/ 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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Paul Coffin says:
17 November 2013

Have you looked at share register companies? Equiniti, Capita, Computershare. They use a lot of 0845 numbers despite the fact a share register is a public register. They are also trying to use their registers to develop business eg share brokerage. They are making it easier for the consumer to buy and sell shares through themselves which is an abuse of their position.

Patrick Boys says:
18 November 2013

Also I have just sold my Royal Mail shares through Equiniti and they charged me £45 for selling my 227 shares, absolutely outrageous and I seemed to have no other option.

Why doesn’t “Which” do some research as to the cheapest way to sell small holdings of shares such as those of the Post Office?

Yes, I would support the idea of Which? surveying the cost of selling small batches of shares. I have tried to GIVE my small quantity of Eurotunnel shares to a charity, but the cost of GIVING them to a charity is more than the shares are worth!

Equiniti’s listed number for those who want to “voice your concerns” is 0871…. which they helpfully show as costing 8p/min plus network extras! They do list their email address.
As I understand it a dealing form was issued with PO shares for those who wanted to sell immediately at 0.75% charge (+ stamp duty 0.5%). Alternatively keep and deal through their registrar Equiniti at 1% dealing charge. Was there a catch to this then? Since it is predicted the shares will pay a first year dividend of £45, a return of around 6%, I wonder why you would want to sell.
I would like to see an incentive for share buyers to hold longer term so they are investing in companies rather than gambling. It is reassuring that both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Gambling Commission have 0800 and 0121 numbers.
Sorry to digress.

Kay Forsyth says:
19 November 2013

Equiniti have charged me £80 in total for 3 cheques representing outstanding entitlements. They would not reply to any of my letters so the only way I have managed to get the money owed is by telephoning them which cost 8p per min plus network extras.

Equiniti usually publishes a parallel Birmingham (0121) number for callers from outside the UK, particularly as many shareholders are in practice based outside the UK. Therefore use this number instead; that’s what I do.

The European Commission were negligent for deliberately exempting financial services without good reason from Article 21 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills were similarly at fault for preserving this unwarranted exemption when enacting the legislation in the UK under Regulation 39 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013. This ban on surcharged telephone numbers should apply across all industries; there is no justification for any industry to be exempt, whether it be financial services, passenger transport services, healthcare, estate agents or gambling. Unfortunately all these industries have been given an unreasonable exemption, not only in the UK but across the EEA.

If a business wishes to charge its customers for services, it should do so transparently and not disguise its fees within charges for a telephone calls.

Ian01 says:
17 November 2013

When implementing an EU Directive, nation states cannot add extra provisions over and above those contained within the Directive. Check the rules surrounding “gold plating”.

Financial institutions are covered by a separate stream of EU Directives to those covering businesses. However, if the UK is to cover financial services with provisions involving telephone numbers, it is the FCA that will have to do it, not BIS.

That’s not true. A member state can add additional provisions, but cannot remove provisions. For example, BIS proposes to extend the scope of Article 21 to cover social services, healthcare, package travel and timeshare (all of which are exempt from Article 21), but has chosen to preserve the exemption for the other industries such as financial services.

Given that no legislation covering financial services contains any provisions of Article 21, it made no sense to provide an exemption to this industry. There is no good reason why Article 21 couldn’t apply to all industries with no exemptions whatsoever.

What I don’t understand is why do people call companies in the first place? We can tweet them and ask them to call us.

I even tweeted the Nationwide who is my bank and asked them to call me last week. I don’t want to rack up a phone bill.

That’s what is amazing about Twitter. There is really no point in calling companies anymore. We are in 2013, not the 1960’s lol

Most UK banks don’t yet offer a secure messaging service, although some are planning to do so. I would never communicate with my bank openly in the public domain for all to see, even if just to request a call back. Twitter is not an appropriate communication channel for banking.

I don’t see whats wrong with tweeting “@Bank can someone call me please? will DM you my phone number”.

Very simple and saves a phone bill, saves waiting to speak to someone, saves on hold music and for me it makes me money too.

When someone calls you and says they’re from you bank, how are you going to verify that is actually the case? You can’t rely on what is shown as the Calling Line Identity.

I don’t have Calling Line Identity as I have a corded phone that use not use electricity.

Normally I tweet my bank, DM my phone number, they call and say “Hello I’m Jenny from the Nationwide, I am calling in reply to your tweet” and I tell them what I need from them. They then reply via the Nationwide online bank message system.

So really simple, very quick and it makes me about £0.85 – £1.70 per call.

I think we’re all forgetting the real reason that Lee prefers a callback – he has an 0871 number from which he earns revenue on incoming calls! 😉

Lol, I have to admit that is one of the main reasons. But it’s also nice to speak to someone right away. No need to listen to on hold music or waiting to even speak to someone in the first place 🙂

I’ve emailed indesit ( who use 0844 number) twice in the last month, and had nothing back. I’ve since sent them a message on facebook and again nothing.

I’d like to therefore ring them but won’y as 0844 numbers aren’t covered by my call package.

Some companies may seem to have an online presence but clearly they don’t take it seriously.

I have just searched for them on Twitter and they look like they talk to people (@IndesitUK) I would give that ago if i was you 🙂

You are lucky to find an email address, more and more companies are hiding their contact details forcing you to ring them

David says:
18 November 2013

You can also add EE who have the nerve to require us to use premium rate numbers when it’s their system that’s faulty (which is very often, by the way) and keep us hanging on forever – or until we give up. Truly not my idea of customer ‘service’.

If a business sells goods or services via its web site, then Regulation 6(1)(c) of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 obliges it to publish its e-mail address. This is one of the most widely flouted pieces of legislation, yet enforcement authorities take no action against the errant businesses, mainly of whom are very large.


Have you tweeted Ryanair yet and managed to get them to phone you back?

Not yet, I forgot tbh lol. I have tweeted Indesit and going to see if they call me back. I will try Ryanair as a test too.

David, for EE, just dial 01707 315000 from a fixed line or 150 from any EE/Orange/T-Mobile SIM card. They will put you through to any department within the EE group.

peter walshe says:
18 November 2013

Hi Lee, it is possible that you are missing the point entirely and your “i’m alright Jack” attitude doesn’t take into consideration the millions of people in this country that don’t have the ability (for what ever reason) to access and use the likes twitter, face ache and all the other forms of social networking.

Whilst I on the other hand do, in certain circumstances still I prefer to speak to a bone fide customer services clerk. As may already have been mentioned, certain gov’t agencies are still in the dark ages with customer contact technology and IT in general, so there is no choice but to call them.

I object to a) calling any company for customer service that charges for inbound calls to boost their bottom line profits (covering the costs of customer help – is only a smoke screen) & b) calling gov’t agencies when I have to, where they are charging me for the experience, when I have paid for this service already through my hard earned taxes.

If you get a call from indesit, and have nothing genuine to talk about yourself.

You can ask them if their online shopping cart accepts credit cards with a 2013 start date. It didn’t as of last week when I messaged them on facebook. And in a little over 7 weeks they’ll need to accept 2014.

Thank you 🙂

William, Ok, i will ask them if they call me 🙂

Peter. I am speaking for the 25 and under age group. I can no comment on what people older than my age group may feel about matters 🙂

Janet Matthams says:
18 November 2013

What about those who do not have a computer? Many elderly people and those on very low incomes do not have access to computers, and many do not know how to use them.

Like a say Janet. I can not speak for the elderly as I am a young 25 year old and can only speak for my age group 🙂

Thanks for the tip you patronising person – I am 84 a bit before those 60’s lot

Peter, I am sorry if you feel like I am being patronizing. But I’m not sure how I am being. All I am saying if all I can speak for is my age group and that’s all?

Hi all, just stepping in here for a friendly word of warning – everyone has their own opinion so let’s respect one another.

We would still argue that for those who want to call to complain or get help, they should not be paying a premium. And many people do rely on being able to call, and so those people should not be at a disadvantage compared to those who are savvy online and on social media. Though, as Lee knows, we love seeing good customer service on sites like Twitter. But it’s not the be all and end all 🙂

If a company provides a telephone number for customer services, we should not have to look for an alternative number to use because the given number is too expensive to call, no matter how old or young we are. Hopefully, all the offenders will be sorting themselves out by June 2014.

In a perfect world every company would have a 03 number and every normal person would have a 01/02 number. 08/09 would be gone forever. That’s what I feel.

But as we don’t live in a perfect world we all have our own special way on how to-do things and I think Patrick will agree with me here……I am far from “normal” on how I do things…..but they work for me and I’m happy with them 🙂

Anthony says:
18 November 2013

Lee Beaumont obviously does not realise that not everyone has a computer or even knows how to use the one that can be used free of charge at your local library. This applies mainly to those over 60 years and many disabled, so I cannot agree with the comment to use “Twitter” as a contact to your bank etc;.

Anthony. I have said 3 times now ” I am a young 25 year old and can only speak for my age group ” I am not 60+ so am unable to comment for those people.

Ok if you are into social networking but there are a lot of people who just don.t know how or want to use it

As NFH says “If a business sells goods or services via its web site, then Regulation 6(1)(c) of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 obliges it to publish its e-mail address. This is one of the most widely flouted pieces of legislation”

I always prefer to send an email message rather than calling a call centre, so that I have a record of what I said and can link any replies or follow-up messages into a thread of conversations. It is difficult to do this when organizations require me to send messages by filling in a little box on a web page, and even more irritating, and discourteous, when they send me an email message with the comment “Do not reply to this message as replies will be ignored” – there is no reason why they should not include a valid “Reply-to” address in an email message, as well as complying with the requirement to show it on their web pages.

Tommy says:
4 October 2014

Use saynoto0870.com
Can search by company name or phone number.
Gives alternative free phone and/or land line numbers.

Call Centre Worker says:
17 November 2013

I would like to say as a call centre worker who has to deal with complaints that I personally think complaint phone calls should be charged at a premium to reduce the amount of moaning and therefore reduce the stress and agro placed onto the call centre worker! We are paid silly money to give you the best price for the services you bought from us in the first place so it’s ridiculous that you think the phone call should be free, even if it isn’t charged as a phone call, all you are going to do is pass that cost of that worker taking on that complaint call to the cost of setting up new business! My advice, stop complaining, never ask to speak to the manager and get a life!

I think your in the wrong job mate.

As a retired member of staff of a small branch of a major bank – You would do well to remeber that it is the customer who pays your salary
.I appreciate that you are paid silly money but take up this issuse with bank not the customer –
If you want to start a campaign for better pay I would certainly support this for a cheaper more efficient service from call centres.

David says:
18 November 2013

Are you an EE staff member by any chance?

You have missed the point.
When a person rings to complain you cannot assume it is a churlish call not worthy of making.
The fact that you or others may disagree is beside the point.
I know from my own point of view that any complaint I make is important to me otherwise I would not ring an expensive 084 etc number to air it in the first place.I would instead, write a letter or email, if the latter an option, and would then wait for a reply.
It is not just complaint calls that cost heavy but all calls with no differentiation.
Interminable queues,ads,interlude music,interminable options (not always clear),being told ”All lines are busy but hang on as your call is important to us” etc etc are in my opinion all ploys to earn extra revenue for the company being called.
Extortion comes to mind.
Sorry, but the experiences I have had on this subject have left me quite bitter as you can tell.

Call Centre Worker says:
17 November 2013

@ Lee – Do you believe there are people who are happy to be treated with disrespect all day for silly money?

If you don’t like the job leave. If you want to help people with problems stay. But why should it cost us to call if we have problems that the bank has coursed?

What do banks do with all these £15-£30 fees that they like giving us?

You may also be interested in our research into public body phone numbers:

We analysed 115 telephone numbers used by 73 public bodies, and found around a quarter of the numbers are high rate starting 084 or 087. This included the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the Department for International Development as well as Government agencies such as Jobcentre Plus, Student Loans Company and The Pension Service.

We want public bodies to lead by example and ban costly numbers across the board in a consistent way, overseen by the Government.

FYI the Cabinet Office has also acknowledged that it is inappropriate for vulnerable citizens to pay high charges to access public services and has committed to establish best practice in this field and ensure it is followed across Government.

Our executive director Richard Lloyd welcomed the news saying:

‘The Cabinet Office must now act fast to ensure the Government and public bodies lead by example and put an end to costly calls.’


Call Centre Worker says:
17 November 2013

Again, all you are going to do is transfer the cost – in my opinion in an unfair way because people will be paying for a service they may never use!

Ian01 says:
17 November 2013

The transfer of cost is unequal. Upon moving to 03, the business will pay approx 1p or 2p/min for call-handling and final-leg call-routing, but the caller will be paying anything up to 41p/min less for that call. Since 03 numbers are charged at the same rate as calling an 01 or 02 number, and inclusive within landline and mobile call plans, usage of 03 numbers denies other parties the opportunity to ramp up the call cost and take a share for themselves.

If the revenue from 084 and 084 numbers is currently subsidising lower prices of goods and services supplied, then it shouldn’t. The price of any goods and services should include the costs of handling any complaints caused by the supplier’s failure. For example, if a bank makes an error causing the customer to be out of pocket, why should the affected customer have to pay to speak to the bank about it any more than a unaffected customer should? Neither the affected customer nor an unaffected customer caused the error, so neither should have to pay.

Call Centre Worker says:
17 November 2013

“The price of any goods and services should include the costs of handling any complaints caused by the supplier’s failure.”

Thank you very much for this line, you have specifically reinforced my opinion that if you don’t charge on the phone calls made by people who actually need to make them, then you are to charge people regardless of whether they are going to use the service or not, cheers!

Your unhappiness in your job is irrelevant to charging people to ask you a reasonable question. You don’t expect to be charged in a bank when you make a personal visit for an enquiry, nor if you ask for advice in a shop, do you? So why should you be charged above the normal call cost to ring a call centre?

@”Call Centre Worker” – The “service” is that which the consumer pays for separately from the cost of any telephone calls. Any subsequent telephone call concerning a complaint is not an additional “service”, but the fulfilment of a contractual or statutory obligation by the supplier. There cannot be a separate charge to a consumer for such a fulfilment, because any costs of dealing with a complaint are borne by the negligent party, i.e. the supplier. If you think otherwise, then you ought to find a different job, because your lack of understanding of basic contractual and statutory rights makes you unsuitable to be in a customer-facing role.

Call Centre Worker says:
18 November 2013


“There cannot be a separate charge to a consumer for such a fulfilment, because any costs of dealing with a complaint are borne by the negligent party, i.e. the supplier. ”

And WHERE exactly is the supplier getting the money from to pay for that cost? NEW BUSINESS!

No, you are mistaken again. The supplier funds the cost of dealing with complaints from the charges it has already received for providing the service. For example, an airline will factor into its fares all the costs of dealing with delayed baggage. It could not reasonably surcharge a passenger who has suffered delayed baggage, because the passenger was not the errant party. The same principle applies in other sectors including financial services. A business sets its charges for goods and services at a level which covers its overheads including the costs of rectifying its own mistakes.

Eh? How does that work if you don’t use it you don’t pay!

peter walshe says:
18 November 2013

@ CCW a) did you engage in this discussion in your own time or on paid company time? b) did you cover margins and cost of goods sold when you were at business school? c) do you work at a service/goods provider/vendor of actually for a Call Centre Company charging your time to other companies? d) did you receive a refund from the Customer Care training school?

Please try Saynoto0870 website, I very rarely fail to find an alternative number for 0844 numbers and 0845 /0870 although the last two are free with BT.
Also my GP uses 0844 number and not sure what to do about this! Surely this is charging patients for their service

Ian01 says:
18 November 2013

NHS England recently sent a letter to non-compliant GP practices still using 084 numbers.

It makes clear that 084 usage must come to an end. It explains that the supplier offers migration of the 084 telephone number to 03 without penalty. It clarifies this can be done without terminating the contract.

The letter from NHS England asks practices to “explain their plans for swiftly moving away from using an 084 number”. A copy of the letter is also available online for download. You can print it out and take it to the surgery.

This story is hitting the headline news today and stirring up a lot of comment here. Well done Which? and Patrick.

If financial services can’t be included in the Consumer Rights Directive then the Financial Conduct Authority should start the ball rolling now, not wait five years for the EU or some other body to compel them to make our financial services use 01, 02, or 03 prefix numbers.

I believe vending services are exempt and when I read that, I realised that I have never called a vending company when I lost money and that was mostly because of the cost of the call. I’m sure that many people have not complained in other sectors because of the call cost and the length of time it takes to get to speak to someone who can help. I know that I have not phoned Ryanair because of the £1.00 per minute cost. Transport Services will also be exempt and even worse news the cost of phoning a 09 prefix number used by Mr O’Leary will be increasing to a maximum of £3.00 per minute in 2015. A ten minute call, not out of the question, will cost a valued customer £30.00. Not too many of their customers will be complaining then or at least not by phone.

Lee, please try tweeting Ryanair and see if they call you back.

Ian01/NFH when does the Directive become law in the UK and how long until companies and services have to comply?

Ian01 says:
17 November 2013

At present, only a draft of the proposed UK legislation has been published. BIS has only a few weeks left to publish the final version and present it to Parliament. The deadline for that is the middle of December 2013.

The timescale is tight and the Directive does not allow a non-compliance grace period. Once the new law is on the statute books (that might not be until February 2014), all users must comply with it by 12 June 2014.

Thank you, Ian.

You would think the likes of Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Sky, and other well known and respected brands would try and gain some kudos by changing from their premium numbers now instead of waiting until the law compels them to change. It seems they care little for their customers views.

I would agree that M&S and John Lewis are both extremely well respected brands and have a reputation for excellent customer service. However, Sky have been one of the worst perpetrators of 084 and 087 numbers for many years, aggressively pushing these and frequently changing the underlying geographic numbers in a cat-and-mouse game to defeat the likes of SayNoTo0870.com.

HMRC make over £1 million per year (or at least the agency they use do) Just smile and grit your teeth when you wait twenty minutes listening to awfull music! Alternatively sit cursing and then try not to be grumpy with the lackey that answers as it is not their fault. Bloomin difficult though it is.

I get your point on Sky, the only supplier of golf coverage except a little on the BBC. I phoned them a few times as I was buying a Sky Go monthly sports ticket and hit a brick wall when trying to find an alternative number to 0844. They had shut down all the alternative numbers on ‘say no to 0870’ and either the number was unavailable or I got a recorded message telling me to use the 0844 number. Does any other company try so hard to avoid supplying a low cost telephone number to their customers. I wonder what they will do come 12 June 2014.

Yes, British Airways also does this. If you call BA on their 0191 number (which is intended for non-UK callers) from a UK line, you get a recorded message telling you to redial on their premium rate 0844 number. If you redial the 0191 number while withholding your UK number, you get through because they can’t detect where you’re calling from. Unfortunately passenger transport services (which includes airlines) is another sector for which the European Commission and BIS have unreasonably decided to preserve an exemption to Article 21 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights.

Dan1231 says:
18 November 2013

I wrote to the Minister for Communications, Ed Vaizey regarding this issue and he said that Ofcom had found no evidence of firms deliberately keeping people hanging on the phone. He said that this could be seen as a customer service issue where the firms that make excessive call charges or keep their customers waiting would go bust. I disagree as customer service is not the prime reason for choosing a firm’s services. Therefore, this shows that the Government are apathetic on this issue at present.

“customer service is not the prime reason for choosing a firm’s services. ”

I don’t 100% agree with that tbh mate. The first thing I look at when picking a company is there customer service (Are they on Twitter? Are they UK? etc), then the 2nd thing is price, then the rest.

It depends on the nature of the goods or services. If you expect never to need to speak to a supplier’s customer services, then it wouldn’t be a significant deciding factor.

Ian01 says:
18 November 2013

With NHS England recently requesting all contractually non-compliant GPs to “explain their plans for swiftly moving away from 084 numbers”, HMRC recently completing their move from expensive 084 and 087 numbers to new 03 numbers, a commitment to follow suit obtained from DWP at the recent PAC enquiry, the Cabinet Office about to unveil a new policy based on 03 and 080 numbers for government departments and public services, BIS about to publish a new consumer rights law that will ban 084, 087 and 09 numbers for customer service lines and Ofcom shortly expected to officially announce a major overhaul to the way that call prices for non-geographic numbers are conveyed to consumers, the most amount of activity ever seen in dealing with these issues is currently under way. This should all have been done in 2007 or 2008, or shortly afterwards. It’s long overdue, but at least it is finally happening.

Lee, if you’re buying a PC for around £500 and the price is £80 more expensive in a shop where customer service is good. Are you willing to pay the extra? £80

No, i would go for £500 knowing that if there was a problem i could claim back via my credit card.

But if say i had 2 phone companies 1 at £20 a month with awful customer service and 1 for £23 a month and had a good twitter account i would go for the £23 a month one.

The reason why I am with Plusnet is due to them being in Yorkshire (20mins from me), customer service is good and Chris (the twitter team manager) is good too.

Does this also apply to the NHS Boards in Wales?

If a company provides a telephone number for customer services, we should not have to look for an alternative number to use because the given number is too expensive to call, no matter how old or young we are. Hopefully, all the offenders will be sorting themselves out by June 2014.

Lee, I pay £21.70 per month for 24/7 inclusive calls and unlimited broadband. I also have caller display, voicemail and inclusive calls to many European countries plus the US, Canada and I think Australia. How much would Plusnet charge for the same

I pay £17.50 per month (including VAT) for unlimited broadband, line rental and free weekend calls. I also have a block on my line that stops “private” “unknown” etc numbers from calling me.

You can also get caller display & voicemail for free. But I don’t use them.

You can pay £5 extra for 24/7 calls. But again, as i don’t make calls I don’t use that. As for European calls I have no idea as I do not call them, sorry.

I have been with TalkTalk and UW in the past but had problems. Plusnet have been really good so far and am happy 🙂

Thanks Lee, you are a mine of information.

When my contract comes up for renewal next year I will contact Plusnet. I did not think they had a 24/7 deal and that the price was so reasonable. I only phone two European countries on the list and usually talk for an hour on each call and about once a month. I did phone Microsoft USA earlier in the year to test their customer service, the call was inclusive and I was very impressed with them and the update on my dilemma, their call centre was in El Salvador. The ‘British’ side was also terrific and the call centre was in Romania. Very helpful and pleasant people all the way through. BT and Talk Talk are miles behind with their customer service centre, they could learn from Microsoft.

I agree; it’s long overdue. Ofcom took action on 0870 numbers a few years ago, but they foolishly didn’t realise that the problem would just shift to 0844, despite having been warned about this during the preceding consultation.

“A new EU law, the Consumer Rights Directive, will stop companies charging anything more than the basic rate for customer helplines in 2014.” 2014 is roughly 365 days long. Are we talking 1st Jan or 31st Dec or a random date in between?

Ian01 says:
18 November 2013

The legislation is due to be presented to Parliament in the next few weeks.

The date for compliance with the new law is 12 June 2014.

Our local council East Dorset has just moved to 0845 for a number of it’s services.

I thought that 0845 numbers were charged at local rate. Am I wrong?

Ian01 says:
18 November 2013

0845 numbers were local rate from landlines, but only until 2003.

0870 numbers were national rate from landlines, but only until 2003.

In 2003, BT scrapped the price differential between local and national calls to 01 and 02 numbers and began offering inclusive call plans. 0845 and 0870 numbers were not included and therefore became more expensive in comparison to calling inclusive 01 and 02 numbers.

Other 084 and 087 numbers have never been local or national rate and are never inclusive.

There’s no such thing as local rate on a mobile phone and it hasn’t existed for 01 and 02 numbers when called from landlines since 2003.

084 and 087 numbers are expensive. It is 03 numbers that are cheap to call, from both landlines and mobiles.

I disagree that before 2003 calls to 0845 were at local rate and calls to 0870 were national rate. This applied only to callers from BT landlines. Callers from other networks always paid a premium for these numbers above local or national rate, and likewise did so with 0345 and 0990, which were 0845’s and 0870’s predecessors. Interestingly, 0345 has recently been reintroduced as a genuinely non-surcharged prefix to replace some 0845 numbers.

Derek says:
18 November 2013

Sometimes 0845 and 0870 numbers can be “less unacceptable”. 1. They are sometimes included if you have a “package” deal with your phone for evenings and weekends or all day calls for example. 2. Websites like saynoto0870.com often identify the 01 or 02 number associated with the 0845/0870 number. The really bad ones are 0844 or 0871 numbers for which I have so far been unable to find an alternative and which are more expensive that 0845/0870.

Ian01 says:
18 November 2013

From a mobile phone, calls to 0845 numbers are often charged at the same rate as calling an 0843, 0844 or 0870 number. Calls to those numbers are not inclusive within call plan allowances from mobiles.

From many landlines, 0845 numbers are often no cheaper to call than 0870 or other 084 numbers. However, BT call prices for 0845 numbers are abnormally low as they are capped by regulation. That regulation ends soon.

It is really only BT that includes 0845 numbers within call plans to any extent. They do this by using the revenue from all monthly call-plan subscriptions to subsidise the 2p/min Service Charge and hide it. 0845 numbers are rarely inclusive calls from other landlines.

Many organisations quote BT’s unusually low call prices in an attempt to justify retention of 0845 numbers. However, BT accounts for less than 40% of calls made from landlines. Mobile phones account for more than 50% of all calls made.

For most callers, there’s little difference between an 0845 number with a 2p/min Service Charge and an 0844 number at the lower end of the range with a 2p/min Service Charge. Ofcom’s “unbundled tariffs” system will make this very clear. It will also expose the “BT Anomaly” and then fix it.

Talk Talk also include 0870 and 0845 numbers in their call packages.

Nivlem Wordnwot says:
18 November 2013

Guys, A good way is first check if there is a normal land line number available. You can use ‘Say no to 0870’ website for this. You’d be surprised what you find. Save you a packet!

Many Doctors use 0844 No which pays for there telephone sysrtem.

They then say its a local call rate No which does not exist our Fareham MP does not care.


Ian01 says:
18 November 2013

NHS England recently sent a letter to non-compliant GP practices still using 084 numbers.

It makes clear that 084 usage must come to an end. It explains that the supplier offers migration of the 084 telephone number to 03 without penalty. It clarifies this can be done without terminating the contract.

The letter from NHS England asks practices to “explain their plans for swiftly moving away from using an 084 number”. A copy of the letter is also available online for download. You can print it out and take it to the surgery.

I thought guidance was issued back in around 2006 for the use of 084 numbers to be stopped. So I won’t be holding my breath that anything will happen this time.

Ian01 says:
18 November 2013

Back then it was merely “guidance”.

It’s now a “breach of contract”.

If they move to an 03 number that means many who have calls inclusive landline telephones coul have to start paying as only covers 01, 02, 0845, 0870. It seems these changes often push telephone companies to reduce some mobiles and increase landline charges to compensate, they made EU mobiles calls cheaper but increased PAYG UK mobile calls. I have a mobile PAYG at 35p a minute but only use it in emergency as I have mobility problems and can’t walk to a phone if I break down. The cost of using a mobile is higher for it’s convenience so should cost more and users should study their charges when they take out the contract so they don’t have to moan later.

No, 03 numbers are always charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers. The only difference with 03 is that it doesn’t relate to a geographic area unlike 01 and 02. If 01 and 02 numbers are included, then 03 will be too. This is universal.

Ian01 says:
18 November 2013

Calls to 03 numbers are always charged at the same rate as calling an 01 or 02 number and count towards inclusive allowances on landlines and mobiles.

Stuart says:
18 November 2013

If you want to buy a new car from a Mazda dealership you’ll be charged as well. What a great way of making sales.

To call our local BBC radio station you have to use an 0845 number. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I thought that us taxpayers already pay for the BBC so why a Premium Rate number to phone them?

What about governmental departments? They all use 0845 or 0870 numbers (DVLA, HMRC, Passport Office, and on and on…), if they bother to have anybody manning the phones, that is! One gets ripped off to listen to automated messages!

Ian01 says:
18 November 2013

HMRC has recently moved their 0845 and 0870 lines to new 0300 and 0345 numbers.

DWP has recently promised to do the same.

Completely agree Tomly that this is also a problem. We analysed 115 telephone numbers used by 73 public bodies, and found around a quarter of the numbers are high rate starting 084 or 087.

The good news is that the Cabinet Office has acknowledged that it is inappropriate for vulnerable citizens to pay high charges to access public services and has committed to establish best practice in this field and ensure it is followed across Government.

They must now act fast by banning costly calls across the board – you can help by signing our campaign and sharing it with your friends and family: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/premium-rate-phone-numbers/

Ian01 & NFH

When this Directive becomes law, what loopholes, if any, are there for the likes of Sky to use. Can you think of other well known companies who will also looking for ways around the legislation.

Article 21 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights will be enacted in the UK by Regulation 39 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 which you can read at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/226625/bis-13-1111-the-consumer-contracts-information-cancellation-and-additional-payments-regulations-2013.pdf. Although the draft legislation is quite watertight and even prevents non-UK numbers from being used (and I doubt such a cross-border prohibition is allowed in the EU), I expect that many businesses will flout the legislation. As a precedent, many large businesses are continuing to levy above-cost non-direct debit surcharges in breach of Article 19 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights and the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, which is already in force. With little enforcement action being taken by bodies such as Trading Standards, this flouting of consumer law will no doubt continue.

NFH, At least you are being realistic about the flouting of the regulations. I think we should be prepared and not think this Directive, when it becomes law, will solve all our problems.

The UK’s enactment of Article 19 (concerning payment surcharges) provides specifically for any unlawful surcharge to be repaid to the consumer. I notice that the UK’s draft enactment of Article 21 (concerning surcharged telephone calls) does not make a similar provision. The enactment of the directive needs to include a significant deterrent to breaching it, otherwise businesses will flout it with impunity.

NFH, I emailed BIS a couple of months ago about my objection to transport and financial services being exempt from the Directive but did not receive any acknowledgement. We should all now contact BIS regarging the sanctions to be applied if companies flout the legislation. This time I would like to address my email to a minister rather than to just BIS in general. Apart from Vince Cable, is there a more appropriate minister to contact. Should we also contact our respective MP’s to ask them to support the Bill when it gets to Parliament?

Ian01 says:
19 November 2013

As it’s the implementation of an EU Directive, there is no “supporting” or voting by MPs to be done.

BIS has a very tight timescale to get this to Parliament before mid-December. I would not delay them with any other stuff at this point.

Ian01, thanks for putting me right on this. At least it will not go the route of the Private Members Bill on Nuisance Calls.

When this Directive becomes law, will the likes of Sky be able to ignore it and use whatever telephone numbers they wish; without anybody, apart from the toothless regulator, able to do anything about it.

The best deterrent will be if Ofcom immediately closes down any offending 084 and 087 numbers without notice. This would be a sufficient deterrent to errant businesses who continue with this unfair commercial practice. However, as you point out, Ofcom is toothless and they will probably just sit back and open a consultation on the scale of the breaches in two years’ time.


I decided to email BIS again, this time about the need to include sanctions or deterrents in the Bill. There is no point in doing a half job and if companies are able to continue using any number they wish without anybody stopping them, this whole process will be almost a waste of time. How many more years will we have to wait to get it right.