/ 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.

Comments
Steve says:
6 September 2013

Yes I would like to agree, these 0845 (to the job centre’s, is Descustin,People out of work, trying to rejester, having to Hang on and Liston to the repeated recording, For 20 to 45min’s, IS not Right, The GUV KNOW what they are doing is Rong, You take the averig joe,Mobile phone, Knothink is Free, even 0800’s numbers, WHY do the Guv, treat there own people like THIS??

Which? / Patrick, please introduce a spell checker ASAP.

If you use Google Chrome, it has a built in spellchecker

My son as a student with only a mobile phone spent a fortune trying to sort out payment and billing with Thames Water. He was sharing a house with several other students – whatever they were offering didn’t suit their circumstances.

Regulation 6(1)(c) of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 requires businesses to provide an e-mail address in order to be contacted by customers; there is no exemption for financial services or passenger transport sectors. In view of this precedent regarding another communication method, why should any sector be exempt from Regulation 39 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 (Article 21 of the Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU)? There should be a blanket ban on this unfair commercial practice with no exemption whatsoever.

British Airways has two contact numbers for its UK call centre – 0844 493 0787 from the UK and 0191 490 7901 from outside the UK. It offers the latter number because 0844 numbers can be problematic when dialled from abroad. If a caller attempts to dial 0191 490 7901 from a line with UK outgoing caller ID (even while outside the UK, e.g. from a UK roaming mobile), British Airways blocks the call and advises the caller to redial on 0844 493 0787. This is because British Airways is using the 0844 numbers as an additional revenue stream, which it does not want to lose. I get around this restriction by withholding my number.

Wizz Air operates a full premium rate number 0906 959 0002 which costs “77 pence per minute plus network extras”. It similarly operates premium rate numbers in all of the countries in which it operates, so the above workaround with British Airways is impossible with Wizz Air.

Ryanair’s UK telephone number for reservations is a surcharged number 0871 246 0000, and for customers experiencing technical problems with Ryanair’s web site (e.g. checking in online), the number is a full premium rate number 0905 566 0000 costing £1 per minute.

Heathrow Airport’s main telephone number is a surcharged number 0844 335 1801. There is no business justification for an airport with a specific location to have a non-geographic telephone number and certainly not a surcharged number. Although some national businesses choose to have a non-geographic number (e.g. in the non-surcharged 03 range) because they do not want to be associated with a specific part of the country, this rationale could not apply to Heathrow Airport. Clearly the reason for the 0844 number is to generate additional revenue from users of the airport.

Airline passengers should not have to pay a premium to speak to an airline or an airport, particularly if the call is necessitated by a technical fault in the airline’s web site or if the call is about a complaint. The abuse of these numbers by passenger transport services is worse than in other sectors. Consequently there is no justification for passenger transport services to be exempt from Regulation 39 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 (Article 21 of the Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU).

The fair telecoms campaign is delighted to welcome Which? on board to join us in pressing for the regulations arising from the Consumer Rights Directive to be implemented fully.

The campaign “asks” note that financial services and the public sector are outside the scope of these BIS regulations and must be addressed separately (by the FCA and Cabinet Office). I am sure that Richard understands this from our briefing, and that the confusion in his comments above arises from trying to keep things simple.

The campaign “asks” also address the exclusion of public transport services from the draft regulations. I am sure that Which? would join us in calling for the unnecesary exclusion of Gambling, Vending Machines and Roundsman to also be reversed when the final version of the regulations is presented for parliamentary approval, probably in November.

Some of the campaign notes refer to the exclusion of “timeshare and package travel”. These will be addressed by other parallel regulations arising from a separate EU Directive.

One specific area of interest is the NHS, where a ban on use of 084/087 numbers has already been introduced (in 2009/10). We are currently working with NHS England on a new enforcement policy for GPs, following the NHS re-organisation. Announcements will be expected soon. Work on enforcement measures for hospitals and other bodies providing NHS services will follow. Campaigners have also succeeded in getting the NHS Choices website to highlight all cases where expensive (084) numbers are being used.

We await news on the implementation of the Ofcom transparency measures, long expected, but still being opposed and contested by EE. VIsibilty of how much of the call charge is going to the person you are calling, and how much is being retained by your telephone comapny, will not only be of interest, but will press true accountability on each party. We wonder if EE customers would like to know that when they call a 0845 number at 40p per minute, only 2p per minute is being passed on to the organsiation they are calling! The 38p per minute being retained by EE does not justify the 2p, indeed that is what provides EE with the opportuity to take advantage of the situation. That is what is happening at present, EE is opposing and contesting measures that would bring it out into the open. (It would be good to have the support of Which? for the implementation of the Ofcom measures.)

Apologies if some of material coming out from Which? is not yet fully on the point and not properly across all the different aspects of the successes already achieved. Some of our breifings have been very effective, but we have not yet had the time to cover the whole of the Which? team. We hope that there is no reluctance to be seen to be taking forward campaigning successes achieved by others. There need be no shame in being seen to be a valued part of a wider campaigning community.

The fair telecoms campaign notes the apparent impression that companies use 084 numbers deliberately to discourage complaints or enquiries. It is easy to see how that impression may be gained, as indeed it can have this effect. We must however disassociate ourselves from any implied or explicit allegation that this is the motivation behind selection of these numbers. If this were presented as an allegation, it is a very serious matter and must be supported by evidence of such an intention. Our case is quite strong enough, we must not damage it by overstating it.

The above points are made only for detailed clarification.

It is great to have Which? in support of our efforts on these issues, as indeed we are now coming together on the issue of nuisance calls, having shared a table giving evidence to parliament last Tuesday. We look forward to working together and sharing success.

David Hickson
fair telecoms campaign

David, who do you represent, I’m not sure I know about your fair telecoms campaign.

Why should any sector be excluded from the legislation – I don’t understand why it should be acceptable to pay exorbitant charges to contact any company with a complaint about their service or why we should have to wait more years for further legislation to correct this in the excluded sectors. As a consumer, it makes little difference to me if I have to pay excessive charges to phone Ryanair or Sky about their poor service. Paying excessive charges are the problem not the sector.

Thanks for the questions, Figgerty.

The fair telecoms campaign is a campaign group that works on issues of concern, focussed on the specific measures necessary to secure change for the better in seeking to represent the public interest in the widest sense. We are delighted to have inspired the “Which? Costly Calls Campaign”.

Unlike us, Which? campaigns as a delegate of a particular group of people, exclusively as a representative of their interests, as expressed specifically. I understand that this is why Which? feels it necessary to obtain confirmation that its constituency would prefer to pay less for telephone calls, before it can join us in pressing to secure the corrections to the regulations and the extension of the same principle to other areas.

It appears perverse that the regulations, currently published in draft, are so narrow in their coverage of the telephone number issue.

They derive from a particular EU Directive that addresses many different aspects of Consumer Rights. Some of these are addressed by other Directives covering particular sectors. Some may not be appropriate to certain sectors for some member states – hence the option for exemption.

Our government is very sensitive about doing anything more with EU Directives than the minimum demanded by the terms of existing treaty obligations. It is especially concerned about the danger of what is called “gold plating” – i.e. extended the provisions of any regulation beyond what is essential. It is likely that every opportunity for exemption has been taken, simply on a point of general principle. We are working to find the way of removing application of this principle from a case where it produces a wholly inappropriate effect.

Careful work is required to ensure that the processes of government are attuned to produce the right result. BIS regulations cannot possibly provide a means for addressing the situation for the government itself, the rest of the public sector and contracted providers of publicly funded services – this is very successfully being pursued by other means. For various reasons, regulation of the financial services sector is handled separately from those involving other types of products and services – this too must therefore be addressed separately.

It is absolutely true to say that issues involving telephone contact (this also applies to the issue of Nuisance Calls) may be common across a wide canvass. It does not however follow that regulatory intervention is best undertaken centrally by a single body. The issue of nuisance calls is a good example of how dealing with it through a central body has failed. This is why we are now pressing for a change of emphasis and hoping that Which? will also eventually join us on this issue also. (We presented quite different positions when giving oral evidence together to the parliamentary Committee last Tuesday).

I hope this is helpful.

P.S. If you, or anyone else would like to make direct contact, please do so through the campaign website.

So, you ‘represent the public in the widest sense’. What does that mean? I know that Which? represents consumers and Which? members are not shy in voicing what irritates them and what needs to change. I am getting hacked off with people telling me that certain sectors should be treated differently – very hacked off indeed. I do not want to be put off calling a company to complain because their charges are too high. Something must be done NOW when we have the opportunity.

Which? and its members had the opportunity to respond to the public consultation on the implementation of EU Consumer Rights Directive over 12 months ago. That is when the best opportunity to deal with the exemptions existed. Is one to assume that this was passed over so that members could get hacked off and irritated on finding that the exemptions remained a whole month after the regulations had been published in draft?

We do still have the opportunity to get some changes made, however it is now too late to get HM Treasury involved with the BIS regulations. I am pleased that Which? accepts this point and has now joined with our campaigning efforts. There will never be an opportunity for BIS regulations to cover DWP and the Home Office. Which? is not campaigning specifically on what the Cabinet Office should do after last Monday’s PAC session.

There are many who agree that an MP serving his/her consitutents, a charity appealing for support, an energy company offering its customers a better tariff and an offshore agency collecting names and numbers to sell as potential claimants for accident damages or PPI refunds should be treated in exactly the same way. That is presently the view of Which?. We argue that only the latter should be totally prohibited from using the telephone – I am disappointed that anyone is “hacked off” by this suggestion.

The fair telecoms campaign does not claim to represent any particular group of individuals. We seek to represent the public interest. Although invited, this is really not the place to discuss the fine detail of various campaigning philosophies and the role of campaign groups with different forms of constitution. Suffice to say that we focus on achievable results.

It is indeed very frustrating to have to deal with the way that our current system of government works, but all that is achieved by calling for the impossible is a useful venting of irritation. I do not believe that Which? would be happy to accept that this is its essential role. “Something must be done” is a great rallying cry, but a meaningful campaign has to state exactly what specific realistic actions are demanded and to understand all of the consequences.

I’m still unclear as to who you represent. Can you please tell me who pays your salary?

I was not an active Which? member a year ago so can’t comment on Consulation on the Directive. Since I have become active, from around April this year, nuisance calls and non geographic numbers for contacting customer services has been very hot topics. A lot of very hacked off members have commented and are still commenting.

I consider all unsolicited calls to be a nuisance even the charity contacting me after I have made a donation to them. My old energy companies only contacted me months after I switched to a new provider. An energy company calling an elderly person to discuss tariffs can be very confusing or so an elderly friend told me. He tells them all to put it in writing so he can examine it at his leisure. If you have access to a computer you are able to do your own tariff comparison and you can also do it for elderly neighbours, no need for energy companies to call us, unless we ask them to do so. An MP phoning a constituent is very likely to happen indeed. My MP does not even leaflet my road before an election.

If you read the member’s posts on hundreds of nuisance calls you will realise how many of them feel afraid to answer their own phones. Many are of the generation who feel that calls must be answered as they may be important. By answering all calls they are vulnerable to scam callers. It’s a sad affair that the telephone has become the enemy to them when it is the nuisance callers who are the real enemy.

I agree, Figgerty. I will not be happy until all nuisance calls are stopped. I appreciate that David has put a lot of effort into this before we became involved in discussions, but I resent the suggestion that we are calling for the impossible. Calls need to be opt-in, and that includes market research calls. We are quite capable of deciding if we want to receive calls from charities we support, our energy company and from companies offering to help us claim damages.

I’m not sure why we are discussing nuisance calls in this Conversation. 🙁

Figgerty

The fair telecoms campaign is an entirely voluntary body, it is not a delegate for anyone.

If you are concerned about “he who pays the piper …”, you would see Which? as representing only the interests of subscribers to its publications.

Wavechange

If you want a specific example of calling for the impossible –

someone could sign the “Costly Calls Campaign” online petition believing that they are calling for the relevant terms of the recently published draft regulations deriving from the (unchanged) Consumer Rights Directive to be extended to cover timeshare, package travel, financial services and public bodies.

I have picked out one of many possibilities of a call that a signatory may believe they have supported. It is not an unreasonable interpretation, but it is wholly impossible.

I am reluctant to provide apparently unwanted clarity by addressing lots of detail, but I can comment that the main website now contains many significantly different statements of what the Campaign is specifically about. When first presented to me it consisted of three “asks”, neatly reflecting what I see as being the three points that have to be hit, as given in my briefing.

Thanks for all your comments everyone! We’re blown away by the 34,000 signatures we already have for our Costly Calls campaign.

Let’s please keep this discussion on the topic of expensive customer service and complaints lines. We’d love to hear more examples if you have them

David, we campaign on behalf of all UK consumers. Which? Conversation is also available for input from the general public, and not just Which? members. The popularity of this subject here was one reason for us launching our Costly Calls campaign.

We present our specific campaign asks on our Know the Issue page for those who would like the detail: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/premium-rate-phone-numbers/know-the-issue/ They are, for your information:

We want a ban on costly calls to all customer service and complaint lines:
– The financial regulator should immediately clamp down on companies with expensive complaint numbers and introduce a ban on costly customer service calls
– The government should extend the ban to travel companies
– Public bodies should lead by example and stop using expensive phone lines

Patrick

Is there an easy way to find out which campaigns we have signed up to, without ploughing through emails? If not, perhaps you could suggest this to your colleagues.

Thanks for the suggestion Wavechange. It’s actually something we’re looking into 🙂

David, thank you for clarifying your campaign group’s position as a voluntary body. I believe that Which? represents the general public and is made aware of their wishes through the views of its many members but also the public in general and I’m satisfied with that.

Terry Tinsel says:
6 September 2013

John Lewis are now using 0844 semi premium rate numbers to contact them and their stores. What a rip off. They should be ashamed.

Indeed. This kind of thing is very unlike John Lewis who have a long-standing reputation of treating their customers very fairly. The employee responsible should be sacked for damaging John Lewis’s reputation in this unnecessary way.

NFH

John Lewis as a Store Group provided terrific customer service, nothing was too much trouble. All my older appliances were purchased there and some newer ones as well. John Lewis as an ‘omni channel business’ is something else. I tweeted them recently to enquire if their ‘never knowingly undersold’ promise applied to competitors online prices. The final answer was that it only applied to high street competitors prices. I then enquired about the percentage of sales online and was told that ‘they do not share that information’ and they were an ‘omni channel business’.

I had problems earlier in the year when they refused to print my review of a fridge freezer. Firstly, they did not know who should deal with the enquiry. The store side or the dot.com side. Then their reason for refusal did not apply and it took several emails and phone calls to get them to accept that and print the review. In the reviews you are not supposed to comment on the JL service, only the product. I pointed out several posts where only the very good, amazing, terrific JL service was mentioned, not a word about the product, apart from in the review title.

I no longer feel the same about JL as I did ten years ago, before they were an omni channel business..

I am very unhappy to have to say that I am now having similar reservations about John Lewis’s overall customer support, having enjoyed the best of service from the company over many decades. The staff in the shops are exceptionally knowledgable and helpful but where it used to be possible to talk to somebody on the telephone switchboard in the local store – or even on the shop floor – at local call rates, this has now all been centralised in a call-centre. No doubt more profitable and notionally more efficient but I feel less well supported.

There are many examples on the JL website of inaccurate or confusing or unintelligent product descriptions but I find it very difficult to get clarification over the telephone because (a) the generic call-centre operators are not sufficiently conversant with the products, and (b) because they are trained to believe that the website is infallible and they repeat what it says even when it is patently wrong [e.g. dimensions].

Unfortunately, merely substituting a national rate for a premium number will not resolve this particular problem but it would at least assuage some of the irritation resulting from a customer service call. I am surprised the company, at the highest levels, has not paid more attention to this aspect of its business since its reputation, its goodwill, and one of its stand-out values, are being depreciated for the want of superior service.

John Ward

My sentiments exactly. I emailed JL recently to seek clarification of the maps included with a sat nav in my top 5 list for purchasing. In one area it appeared I would have UK and ROI maps installed and another area stated European maps. I received a reply, asking for my phone number so an expert in the technology could call me – I’m still waiting. Previously, I would have spoken to someone in the store, they would have checked the box and I would have had an answer. I think they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater when they became an omni channel business. I now prefer to drive the seven miles to the store when I am buying from them as I can be assured of very good service in store. That has not changed.

I entirely agree with you Figgerty. Unfortunately we are thirty miles from Norwich, which is our nearest JL, but the staff there are so helpful and very informative that it is worth making the journey about once a month and going round the departments to get the information we need and check the products. If only they could replicate that experience through the internet and telephone channels they would be onto a sure-fire winner [but perhaps they think they already are]. I know this is taking this Conversation a bit off-topic but it’s good to know others feel the same way. In my lifetime, John Lewis has been such an exemplary retail experience that customers today, up to their necks in the Amazon way of doing things, have no conception of how pleasant, decent and trustworthy shopping can be. It’s a wonder there isn’t a Friends of John Lewis organisation to help keep them on the right track.

The Partnership does suffer problems when contracting out work to specialist third parties, so as to extend its offering to customers. There is no easy answer to this one.

On the issue of the store telephone numbers, and numbering policy across the Partnership and with its other branded services, there may be more that I can say outside this public arena. The fair telecoms campaign seeks to support and co-ordinate the work of all campaigners on these issues (including Which?) and will be pleased to engage directly to discuss activities.

“There are many examples on the JL website of inaccurate or confusing product descriptions e.g. dimensions”

If there are, why don’t you complain to Trading Standards or the Advertising Standards Authority?

Commonsense suggests that such problems should be notified to the company first, to give them the opportunity to correct the mistakes. Trading Standards has many serious issues to cope with.

I don’t believe for a moment that John Lewis is trying to mislead us. I think it is a matter of carelessness leading to inaccuracies on their websites. Not enough attention to detail.

I agree, Figgerty. I believe that John Lewis is still much better than most companies, since I have read so many commendations.

There is still no excuse for carelessness, particularly where companies want to preserve their reputation.

“Commonsense suggests that such problems should be notified to the company first”

Um, no not really. Say I order something, and it arrives different to how it looks or measures on the website. Why should I have to spend up to an hour going to a branch just for a refund? They won’t give me the travel fare back. And they won’t change their website either, so it’ll happen to other people too.

I have given a good reason why it is not appropriate to take minor problems to Trading Standards. Try it by all means, but I would not expect any action to be taken over errors on a website, unless there were multiple complaints or it is evident that the ‘errors’ are deliberate.

Haydon Luke says:
6 September 2013

Dealing with questions and responding to complaints are a basic obligation of any business or service organisation and as such should be considered part of the core activity of the organisation not some kind of extra for which the customer has to pay more to access. Premium rate phone numbers are one of the worst ideas ever to be foisted on an unwilling public by rip-off businesses. All organisations should be readily accessible at no more than the price of a basic land line or mobile phone call. Freephone numbers would be even better!

Steve says:
7 September 2013

Ofcom, Are the Ones who dish out these Numbers, I tried to speek to BT, about a home phone,some time ago, they told me they did not have the Orthrew, They gave me an e-mail adress, of which I tried, to no advail, I found there web page, I found 2 other e-mail address, that did not work, Then by chance I found a phone number to OUTREACH, I asked them who they were, they told me they were British, I said None of there e-mail’s work, (NO COMENT), Maybe WHICH, could look into, who this company is and where they come from, As many years ago, with in reason One could choose your own home Number;

Steve says:
7 September 2013

When I was last in the UK, I tried to get intuch with the gas company, of which I was on a mobile, 0800, b4 i even talked to some one, my credit was gone, cut a long story short, they sent me a new key, on the bottom of the letter, the smll printI found a Free mobile number; 0131,,,,,, When I tried it,It worked, I checket my credit, it was stil there, So to you out there chech it out!

It’s not only customer services that use expensive phone numbers. In spite of the campaign to get doctors to drop 0844 numbers, my local health authority uses an 0844 number which can make it very expensive if you need to contact them about an appointment, advice or to enquire about a patient.

Like GPs, I think all health authorities should use a geographical number.

The campaign succeeded in getting agreement to a formal prohibition on use of “expensive” numbers across the NHS in England in September 2009. The Department of Health issued Directions to NHS bodies in December 2009. This was followed by revisions to the GP contracts from April 2010. (We are still waiting for the revisions to the nationally set NHS contracts for Dentists, Pharmacists and Ophthamologists.) NHS Wales followed suit, nothing so firm has yet been done in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although the issue has been discussed in the parliament and assembly and the governments have shown some interest.

Retention of a 0845 number for NHS Direct, pending the imminent intoroduction of 111, has not helped the situation. Until recently, the providers of 084 numbers to GPs have fought and sought to undermine the provisions. Partly due to the pending NHS re-organisation enforcement activity has not been able to be properly co-ordiated, but that is changing.

We are now working very closely with NHS England on enforcement activity against those GPs who remain in breach of their contracts. We trust that the noise created by a statement that will shortly be issued will reverberate beyond GPs (and England), however we are working on the best follow-up activity to cover all other NHS providers.

On your general point, there are few, if any, cases where a telephone number used for contact with the public should be subject to a Service Charge. All such numbers should be “geographic RATE” numbers – 01, 02 or 03. There are many steps that have to be taken to get this enforced through regulation, but a lot of progress has been made and the pace is increasing.

084 numbers have been a great boon to the telecoms industry. System providers to business can use the cost subsidy obtained on calls to sell systems cheaply, whilst using misleading examples of low call cost to allay concerns. Call providers can exploit the situation by taking sizeable chunks of a bundled call charge for themselves. We must be patient, but this scam is coming to an end.

Steve says:
7 September 2013

I would like to give you people out there a tip, when you are in the Dr, leave them your home number, when they phone you, write down their phone number?, That’s what I do!

Barrington says:
8 September 2013

Recently, was told that 9p out of 10p profit was made from 08 numbers apart from obviously; 0800 and 0808 numbers.

They should all be banned.

The government should know better, instead of knowingly ripping people off, whilst subsidizing the rich!

Until; 0844, 0845, 0870, and 0871 telephone numbers are all banned, people should place the following address into a browser (e.g. Internet Explorer and Firefox etcetera (I wouldn’t recommend Google Chrome)) to pay less or nothing if they have unlimited telephone packages for 01 and 02 telephone numbers (People without telephone packages should also verify with their telephone provider if paying for a limited package would reduce their telephone bills, because probably would):

http://www.saynoto0870.com

I have used this website http://www.saynoto0870.com for many years to find alternative geographical telephone numbers for well known reputable companies. I can’t believe that we have put up with this situation for sooo long. This EU Consumer Rights Directive gives us the best chance in years to affect change – provided travel and financial sectors are NOT exempt.

Well said. This unfair commercial practice has been prevalent in other large advanced EU economies such as France and Germany, which is why the European Commission took action. Nevertheless, given that the UK has a track record of strong consumer protection, it’s disappointing that the UK didn’t stamp out this practice several years ago. Unfortunately the government left it to Ofcom to sort out. Ofcom unwisely decided to ban revenue sharing on 0870 numbers, so all the companies using 0870 numbers simply switched to 0844 numbers.

tonycl says:
9 September 2013

What I do during the day is:
1) look up any landline geographic alternative numbers on ‘say no to 0870’
2) Use my laptop broadband connection to g-mail and in g-mail use their phone service. You send £10 to google and then the cost of a g-mail phone call is 2p per minute to any landline geographic number with no setup charge. The phone call is instant and exceptionally clear.
It is an absolute bargain compared to the 9p per minute plus set-up charged by BT yet I’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere. It obviates the need for a callplan including daytime calls.

2p/min to call a UK fixed line is expensive. A typical competitive price is a fixed fee per call, e.g. 5p or often 0p depending on payments being made for other services.

I too have been using the website http://www.saynoto0870.com for many years. In most cases it is very helpful. Otherwise, I try to find a number provided for “international” users. Although you often cannot dial this using a landline. In most instances, these numbers will work from my mobile phone.

My recent experience with high cost numbers:
Recently I signed up to receive the jobseekers allowance. As part of the agreement, I have to attend a fortnightly meeting to provide information on my job seeking activities. A couple of weeks ago, I was unable to make the appointment and had to change it. When I looked up the number to call, it was a 0845 number. I was flabbergasted! That a government agency aimed at people without jobs and therefore without an active income, would use these premium high cost contact numbers, just did not make sense to me and I thought was really insulting. To make matters worse, I was unable to find an alternative number that worked. The one landline I was able to find, just rang out.
When I complained to the agent I saw on my next appointment, they just said there was nothing they could do.

tonycl says:
10 September 2013

Yes well I’m no expert on phone costs and I’d never heard of fixed fees before (other than zero cost if you have an unlimited anytime plan) -tell me more if you would.
I make calls not just from home but from anywhere I happen to be – I have a very light Samsung Chromebook with headphones/microphone which works wherever there is a wifi connection -using the gmail phone is just so easy and convenient for me.

Look for example at 18185.co.uk, 1899.com or 18866.co.uk. They all charge a fixed fee per call, not a fee per minute. If you prefer to pay nothing, look at voipcheap.co.uk or freevoipdeal.com. Provided you top up periodically you will receive free calls to fixed lines in many countries including the UK. Paying per minute to call fixed lines from a fixed line is very much something from the 1990s.

If you ever need to contact Trading Standards they’ll point you to the Citizen Advice Bureau who now field most of there calls. And if you want to ring the CA you’ll have to use their 0845 number 🙁

070 CALL LINE

My son has recently been in hospital where visiting has not been easy but the single ward he was in had a phone line.
We could phone in only but unfortunately the call to the 070 number cost 20 pence plus VAT at 5% per minute !

RichardD says:
18 September 2013

The ‘saynoto0870’ website has helped a lot, but now days the use of 0844 numbers ( which can cost more than 0845 numbers anyway ) is increasing. It’s subtle money-grabbing which affects so many of the population, and it’s devious.

My main objection is to have to pay 5ppm to phone my local surgery whether it’s for appointment or getting results of tests. Appointments can be made online up to three, but more than that have to be voice. For those of us who have multiple conditions being dealt with by different members of the practice it is the only essential service which is paywalled.