/ 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?


The ban on surcharged phone numbers originates from Article 21 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights, which contains exemptions for a number of industry sectors such as passenger transport services and financial services. When the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills enacted the article in the UK under Regulation 41 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013, it chose to remove the unreasonable exemption for passenger transport services, but it stupidly chose to preserve the unreasonable exemption for financial services. No industry sector should enjoy an exclusion. The practice of using surcharged telephone numbers for customers to complain should have been outlawed across all industry sectors with no exemptions. BIS failed, leaving the FCA to belatedly pick up the issue. A total shambles and mismanagement by both BIS and the European Commission.


The EU Directive had financial services and passenger transport among a lengthy list of exemptions. For the UK to have overridden the exemption for financial services would likely have been seen to be ‘gold plating’. In the UK this always needed a separate stream of regulation.

Work began on the EU Directive in 2008 and it was published in 2011 with a target date of 13 June 2014 for implementation. The UK adopted the directive, holding a consultation in 2012, publishing draft legislation in August 2013 and the final version in December 2013.

The FCA had long been aware of that implementation timetable but failed to adopt parallel regulation for the financial sector. The FCA is now running a consultation but it’s too little, too late. Whatever the FCA has up their sleeve will be rendered obsolete by the forthcoming requirement, from 1 July 2015, to declare the Service Charge wherever an 084, 087 or 09 number is advertised.

Joan Kingstonm-Lynch says:
31 January 2015

Halifax still charge premium rate on08457 number.


If they continue using 0845 numbers after 1 July 2015 they will have to change all of their marketing materials to declare their Service Charge next to their number.

The replacement matching 0345 numbers should be brought into use at the earliest possible opportunity. Ofcom made these available in 2007.


I complained to Santander, which is still using 0844 numbers for customer service. I don’t like web forms because it is more difficult to keep a track of correspondence The only email address I could find was the CEO one.

I received a prompt reply: “To enable me to register and investigate your concerns, please can you provide me with your full address, including postcode, your date of birth and daytime telephone number?”

My complaint is not over a personal issue. They have my name and email address and unless they want to send my a birthday card, why do they want my dob.

Duncan says:
1 February 2015

Hi Joan for the Halifax use the apps say no to 08 (or Google) and see if there is an alternative offered that is a landline or 03 number
when I dial 0800 numbers using 0800 wizard it will change a number in front of you should a CHEAPER alternative be available
Try this with a few different APPS or websites as it may not be altered on the first that you try to use as NOT in THEIR database but may be included in a Competitor’s alternative database


There are various methods for looking for alternative numbers in order to avoid calling expensive 084 and 087 numbers. Thankfully they are becoming more and more redundant.

The focus has moved on to educating users of 084 and 087 numbers about the forthcoming changes to call pricing with the suggestion they change their number to one in the 03 range.

This immediately benefits all callers rather than the select few who happen to stumble upon some website or app.


Ian – I appreciate what is being done, but the expensive numbers are still with us. I met at least four while switching my home insurance recently.

Until the last costly number has gone, I support anyone trying to inform others of cheaper alternative numbers. You and I know about alternative numbers but many still do not. It seems likely that costly numbers are still being advertised because they are a worthwhile source of revenue.