/ Money

Financial firms are still charging customers to complain

Mobile phone next to coins and credit card

Nearly three quarters of the phone numbers used by financial firms for customer service or complaint lines are 084 or 087. That’s wrong – you shouldn’t have to cough up for costly calls to make a complaint.

I keep a close eye on my finances, and while I’ve never had too many issues with my bank, last summer I noticed an unusual charge on my credit card. Worried that something was up, and knowing I couldn’t get to any of their branches, I wanted to find out what it was.

As it turned out, there had been an error and the charge was removed as soon as I flagged it. However, when my phone bill arrived, I was incensed to find out that it had cost me a couple of quid for the privilege of complaining.

Financial firms charging customers to complain

We know that four in ten people prefer to call financial firms with an enquiry, and understandably so. But our latest research shows that whether you’re contacting your high street bank, your credit card provider or an insurance company, it’s pretty hard to avoid paying a premium.

We looked at phone numbers used by companies for everything from current accounts to credit cards and found that 177 out of 242 customer service or complaint lines used pricey 084 or 087 numbers.

It doesn’t help that new customers are often given a freephone 0800 number to call! The message seems to be that they don’t need to charge you to get your business, but they’re happy to do so once you’re a valued customer.

A ban on costly calls

A new EU law, the Consumer Rights Directive, will stop companies charging anything more than the basic rate for customer helplines in 2014. Unfortunately, financial firms aren’t covered. We don’t think that’s right, so we’re calling on the Financial Conduct Authority to take action and bring them into line with everyone else.

Almost 60,000 people have already signed our Costly Calls campaign and their support is already having an effect. Barclays, Barclaycard, RBS and Natwest have announced that they will soon offer freephone and 03 numbers for all their customer phone lines.

With two of the biggest banking groups now leading the way by offering freephone or geographic numbers, we hope this is a tipping point – there’s really no excuse for other providers not to follow suit.

If you think it’s wrong that you have to pay through the nose to call your bank or mortgage provider, sign our petition and then tell us why you want to see an end to costly calls in the comments below.

Should financial firms be allowed to use expensive customer helplines?

No – customers should not be charged excessively (100%, 4,716 Votes)

Yes – it’s fine for them to charge customers (0%, 11 Votes)

I don’t mind (0%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,738

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Anthony says:
19 November 2013

0845 should be banned!

Kevin says:
19 November 2013

A lot of companies are using these high rate numbers – just 2 companies I am disappointed in are Laura Ashley and John Lewis – why do they need to use these phone numbers ,do they pocket the extra money or does the phone provider gain ?. I don’t mean they need to always use a free 0800 number but at least a normal local number would be better for customers,


I do not know why the government and Ofcom have been allowing this blatant rip off to go on for so long. I complained to Ofcom many years ago about this and they told me then they intended to stop it. Stll waiting. Another government rip off is the charge of £100 for a replacement passport when overseas should you have the bad luck to lose it and which only is valid for the trip back home. I lost mine recently in Portugal and the consulate gave me a replacement in 10 minutes off their computer system because I had a couple of photos with me, how can they justify this extortionate amount for so little work ?


As I said above, Ofcom foolishly shifted the problem from 0870 to 0844 several years ago, despite having been warned that this would happen (and this is all on public record). It’s hardly surprising that this mess has evolved when we have such an incompetent and negligent regulator.


NFH – you have to wonder why the British Public allows incompetent (in our eyes) regulators to continue to function in the way they do. It might be useful if Which? devoted more energy to investigating them and campaigning for change if there really are grounds. It is time the consumers in this country held to account those who are supposed to work on their behalf. Any chance of this happening? I doubt it – we don’t have an organised lobby, do we?

Ian01 says:
19 November 2013

Ofcom will shortly deliver the end result of their long-running “simplifying non-geographic numbers” project. That project is currently running many months late, not least due of stiff opposition encountered from various phone companies and especially several mobile networks.

The changes about to the brought in by Ofcom should have the desired result in the non-geographic numbers market. The error previously made with 0870 numbers will be put right. Overall, the measures will bring greater transparency to the call price of all 084, 087 and 09 numbers, and this will see consumers treated much more fairly than before.

However, the new Ofcom system must not be considered in isolation. It must be seen to be complementary to the various measures brought in by BIS as a result of the Consumer Rights Directive.

Christopher Moyle says:
19 November 2013

One way of beating the AA insurance is use the 0800 for sales then use the key pad options to talk about your policy, rather than the 0844 given with your documents.

p. drewery says:
19 November 2013

With our telephone system we have unlimited free local calls. I therefore object to having to ring the head office of a building society e.g. Yorkshire B.S., even on an 0845 number, to enquire about interest rates or to make an appointment with my local branch to discuss the possibility of future investments. If they want my business I should not have to pay for the privilege of making such an enquiry