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Companies ring the changes, but not all of them are in tune

Costly calls campaign image

It’s seven weeks since the new law banning companies from using pricey phone numbers came into force. By and large it shouldn’t cost more than the basic rate to call customer services, but not all firms got the message.

The good news is that lots of companies have made the effort to change their numbers, from Sky to the Student Loans Company. Both have switched 084 and 087 numbers for an 03 alternative.

This will please our Costly Calls campaign supporter Eleanor, who told us earlier in the year:

‘It’s disgusting that it’s an 0845 number to call Student Finance England. Students are a group of people who can least afford to be wasting money on phone bills, especially when the #1 reason for calling SFE is that they’ve messed your application up and you have’t got any money…’

Lloyd was similarly outraged:

‘Student Finance England; I called from my mobile as it was an emergency and was on the phone for roughly an hour (lots of the time spent on hold) and it cost me over £20!’

Thanks to supporters like Eleanor and Lloyd, you can now contact Student Finance England on 0300 100 0607.

Costly to call customer care

I’ve actually just got back from a two week holiday, where everything went well – except the airline I was flying with lost my bag. You can imagine my further frustration when I discovered that their website lists an 0843 number for ‘customer care’. Needless to say, I emailed them.

From your comments, I wasn’t alone in my findings. Lots of you have discovered companies still using pricey numbers, and some of you challenged them directly. H Samuel, Yorkshire Water and Morrisons are just some of the firms you told us about and who have  now switched from 0845 numbers to an 03 alternative. Here’s how Yokshire Water responded to Newt Beaumont’s challenge:

For all those still dragging their heels on switching their numbers, I can’t help but feel it reflects how they value customers.

They had plenty of notice

On the day the law came in, I wondered how long it would take for IT and marketing departments to get up to speed. Sure enough, there are examples of different contact numbers appearing on different pages of the same website, while every day on my way to work I see my train company’s 0845 customer services number staring down at me from the poster in the carriage. Is it too much to ask why, having been given six months’ notice, these things weren’t planned?

So it looks like we’ll have to continue flagging the new law to those slow on the uptake.

Watch out for unofficial numbers

One last tip – when searching online, make sure you click on the company’s website to get their official phone number. Pricey 084 or 087 customer service numbers may still come up on Google and other search engines. Oh, and beware websites that list companies’ contact numbers – they might not be the same number and you could end paying extra for them to connect you.

Have you seen companies ditching pricey contact phone numbers? Or have you spotted companies that are still breaking the new rules?

MrP says:
9 August 2014

Southern Water breach the directive re Customer Service Numbers . They still continue to promote 0845 numbers.Its not as if they havent had enough time to comply.

Wickes: They call their contact us page Get in Touch. They do have an 0330 number there but also the following statement

Please call 0844 8922 721 If you have a enquiry regarding a Kitchen of Bathroom order.

Think that 08 number are pricey for complaints / faults! Think again. Flextel still invites people to report faults in their service to an 070 number no doubt at staggering rates. Cut and pasted today:

“In the unlikely event that you experience a fault, call our 24 hour fault line on 0701 0700 151.”

I don’t think I’ll be reporting any faults!

I have a 0700 myself. But have never seen companies use them before.

This appears to be a breach of Regulation 41 of the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013. Since June 2014, customer service and other post sales helplines must use numbers starting 01, 02 or 03.

If the current situation is unchanged, you may wish to report this apparent breach of the regulations to Trading Standards via the Citizen’s Advice national Consumer Helpline on 0345 404 0506.

NHS Choices still lists hospital contact numbers as 0845. I thought government services were supposed to have stopped using premium rate numbers by now.

See NHS Directions dated December 2009.

NHS bodies were given until December 2010 to stop using 084 numbers.

Just had a clothes aid bag through the letterbox, its quoting an 0845 for their helpline.

Just seen this on Tesco’s facebook page from the 2nd Sept 2014

“Hi ***
I’m sorry to see this, as it’s one of our larger delivery lorries please report this to Well Driven.

0845 6525651

***** – Customer Care”

Surrey Trading Standards still have an 0845 number in the online pdf no cold caller sign pack. They have no plans to correct that until the signs are reprinted.

Co-op bank are still using 0845 numbers according to their website today 15/09/14 for all their departments.

Banks don’t need to ditch 08 numbers yet David. Most have, but they don’t have to.

Thanks for that Lee, presumably the Co-Op bank will drag their heels as long as possible!

I know this does not help you David. But Lloyds, Halifax and TSB now have a system so if you are on the phone to them and tell them you are calling the 0845 they will work out how much it’s cost you and put a credit on your bank account for that amount.

If you also tell them you are calling from a mobile it works out as extra money too……….. I am not saying I do that, I’m just saying you could! lol

It’s the FCA that are responsible for setting guidelines on how financial institutions behave, they’re the ones dragging their heels.

Does anyone have any indication of when they’ll surprise us and actually do something on this ?

Thanks for the info and advice Lee. Given the Co-Op’s dire financial position I cannot see them offering to put a credit on my account but worth a long shot lol.

Throughout 2013, the fair telecoms campaign was putting pressure on the FCA to introduce regulations in parallel with those covering other businesses. This was in addition to pressurising the Department for Business not to exempt passenger transport, and the Cabinet Office to introduce Guidance for Central Government.

Another campaigning organisation agreed to take on the first of these, whilst we focussed on the latter two. We were delighted that in December 2013, not only were we successful (after many years of effort) with BIS and the Cabinet Office, but also with Ofcom’s announcement of the introduction of the “unbundled tariff” in June 2015. The latter having been the subject of campaigning activity since June 2010 (with no support from ‘another campaigning organisation’).

In April 2014, the FCA advised the ‘other campaigning organisation’ that it would not be introducing parallel regulation but would conduct a consultation “before the end of 2014”. In essence, this means that implementation of the “unbundled tariff” will do the necessary work, making additional regulation superfluous. This disappointing announcement was, somewhat oddly, hailed as a campaign success.

I leave it for readers to work out who may have been “dragging their heels”, having entered into this issue very late, and then attempted to take credit for the work of others.

Ray Chung says:
16 September 2014

Scottish Power now publish an 03 number in their website for Gas and Electric queries call 0345 070 2700.

I’ve just had a letter from Thames Water saying they haven’t received my payment (in fact their letter is incorrect, as they had initially sent me an incorrect bill and, after I queried it, sent me a revised bill showing that I am fully paid up.) Their letter says “Problems paying? If you’re having problems paying your bill, we’re here to help. Please don’t ignore this letter and call us straight away on 0845 3000 848 if you have any queries about your account or this bill. It’s important you pay now to avoid any further action being taken against you.”

This is totally repulsive. Not because they sent me a threatening letter asking for something I don’t owe them, but because this is the sort of letter they send to those who have not paid because they are in desperate financial difficulties. Why do they think such people can afford to pay to call their premium-rate number if they can’t afford to pay for water?

And how many months have they now had to sort out their processes to comply with the new directive?

Just seem the news about City Link, so thought I’d look at their facebook page

And posted on 8th Dec they quote an 0844 number if you want to call customer service.

Looks like they’re trying to rip off customers even unto the last.

National Rail , national helpline number is 08457 114141

This is quoted in a letter to residents along a planned stretch of maintenance work to call if they have any queries.

Interesting enough, on the web its the same number as listed to contact head office.

In January 2015, the Royal Mint sent out it’s latest bulletin. no 132. Their 0845 was clearly described as being a LOCAL RATE.

I did try ringing them to point out that they’ve been breaking ofcom guidance for over 11 years now, but the lady on the phone was adamant I was wrong and the calls were local rate.

Why when these guidances are issued are large fines not imposed for companies who are clearly determined to rip the consumer off. And if ocfom can’t issue them then I’m sorry sack the CEO and put in someone who can do the job the consumer needs and not the job that numerous governments think we need.

I can only assume that when the new rules come into force in June 2015, no fines will be issued on companies who have had months to get ready and for one reason or another have bothered.

Ian says:
19 May 2015

It takes moments to find the Ofcom advice that 084 and 087 numbers must not be described as local rate or as national rate. The advice also links to similar advice issued by CAP.

March 2015, The Department of Work and Pensions issued an Attendance Allowance and Carer’s allowance leaflet to my mum, the bottom 2 phone numbers are both 0845.

I thought government departments were supposed to have stopped using them months ago.

Ian says:
19 May 2015

DWP has already activated replacement 0345 numbers. Some of the old 0845 numbers remain active in parallel. Most, if not all, of the 0845 lines play an announcement detailing the replacement 0345 number.

With thousands of documents and forms in multiple languages, it takes time for old paperwork to be be replaced with new. I sure do not want to see millions of pounds of printing pulped just because a telephone number has changed in the interim.