an 0871 phone number as being the only contact number!!!

Ron says:
15 May 2017

The DVLA post a leaflet through your door if your car is clamped with an 0843 prefix on it .Should they have to also put the call rates that you will be paying on this leaflet to let you know what the charges will be .so that you would think about going to the web site rather than over paying them on the phone charges or is this up to their discretion to leave it off .

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