/ Money, Technology

Banks call charges: customers still face costly bills

Phone cartoon

We’ve found that current account and credit card providers are still using high-cost telephone numbers, despite a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) proposal to ban banks call charges.

Thankfully, the most pricey 087 numbers appear to have fallen out of use since we first investigated costly financial calls in December 2013. However, 32% of the current account providers and 36% of the credit card providers that we re-examined in December 2014 were still using high-cost 084 numbers for customer service.

These can cost up to 41p a minute, whereas 03 numbers never cost more to call than a landline number and are often included in call packages.

Switching to basic rate numbers

TSB outlined for us last year why it switched to basic rate 0345 numbers to ensure fairness and transparency with their customers. And the FCA took your feedback on board by consulting on the need to cut the cost of calls to financial firms. As Alfa said previously:

‘Let’s face it, most of the time we contact customer services is because of a problem caused by the company …..and they expect us to pay for the privilege?’

Banks call charges for dedicated complaint lines

Current account providers have cleaned up their act on dedicated complaint lines – none of the 19 we looked at offered an 084 number for this purpose. But six providers – Clydesdale, Lloyds, the Post Office, Santander, Smile and Yorkshire Bank – use them for customer service (although Lloyds do have a landline alternative).

We found 8 out of 22 credit card providers using 084 numbers for customer service, including two – American Express and Tesco – using them for complaints.

Do you feel your bank is doing enough to communicate their cost saving numbers? Are there current account or credit card providers you feel are still charging more than they should?

Comments
Guest
Niel says:
4 February 2015

My banks (Barclays and NatWest) now have 03457 numbers replacing 08457 which they are withdrawing

Interesting effect

If I ring on Vodafone “Simply Price Plan” it costs me 14p per min for the old 08457 and 30p per min on the new 03457.
So the cost of my calls has doubled.

Guest

BT and Vodafone are two major providers of 0845 numbers to businesses and the only two networks to charge calls to these numbers at a discounted rate compared to their inflated per-minute rated charges for calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers. BT’s discount is imposed by the NTS Retail Condition which ends on 1 July 2015. These is no such regulation imposed on Vodafone.

The new system of call charging for 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers that comes into effect on 1 July 2015 for all landline and mobile providers will give further clarity to these call prices. Any funny business will be obvious for all to see simply by comparing the cost of calling 01, 02 and 03 numbers with the Access Charge for calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers.

When you call an 084, 087, 09 or 118 number, part of the call cost is set by the caller’s provider and part is set by the organisation being called. The cost of calling 01, 02 and 03 numbers is set entirely by the caller’s provider. If you are paying an extortionate rate for calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers, you are on the wrong price plan or with the wrong provider.

Most people no longer pay a per-minute rate for calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers and instead have an inclusive allowance as part of a call plan. On those landlines where no such call plan is in place, these calls can cost 10p per minute or more. An inclusive deal with AnyTime calls usually offers better value for money for any caller making more than about 10 minutes per week of daytime, weekday calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers. For example, BT offers Home Phone Saver for £19.99 per month including Line Rental, AnyTime inclusive calls and Caller ID. This is only about £3 more than Line Rental on its own.

On pay as you go mobile phones, calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers vary from 3p per minute to 45p per minute. Callers have complete control over how much they pay for these calls. If you are paying a high rate it is time to change to a different deal or to a different provider. Contract deals (with or without a phone) offer another way to make these calls and should also be investigated. The effective per-minute rate on a contract, even if, for example, only half of the allowance is used, can still be less than the pay as you go rate.

The Termination Rate for calls to geographic 01 and 02 numbers is just over 0.2p per minute. For calls to non-geographic 03 numbers it is about 0.5p per minute. For calls to mobile phones it is a little over 0.8p per minute. All of these calls should be cheap from landlines and from mobiles. If they are not, it’s time to change to a better deal.

Guest

I had reason to look up http://www.saynoto0870.com today as my wife wanted some things from a catalogue company . The =01 number was nu (out of service ) but it also displays=0800 numbers which did work this saved me 40P. I will not quote the company which was a company within another company within another company as I visited a website that said that some businesses are aware of say no and have blocked or taken out of service their direct numbers. I pay a set price for long distance calls (UK) on my rental.

Guest
Gerry says:
6 February 2015

I’d like to believe that everything will be rosy on 1st July 2015, but I very much doubt it.

Many big names still wave two fingers at last June’s ‘Basic Rate’ law about Customer Service numbers, including Lidl (all their W5 cleaning products still show 0870 numbers), British Airways (Flight Departures and Arrivals), Train Tracker and Traveline (both 0871 premium rate). BA also scores a hat trick, simultaneously breaking both the Equality Act and the Basic Rate law by quoting only an 0845 number for their Minicom service for the Hearing Impaired !

Each Train Operating Company claims there’s a loophole in the law because Train Tracker is operated by the Association of Train Operating Companies (aka National Rail). TOCs such as Southeastern also break the rules by providing no 0871 or 25p reverse charge text pricing information for Train Tracker; look up South Eastern Railway (sic) in the BT online directory and only their 0845 number is listed.

Presumably the bus companies are exploiting a similar loophole with Traveline, and Arriva still blatantly displays only 0844 numbers on buses and at bus stops.

These rogue organisations are all flouting the law (or getting very close to doing so) at the moment, so why does anyone think the banks and other financial institutions will suddenly change their spots on 1 July 2015, or when the Basic Rate rules apply to them? They have no shame whatsover, they know that they’ll continue get away with it, so the banks will still be laughing all the way… to the bank.

Guest

As with every regulation there has ever been, there will always be a few who ignore it and carry on regardless. The success story, here, is the huge number of organisations that have already complied with the new rules that were introduced in June 2014. Millions of calls per week that this time last year would have been to 084 and 087 numbers are now instead being made to 03 and 080 numbers.

Doubtless there will be a number of organisations that fail to comply with what they are required to do by 1 July 2015. The media can tear them to pieces once their position is known.

They will, however, be in the minority. Most banks have already adopted new 0345 numbers. On the other hand, the insurance industry has shown little movement away from expensive numbers.

Ofcom are already running adverts about the forthcoming changes both in trade magazines and in the national press. There can be no excuse for not knowing about what is coming.

Organisations using 084, 087 and 09 numbers now have only a few short months left to justify their Service Charge and amend all of their marketing materials to declare it, else change their number to stop imposing it.

Guest

The following is from Santander’s website. At the time of writing three 0844 number and three 0845 number are listed. (The remaining three are 0800 numbers.)

The costly numbers appear to be the companies that underwrite Santander’s policies. I complained to Aviva about the 0844 number but they showed no more interest than Santander about my concern. As I see it, Santander should be responsible for providing getting the number changed, because my contract was with them, but I don’t know the legal position.

Home insurance:
For the right number to call to speak to customer services, check what your policy number starts with. You’ll find your policy number on your policy schedule.

If you have a Santander Options Home Insurance policy (starts 11 or 12):
You can find all of your documents, make changes and more in the Options Home Insurance self service centre.

Alternatively you can call BISL on 0800 048 1853.
Lines are open 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm Saturday and public holidays, and 10am to 4pm Sunday.

If you have a Santander Home Insurance policy which is underwritten by Aviva (your policy number will start with either AN or MH)
Call Aviva on 0844 891 5060.
Lines are open 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm Saturday.

If you have a Santander Home Insurance policy which was originally taken out through the National & Provincial Building Society
Call 0845 741 3324.
Lines are open 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 2pm Saturday.

Car insurance:
Call iGO4 on 0800 917 5090.
Lines are open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm Saturday and 10am to 3pm Sunday.

Travel insurance:
Call ACE on 0800 519 9925 or from abroad +44 (0) 1293 726329.
Lines open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Life insurance and life and critical illness insurance:

If your policy provider is Aviva:
Call Aviva on 0845 301 6383.
Lines are open 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 4pm Saturday.

If your policy provider is Royal London:
Call Royal London on 0845 741 3002.
Lines are open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 4pm Saturday.

Guest

They have until 1 July 2015 to amend their marketing materials.

They have these two main choices:

“Call us on 084X XXX XXXX
“Calls incur a Xp per minute Service Charge on top of your phone provider’s Access Charge.”

The Service Charge can be up to 7p per minute on calls to 084 numbers, and varies depending on the number called, not by which provider is used to make the call.

“Call us on 034X XXX XXXX
“Calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive allowances on landlines and on mobiles.”

The latter is a much more attractive proposition for most callers.

The other choice is:

“Call us on 080X XXX XXXX
“Calls are free from landlines and from mobiles.”

Free calls to 080 numbers from mobile phones takes effect on 1 July 2015.

Organisations will pay higher fees for incoming calls to 080 numbers than for incoming calls to 03 numbers.

Guest

Thanks Ian. Can you tell me what enforcement is likely to take place if organisations fail to meet the deadline? We have had years of nuisance calls and the fines are few and paltry.

I have noticed that it is becoming harder to find phone numbers on companies’ websites. At one time, income from costly calls was a means of deferring costs, but that is nearly history.

I have some sympathy with companies and other organisations having to provide information that many of us could find on their websites.