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FCA: Why we want the cost of calls to financial firms cut

Person making phone call

In a win for our Costly Calls campaign, the FCA has asked financial firms to offer basic rate phone lines for their customers. Here’s Martin Wheatley of the FCA sharing the announcement with you all.

When something goes wrong, the last thing we need to worry about is how much the call to sort things out will cost us.

Most of us have been there, when we’ve had an issue with our bank account or our savings and have had to call our provider to put things right. That call can often take a lot of time, so alongside Which? and other consumer bodies, we’re working with your banks, insurers, mortgage providers and other firms to ensure that when you need help from a firm – or if you want to make a complaint – the call will be more affordable.

Updating our rules on calls

We want to update our rules so that they best meet your needs as a customer. This means charges for both consumer helplines and complaint lines being capped at the cost of a basic rate call – so the same price as calling your neighbour or a family member on their landline.

Currently, every firm we authorise must have a free channel which enables customers to make a complaint. While a number of firms do offer a Freephone number, this channel can often be by post or online instead.

So why the call for change now? The Consumer Rights Directive comes into effect on 13 June this year. This will mean most companies will have to offer basic rate numbers for customer enquiries. Currently, these requirements do not apply to financial services firms. However, today we are calling for financial firms to play their part by offering basic rate phone lines to consumers.

We also heard the calls of the more than 88,000 people who supported Which?’s Costly Calls campaign.

We’re consulting to get it right

To make this change to our rules, we need to consult with all interested parties – that includes hearing from you. Announcements like this show we are listening, so thank you for your views to date. We will continue to listen to ensure you get the service you expect, especially for those moments when things go wrong.

We will publish the result of our consultation later in the year, and in the meantime, we look forward to reading your comments.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Martin Wheatley, chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – all opinions expressed here are Martin’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.

Comments
Member

“we need to consult with all interested parties” Call me old fashioned but surely the banks etc will just whine and shout about this and delay the whole process. Would it not be easier to just tell them they’ve had a good ( far too good) run at milking customers, and its time to change. End of. Or is that too simple?

I currently bank with a bank that uses 0845 numbers if I wish to contact them, fortunately that doesn’t cost me any extra as those numbers are included in my call plan. So this change isn’t likely to benefit me but I can see it could benefit loads of others so so far so good. What I’d also like to see, is a clamp down on the dozen or so websites that are listing 0843 numbers for banks / energy companies etc etc customer service lines, as these 0843 are probably owned by the website owner to generate revenue for them and have nothing to do with the companies they’re listing . And with the number of people who have fallen foul of government looking websites I can imagine even more will fall foul of these. So using your own bank name type that into your favourite search engine with 0843 and you’ll see the extent of the problem, especially as you’ll know your bank doesn’t use 0843 numbers.

Member

The problem with third parties setting up 084/087 numbers to forward calls to a bank’s geographic number is not only the cost but also that the third party has the ability to record your call and listen to it, which presents a significant security risk.

Member

I hadn’t even thought about that, so even more reason to warn the public about them. I did send BBC Watchdog an email on this subject on the 10th April, but I doubt they’ll do anything about it. I even emailed BT and they’ve not bothered to respond. here’s what I said ( and the ITV website is still wrong thats been wrong almost 2 months now and I have emailed them…

You might want to raise awareness that there are a number of websites “offering” a hidden paid for service listing numerous companies customer service numbers, most of the numbers listed are 0843 numbers. Here’s what a few are showing for BT Customer Service, all numbers prefixed by 0843 ( BTs actually number is an 0800 number):

numbershelpline dot co dot uk 504 3130
contactnumbersuk dot com 515 9037
number-direct dot co dot uk 557 3380
contactphonenumbers dot co dot uk 479 2536
everycontactnumber dot com 504 2110
customerserviceguru dot co dot uk 557 3743
contactphonenumbersuk dot com 507 7993
directcontactnumber dot com 479 2085
direct-number dot co dot uk 479 2077

One of these sites has even managed to trick ITV news, who are currently listing these phoney numbers for energy companies on :

http://www.itv.com/news/2014-02-28/how-to-reclaim-owed-money-from-energy-firms/

Here’s a snapsnot of what its showing (see attached)

A couple of those websites even have snazzy looking facebook pages.

Member

I do not understand why financial companies escaped from the ban on costly calls.

William is right about delaying tactics. I cannot see any need for consultation, but there is need to get on with banning costly calls.

Member

I agree that there is no need for a consultation. The FCA’s Principles 6 and 7 require regulated firms to treat their customers fairly and to communicate with them fairly. It already breaches both of these principles for firms to use surcharged numbers that will be unlawful for every other industry sector from 13th June 2014. Why hasn’t the FCA already taken action to ban this unfair commercial practice?

Member
David HS says:
17 April 2014

I do not fully understand what Mr. Wheatley is aiming for in this but I do not detect a full appreciation of the problem.
08xxx numbers are absolutely the LAST thing we want given the costs from mobile phones.

Many of us who live in rural areas suffer the dreadful loss of speech quality from long cross-country land analogue landlines. Mobile phones (where they work) deliver much, much better sound quality.
Being rather deaf, like many older people, I have given up on the land line and make all calls on my mobile.
As we know calls to 08xx numbers cost an arm and a leg from mobiles.

So my view may be different from Mr. Wheatley’s apparent view: I ask him get all financial companies, Govt departments, etc, etc to provide the option of proper 01, 02 or 03 numbers. For mobile users the cost is the same as an old style “local” number.

Member
Thomas says:
7 May 2014

A number of mobile networks such as 3 and giffgaff offer free calls to 0800 numbers, so you could consider switching to one of these.

Member
Sam Skittle says:
5 September 2014

I am with those other puzzled commentators, who said: ‘I do not understand why financial companies escaped the ban on costly calls.’.

There appears to be NO conceivable reason why the principal villains of our time are those who continue to ‘get off’ most lightly at the hands of ‘the legislators’ and ”enforcers”, which ultimately means, continue to ‘get off’ most lightly at the hands of parliament, where, as one former US president famously said, the buck stops …

Clearly, the newly-formed FCA is absolutely in favour of the new post-June 2014 telephone rules becoming ASAP a universal across all sectors of industry and commerce – including banking and financial services – government, and quasi government; their various press releases on this subject, and their CEO’s letter to the consumer organisation ‘Which?, do, for example, appear to demonstrate this. So why was ‘the regulator’s view’ (i.e. that view now expressed by the FCA, and presumably, that which must also have been previously expressed by the FCA’s immediate predecessor, the now defunct FSA) so completely ignored by the parliamentary legal draftsmen who drew up the terms and clauses of The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013? Why, moreover, considering the fact that these legal draftsmen operated at the bidding of, and under the watching eyes of, parliament (but principally, under the sardonically smiling eyes of numerous ConDem government finance ministers)? A parliament who then glibly proceeded to pass all of these outrageously discriminatory (against all those multitude of other organisations that, unlike banks and financial institutions, and also, strangely, and quite wrongly, unlike gambling companies, those who transact property deals, and certain public transport operators, have, since June 2014, been obliged to scrap their premium-rate customer call centre scams) terms and clauses of the above new Act of Parliament into statute law?

Also, incidentally, but further to the above question, why was it at all necessary to create a new regulatory organisation out of the ashes of the FSA? What was so wrong with the predecessor to the FCA, the FSA, that it had to be ‘swept away’, and the FCA created in its place? Was this act of ‘cleansing’ an analogue, one wonders, of the fact that one is obliged to purchase a new PC or laptop every handful of years when one’s existing digital ‘institution’ becomes utterly corrupted and dysfunctional?

The un-addressed crux of this entire matter remains, however, the massive elephant in the room which to date no FCA press release, no FCA CEO’s letter to the CEO of ‘Which?’, no ‘consumer campaign’ orchestrated by Which?, or it’s like, nor any other ‘official’ advertised interchange, or ‘official opinion’ posted on the internet, or any other like ‘bleating’ about the current state of the (very new) legislation relating to the use of premium-rate telephone numbers, has yet addressed, let alone, it would seem, even noticed. This “unnoticed” giant creature in the room says: ’Why, precisely, were those granted exemption from the new restrictions on – nay, for most organisations and businesses, complete abolition of – the cynical use of premium-rate telephone numbers granted this discriminatory exemption in the first place?’

For surely this extraordinary exemption is a get-out-of-jail-free bankster’s ‘cop-out’ card, since otherwise, all the other firms and governmental departments and organisations which now have to desist from using premium rate phone lines could have been exempted from the new 2014 phone rules as well, couldn’t they? No – something stinks to high heaven here, and this obnoxious and poisonous odour issues jointly from parliament and the ‘Do have another brandy, minister, won’t you?’ City of London!

Another clear, prima facia case then, of the sinister, undemocratic, and grossly discriminatory, self-interests of the (psychopathic) few directly affecting and manipulating the outcome of the so-called democratic enactments of an allegedly “democratically elected” parliament, enactments which are purportedly made on behalf of the “best interests” of the many!

So what’s new in the lobbyist’s lobby then?

Member

Financial services firms will no longer be able to use premium rate telephone numbers for customers as part of a series of proposals from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on changes to the rules on complaint handling and post-sale telephone calls. http://www.fca.org.uk/news/fca-consults-on-complaints-handling-improvements

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said:

“Nobody should have to pay a premium to complain to their bank so this is another victory for the 90,000 people who supported our Costly Calls campaign.

“Some of the biggest banks have already dropped high rate phone numbers, and we urge all financial providers to do the right thing and cut off costly calls now rather than wait for any new rules to take effect.”

Well done everyone!

Member

Has this debate led to any change? I find myself sitting here about to call CASHPLUS Customer Services for the 3rd time in a week, with calls at 10p/minute on a landline. Why is this a problem? My CashPlus account is a pre-paid card given to me by the local authority to pay support workers for my 10 year old son who has Autism (because the local council no longer employs the support workers, you as a parent become the employer – another story!). So having been clearly assessed as needing financial assistance to managed a disabled member of our family, I now have to pay premium rates to talk to their helpline. Of course the only reason I need to call them is because their web registration for outgoing payments, does not appear to be working . . .

Member

I take it Paul you are talking about =CashPlus started in London in 2004 not the US financial Service company=CashPlus Customer Services ? If so a phone info website states that calls to it (indirect ) cost 5p/min via a landline . On another website customer complaints on this company in its organisation /contact/administration etc on a 1 to 5 star ratio is 161 -1 star (with much angry words ) to 51-5 stars glowing with praise. A 3 to 1 bad report.