/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Victory! The government cuts off costly calls for travel firms

Our research found that 70% of travel firms use pricey phone numbers for customer lines. Well, no more. The Government today announced that the travel industry will be banned from using costly numbers.

The Consumer Rights Directive is putting a stop to pricey 084 and 087 numbers for customer services and complaints lines. But there were exceptions to these new rules. The travel industry, for example, was going to be let off the hook.

That’s about to change. The Government today announced that customers calling helplines to complain about incorrect train tickets or cancelled flights won’t have to pay any more than calling your friends or family. The new rules will come into effect from June next year, and will also cover most other industries, like major high street and online retailers.

A win for Costly Calls supporters

This is a big win for our Costly Calls campaign. 63,000 of you told us that all companies should be banned from using expensive numbers for their helplines, and with your help, we’re making that happen. In our poll of 1,914 people here on Which? Convo, 94% of you said travel firms shouldn’t be exempt from the ban on costly calls. Well, the Government listened.

The Government has also clarified that basic rate does not include 084 or 087 numbers. This means companies can’t use the excuse that calling an 0845 number can sometimes be cheaper to call from certain landlines. And finally… Ofcom has announced new rules that will mean 0800 numbers will be free from all mobile phones. Phew, that’s a lot of good news.

What about the banks?

But the Consumer Rights Directive doesn’t cover every sector. Public bodies and financial companies are outside its scope. Thankfully the Government has reiterated that it thinks you shouldn’t have to pay high charges to access vital public services. The Cabinet Office will be publishing guidance on this very soon.

As for financial companies, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has committed to considering whether it could introduce similar measures if you’re calling your bank or insurer. Barclays, Barclaycard and RBS have already backed our Costly Calls campaign by promising to scrap expensive customer lines, but we want to see them banned across the board.

As our campaign supporter Maureen told us: ‘It is absolutely disgusting what we have to pay to get in touch with banks on these premium numbers.’

We need the FCA to introduce the same rules for banks as for all other industries – so this is where you come in again. One – help us up the pressure on the FCA by asking your friends and family to sign our petition. And two – if you’ve ever been hit by a big bill for calling your bank, insurer or another financial firm, tell us about it in the comments below.

Comments

Yes I do agree that government departments have these 0800 numbers too and it is costly to the consumer as well as utility companies and broadband providers when you have to press certain digits
to get through to departments. You are left on hold too long and when I did attempt to get through to
one particular department the automated service hung up on me and I had to call back again. I have
been put on hold for over half an hour and it just puts my land line bill up and I refuse to use my mobile phone as all the credit would be used up on this. These people are making enough money out of the public and its time we made a stance against this.

Kurt Rosenfeld says:
14 December 2013

That’s great news.
Howe about the costly 084 calls to the local surgery where they frequently do not answer the phone for 10-15 mins.
Surely that should be banned as well.

Ian01 says:
14 December 2013

084 numbers are banned for use by GP practices in England and Wales through a variation to their GMS Contract that has been in force since April 2010. PCTs failed to enforce that ban.

At the beginning of November 2013, NHS England sent a letter to all non-compliant practices asking them to “explain their plans for swiftly moving away from using an 084 number”.

The letter is available online. You should print it out and ask them why they haven’t complied.

The letter also busts several myths regarding what GPs should be doing.

peter says:
14 December 2013

Very well done,this is wonderful news.Glad you have made such an impact on this problem,ITS LEGAL ROBBERY.

Ron Stubley says:
14 December 2013

Well done Which? More power to your elbow.

Ivy Liaw says:
14 December 2013

The forthcoming changes will make calls to 080 numbers free from mobile phones, but users of those numbers will have to pay higher rates for usage. However, that’s only a very small part of the changes. The rest are a series of radical changes to the pricing regime for all 08 and 09 numbers.

elaine says:
14 December 2013

im glad that calls are going to be reduced but this has not gone far enough, in fact its a joke. the people that really need to be able to make free calls are the poorest, and the calls they have to make are to the benefits lines e.g child tax credits, job centres, pensions, e.t.c but these lines remain at premium rate thanks to the government because they own them and its just another way of getting more money out of the poorest in this country i hope it can be resolved soon

Ian01 says:
14 December 2013

HMRC moved their 0845 and 0870 lines over to new 0345 and 0370 numbers in the Summer of 2013.

DVLA has been using 0300 numbers for quite some time, perhaps since 2012.

DWP has already promised to move from 0845 numbers to 0345 numbers.

The Cabinet Office is expected to release their policy for the rest of government very soon.

Eric Jethro says:
14 December 2013

Why aren’t doctor’s practices not included in this scam? My current GP as well as my previous GP have 0844 numbers. If every I ring for an appointment I have to hang on listening to a little ‘speech’ which takes about a couple of minutes — adding to the cost of the call — before I get to speak to anyone at reception. Doctors earn enough without having to add this ‘extra income’ to their unmerited service!

Ian01 says:
14 December 2013

084 numbers are banned for use by GP practices in England and Wales through a variation to their GMS Contract that has been in force since April 2010. PCTs failed to enforce that ban.

At the beginning of November 2013, NHS England sent a letter to all non-compliant practices. The letter busts several of the myths that practices have previously used as excuses for non-compliance.

The letter ends by asking each practice to “explain their plan for swiftly moving away from their use of an 084 number”.

The letter is available online. You should print it out and ask them why they haven’t complied.

Eric Jethro says:
14 December 2013

Doctors should also be included in this outrageous money grabbing scam. If ever I have to ring my GP’s practice I hear a long ‘message’ lasting a couple of minutes before someone answers.
It’s time this “extra income generating practice” was also brought under control.

Ian01 says:
14 December 2013

084 numbers are banned for use by GP practices in England and Wales through a variation to their GMS Contract that has been in force since April 2010. PCTs failed to enforce that ban.

At the beginning of November 2013, NHS England sent a letter to all non-compliant practices. The letter busts several of the myths that practices have previously used as excuses for non-compliance.

The letter ends by asking each practice to “explain their plan for swiftly moving away from their use of an 084 number”.

The letter is available online. You should print it out and ask them why they haven’t complied.

Here is a link to the letter that Ian refers to: http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/lett-084-num1.pdf

My GP surgery still uses 0844 number and it cost a lot of money just to get an appointment.
I was left hanging on for 9 minutes the other day in the end I put the phone down and my Son went to the surgery and made my appointment.

David Webb says:
14 December 2013

Just had to call the post office parcel force because they did not leave a parcel it is an 087 number.
I also had to do a 15 mile journey because they would not deliver the next day.

Great News! All companies over a certain size should have a helpline and all helplines should be free. I don’t mind paying the normal rate for a call if you’re guaranteed sound advice and help when you get through (that’s the other thing – there should be a mandatory dropped line after 5 minutes waiting). The expensive rate call that has always annoyed me is when council departments use the 0844 numbers. My council has closed their drop-in helpdesk, so now you have to call and you can be in the queue for up to 2 hours. It’s great that this will end. And, yes, let’s have the banks included in this ban, too.

Carole Moore says:
14 December 2013

This is great news, well done Which? and everyone who took part in getting this much needed and fair result.

Angelo Paolozzi says:
14 December 2013

Well done. We must do more though. All 08 numbers should be banned

Ian01 says:
15 December 2013

All 08 numbers? You want the 0800 and 0808 freephone numbers removed too? I think not.

Additionally, without 084 and 087 numbers being available, the following businesses will have to close their doors: subscription-free dial-up internet services, call-gateways offering cheaper international calls, subscription-free conference-calling services, various recorded-information lines and a variety of other services where the service is paid for (through the additional Service Charge built into the call price) as the call is made.

The new legislation from BIS is forcing businesses that use 084, 087 and 09 numbers for inappropriate uses such as customer service lines for complaints, refunds, renewals and cancellations to move to the matching 034 or 037 number or to a new 01, 02, 030, 033 or 080 number. They must complete this move by 12 June 2014.

The new legislation from Ofcom will make calls to 080 numbers free from all mobile phones and will force the remaining users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers to declare their Service Charge wherever their telephone number is advertised. At present, these businesses quote only BT’s very low regulated call prices in their advertising. The 80% of callers that do not use BT to make their call are thereby misled as to what the call will actually cost them.

This is really an outstanding result.

However, having used the new 101 non-emergency number for the first time recently, we were stunned to see that it is not a free call. We didn’t know so now we will ring 999.
Surely this should also be a free phone number?

Ian01 says:
14 December 2013

Every police force is supposed to advertise an alternative 01, 02 or 03 number alongside the 101 details.

Several police forces use 0845 numbers against Home Office advice.

It should be a free number, but you must not ring 999 unless there is a real emergency. Someone’s life could depend on prompt access to emergency services.

I have read that calls to 101 cost 15 pence from landlines and mobiles. Perhaps this has been done to discourage nuisance calls.

Presumably it is not possible, therefore, to call 101 from a mobile phone without credit, thus encouraging use of 999 or 112 for non-emergency calls.

Though I have spent a lot of time complaining to companies about expensive phone numbers, I don’t mind paying 15 pence to call the police.

For anyone who feels strongly about this, a list of alternative non-emergency telephone numbers can be found on the Police UK website.

Maureen pearce says:
14 December 2013

This is what I call a result but disappointing timescale. GP practices should be banned from using 0845 or 0844numbers too- I already pay for the healthcare.

Ian01 says:
14 December 2013

084 numbers are banned for use by GP practices in England and Wales through a variation to their GMS Contract that has been in force since April 2010. PCTs failed to enforce that ban.

At the beginning of November 2013, NHS England sent a letter to all non-compliant practices. The letter busts several of the myths that practices have previously used as excuses for non-compliance.

The letter ends by asking each practice to “explain their plan for swiftly moving away from their use of an 084 number”.

The letter is available online. You should print it out and ask them why they haven’t complied.

How many times have you supplied this information in the course of one Conversation. I always read other peoples posts before I add my comment. Am I alone in doing that?

Are you allowed to provide a link to the letter you mention. If so, those with GP’s using expensive numbers can print the letter and present it to the GP or practice manager.

Ian01 says:
15 December 2013

The problem with posting a link here is that the post doesn’t appear until very much later as it requires someone to manually approve it.

A Google search for [084 NHS GPs] currently finds the NHS England press release as the first result and the letter itself as the second result.

With the same question asked again and again here, it appears that many people only post their own comment and don’t read those previously posted by other people.

Ian01, you have amazing patience.

NHS patients can also find their GP’s Practice on the NHS Choices website and complain about the use of the high cost telephone numbers and also the waiting time until they get to speak to a person, if that is a problem. You have to supply a real email address but the surgery does not get to see this and you have the option to comment anonymously. I have told quite a few family members and friends about this service as many are afraid that if they complain in the surgery there may be retribution. You can also comment on the service you receive from your Dentist. I found a terrific Dental Surgery recently by reading the comments made by their patients.

E Kimber says:
14 December 2013

I hope this means that I won’t have to pay 0844 charges to call my GP.

I work for the NHS and so can respond to some of the earlier replies in this thread. A lot of NHS services in London now use 0203. If they are using expensive numbers quite often there is an alternative number to use which you should find on the internet. I think you can contact most surgeries and services by email or through a form on their website now. Where I work the switchboard is very busy and there is only 1 person answering calls which is why it can take a long time for calls to be answered.

Ray Chung says:
15 December 2013

RIP NGN, until these numbers are dead and buried find the alternative numbers from http://www.saynoto0870.com; most of their UK ‘proper’ numbers can be found. Some companies like the banks do allow calls on their equivalent 01… numbers. You may however get an announcement that you can only call from abroad, in which case use a VOIP service.

Well done. Can they not also ban number witheld calls so we can discover who it is who calls and disappear nameless?
Savile

Laura Holland says:
15 December 2013

This is only a reasonably successful result. The Govt has exempt themselves and the financial industry showing once again that they have always worked hand in glove and always will- money speaks to money. The hypocrisy of the Govt is as usual breathtaking ensuring the cold winds of change and recession will never be allowed to affect its members- the 11% increase in the already too large MP salary when every other employee (Except a few in the City) have been experiencing pay cuts in real terms for years.

Ian01 says:
15 December 2013

BIS only regulates businesses so all it actually shows is that it is not their job to regulate government departments or the financial sector. That’s for others to do.

The Cabinet Office is shortly expected to produce their report responding to the recommendations previously suggested by the Public Accounts Committee, as well as a comprehensive telephone number policy for government departments and the public sector. The Cabinet Office is likely to recommend a move to 03 numbers and the provision of 080 numbers where calls should be genuinely free for all callers (notwithstanding the delay in making calls to 080 numbers free from all mobile phones).

It is the FCA that will need to produce the requisite legislation covering the financial sector. There are several signs that they will shortly get involved in doing that.

John Webb says:
15 December 2013

Hear Hear, well said Laura