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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?

Comments

Remember that if you do have a call a company on a surcharged 084/087/09 number about goods or services you have agreed to buy, then Regulation 41(2) of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 gives you the automatic legal right to claim back the surcharge from the company, if necessary via the Small Claims track of the County Court. The precise wording is “If in those circumstances a consumer who contacts a trader in relation to a contract is bound to pay more than the basic rate, the contract is to be treated as providing for the trader to pay to the consumer any amount by which the charge paid by the consumer for the call is more than the basic rate.

Although a similar ban on these numbers is being introduced on financial services by the FCA, the right to claim back the cost won’t apply to financial services, only to the non-excluded industries covered by Regulation 41. Therefore you can, for example, claim back the surcharge from an airline, including British Airways which is still breaching the new regulations by advertising only 0844 numbers for most types of enquiries in relation to existing bookings.

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

not entirely true, Sky are still using 084 numbers for sales especially on TV ads as the new rules don’t cover sales lines. I found out the hard way when I reported them to the ASA.

And if you look at the Sky onscreen telephone numbers list, even Sky technical helplines are still listing 084 numbers, and I’ve told them about it once already. In fact around 95% of the contact numbers listed are either 084 or 087 although 99% of those are 3rd parties suppliers.

The Students Loans Company still has alot of pdf’s on its site quoting 0845 numbers, admittedly they’re quite old but surely the one about how to make a complaint needs to be updated.

It’s ppc008_2011_v7_online.pdf

I do feel that many companies are only paying lip service to these new rules. Either that or they employ a load of rubbish IT professionals.

Yeah I know but since too many websites go out of there way to make things difficult to find I tend to search using google to get the the page I’m interested in and the one you listed is one of 3 complaint pdfs that get returned. If they’re out of date then surely there’s no need for them to still be on their website.

Ian says:
1 August 2014

The recent consumer protection legislation has absolutely no impact on Student Finance. SLC changed their numbers after action by government. This included being mentioned in a National Audit Office report in July 2013 and at a Public Accounts Committee enquiry in September 2013 (report published November 2013) and after being called directly to account at a Public Accounts Committee enquiry in December 2013 (report published February 2014). SLC finally changed their numbers towards the end of March 2014.

I did point out on the TSB thread “why TSB has ditched 0845 numbers” that they still 0845 numbers listed in pdfs and guess what they still do.

Like select_welcome_pack.pdf

British Airways are sill listing loads of 0844 numbers, and I did tweeted them on 19th June about it.

Just type British Airways contact into google.

And yes I did try looking for the contact numbers by doing directly to their webpage but gave up

See http://www.britishairways.com/travel/ctclist/public/en_gb/About_Country=GB

Fred says:
1 August 2014

Yes that is true, I also struggled to find an alternative number as I couldn’t call an 0844 number from Spain, where I was at the time. When I complained by email they told me to call the 0844 number that I had told them I couldn’t call! In the end I had to resort to snail mail, and got the matter resolved. They made no comment about the problems I’d had trying to contact them

caro says:
1 August 2014

why is it still 0845 to phone the DWP benefits office. Surely those on hardship monies should be best protected from costly calls?

@caro, where did you get the 0845 from ?

caro says:
1 August 2014

It was on the top of the letter that included the certificate for DLA proof.

OK thank you, the gov.uk website lists 0345 numbers although its a huge effort to find them.

How old was the letter? They’ve should be using 0345 numbers from 13th June 2014

caro says:
1 August 2014

Just missed it then June 5th 🙂

Sadly I get the impression that too many companies have waited until the last possible minute before making the changes rather than having the right numbers in place on or before that date.

They could have easily had huge fines ready for companies that hadn’t got the right numbers in place by 13th June 2014, but they didn’t

The whole legislation seems to have been a steaming pile of cow droppings. Our law markers need a good kick up the backside.

caro says:
1 August 2014

So how does it stand with such as Santander as technically they are Spanish based though worldwide as they still have 08459 724724 as their customer service number.

Doesn’t matter who owns them as they’re a financial institution they’re regulated by the FCA and the FCA are dragging their feet to implement the same rules for those types of businesses.

Ian says:
1 August 2014

DWP changed most of their 0845 lines over to cheaper 0345 numbers on 17 March 2014. DWP is NOT covered by the recent BIS consumer protection legislation but was instead subject to the Cabinet Office guidance published in December 2013.

So on the 5th June they really should have been sending out letters with the new number on rather than the old. tut tut

Wonder if people can claim the cost of the calls back.

deckhanddave says:
7 August 2014

How about an Idiots guide to the new legislation? Or a link to one if it exists. It appears that there are some grey areas and then some ‘Grey Areas’. Some companies are covered-some are not. Some numbers are covered-some are not. Some types of calls are covered-some are not. Which type of companies aren’t covered and can use them? Then those that are covered, what type of calls are banned from it? Are all 08 numbers covered under it? As I read the legislation it covers post contract calls and says they should not cost more than a normal 01,02,03 call but does that include from a mobile phone? That was the purpose of the 03 numbers. It was to stop the ‘Disadvantaged’ from having to pay higher call costs than those with inclusive call times and land lines.

Ian says:
8 August 2014

Retailers, traders and passenger transport companies must offer 01, 02 or 03 numbers for all post-sale contact. Failure to comply entitles the caller to a refund of the excess call cost over ‘basic rate’. Trading standards can take action. Initial reports should go via the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Helpline on 0345 404 0506. Sole traders can continue using standard mobile numbers.

The Financial Conduct Authority failed to bring in parallel regulation for the financial sector. However, several banks have changed their numbers. The insurance industry appears to need this regulation before it will act. It’s nine months since the FCA said it will take action. That action might happen in 2015.

Government departments are recommended by the Cabinet Office to use 03 numbers in place of 084 and 087 numbers. Many have already made the required changes.

A Worrall says:
1 August 2014

You could try including BT in this. My daughter has a local telephone number, but a call from me was charged at above the due rate. BT also claimed I had made an automatic reply to a 1471 query. I think we need to check these bills rather carefully as I have found charges for things I have not used.

susief says:
1 August 2014

My doctor got rid of the 0844 line after I posted a complaint on the surgery website, but I have just opened an account with Tesco Bank and was quite shocked when my phone bill arrived to find 2 calls had cost 20% of my monthly broadband/landline package. I think if people had to pay £20 extra for a £100 grocery shop they would be out of business – and the first call was to ask about a mistake made by them, and the second call was because I was cut off!!!!!

Jo Shaw says:
1 August 2014

My car insurance company AVIVA use an 0844 number. I think it is disgusting when you are paying vast amounts for the insurance anyway, that if you want to make a claim or phone them about something it is costing you even more.

Sadly being an insurance company I think you’ll think they’re regulated by the FCA, and so far the FCA haven’t issued guidelines for banks, insurance companies to stop using these numbers.

Already the FCA don’t seem fit for purpose 🙁

Yorkshireman02 says:
1 August 2014

British Airways not only give budget airline service in world traveller at premium prices they charge premium 0844 prices for all their services by telephone. A once great company suppressing the least well off.

Stuart King says:
1 August 2014

I don`t know if this is relevant or not, but I got fed up with being charged for these ex geo numbers that I ditched my phone line, and went with skype. I have not only saved with not paying for line rental £15 per month, I put £10 on skype over 4 months ago and still have £5.61 I only use it for numbers that I get charged for. Brilliant, and I should have done this a long time ago

Alan Tuck says:
1 August 2014

When wil Nationwide Building Society think of their customers and withdraw their )*$% numbers?

Ian says:
1 August 2014

Nationwide mostly use 0800 numbers. Not only do 0800 numbers cost very much more to run than 03 numbers, they are completely useless for the vast number of people who make most of their calls from mobiles. Calls to 0800 numbers from mobile phones can cost up to 40p/min. Nationwide appear to have been very badly advised on this matter.

Most other financial institutions have opted for 0330 and 0345 numbers. These are “inclusive” calls from landlines and mobiles else charged at the same rate as calls to 01 and 02 numbers.

Hi Alan, in a win for our campaign Nationwide announced in March that it was switching to 0800 numbers for all of its telephone services. The building society’s main customer service number has been refreshed, changing to 0800 30 20 11. http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/premium-rate-phone-numbers/nationwide-0845-0800-freephone/

Where have you seen them using a high-rate number?

Ray Chung says:
1 August 2014

Give credit where credit is due, E-On do not use 08 numbers. All of their numbers starts with 03 so well done. Failing that there is always saynoto0870.com

Glad to hear E.on are now using 03 numbers, as since 13th June 2014, they’re supposed to be 🙂

So I think you mean well done the EU, although that EU ruling came out in 2011 and its taken this long for our government to get it implemented.

Zaf says:
1 August 2014

Well done Which?
Doctors Surgeries/Practices should be included in the Offenders Lists too. Our GP’s Practice has well over 10,000 patients many of us have to get in touch regularly, their non geographical numbers clock up never less than 8-10 minuets it includes the unnecessary explanations if you are lucky to get through. Some of them have a local number but one never gets through when it matters.

I think you must aim at them as well.

KME says:
3 August 2014

Our doctors have a annoying message you are number ? waiting ! each one taking 7 minutes and I have never got through in less than 35 mins. Needless to say when you do get through you cannot get an appointment for at least a week !! and tell you to go to the walk in centre or A&E if it is urgent. Why do you think the A&E is at breaking point with patients who should be seen by GP.
ONE OF OUR GPS works regularly several days a week at the walk in centre.
I can get an appointment with him at the practice but everytime I need a doctor he is in WALK IN CENTRE obviously , the pay has something to do with it !!

C G says:
1 August 2014

The phone line to Scottish Widows is still an 0845 No. and there is no alternative listed in “Say No to 0870”.

Ramon Bailey says:
1 August 2014

The DVLA still advertise 09 numbers. WHY? You can obtain the number you want on their Website
so why do they bother. It cost me £13.50 for less than 10 minutes. The 03 number works just as well so why have the 09 number there as well?

Ramon, Where are you seeing this 09 number ? There are alot of websites out there who advertise their own premium rate numbers as official contact numbers . Maybe you looked there?

Peter Waring says:
1 August 2014

Halifax and Santander still 0845 nos for general inquiries and telephone banking and EDF use 0800 nos which are costly if you use a mobile.

Peter, Financial institutions such as the 2 you quoted aren’t covered by these regulations. We have to wait for the FCA to wake up and do something. Some banks have changed their numbers but probably only to appear less greedy for a short time than the rest.

As I said above the regs are a steaming pile of cow droppings.

Being an energy provider, EDF is covered by the regulations. 080 numbers are fully compliant if free to call from mobiles and landlines. That situation won’t occur until 26 June 2015. Until then it is prudent to run an 03 number in parallel. These are inclusive calls from landlines and mobiles else charged at no more than the cost of calling 01 and 02 numbers. Running costs for 080 numbers are much higher than for 03 numbers and will substantially increase in June next year.

Pauline says:
1 August 2014

I needed to call Direct Line about my car insurance renewal, and they still have an 0845 number. Very annoying! Fortunately my phone package gives me them free at the weekend…… But in an emergency I would have no choice. I did mange to get £50 off my renewal though!

mgak says:
1 August 2014

What about Ryan Air and their call charges? Can you do anything about that?

Ryanair’s contact numbers at http://www.ryanair.com/en/questions/contacting-customer-service/ do comply but only by the bare minimum. It now publishes a surcharged number for “new bookings” and a basic rate number for “post booking queries” for some countries, e.g. the UK, Austria, France, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and Finland. One could assume that all these countries, like the UK, wisely chose to omit the exclusion for passenger transport services in their national legislation. For other countries, e.g. Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Poland, Ryanair publishes a single number for “new bookings and general queries”, so one could assume that these countries preserved the exclusion for passenger transport services in their national legislation.

This is an extremely rare example of Ryanair being ahead of British Airways with regard to treating customers fairly.

How does Ryanair get away with the following, quoted from their website?

“Do you have a complaint regarding our premium rate number?
Our customer service number for complaints regarding our Premium Rate number is as follows 0844 2098715, £0.05 per minute. Please note that booking requests, general enquiries or general complaints will not be handled on this line. This policy will be strictly adhered to.”

I might be wrong here, but i don’t think 0844 are legally classed as a Premium Rate number, as payphoneplus don’t cover them.

I might be wrong and if I am I’m sure someone will come along & put me right lol

Fair enough Lee. I’ve used the wrong term. But these numbers are costly calls for many of us.

Lee is correct, and I think rip off rate says it well enough 🙂 to cover genuine premium and other numbers.

Ofcom refers to 084 numbers as “Special Services: Basic Rate”

Although not sure I like that wording.

We refer to them as ‘high-rate’ numbers 🙂

I call any number start 08 a rip-off number anyway. And numbers starting 084 and 087 the worst of the bunch.

Whatever we call these numbers, can we do anything to stop Ryanair advertising an 0844 number for complaints about what they refer to as premium rate numbers?

Ian says:
8 August 2014

All calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers (except 0870 from 1 August 2009 until 26 June 2015) incur a premium charge to the benefit of the called party and their provider. At present this charge is part of the overall call price and is not separately declared.

From 26 June 2015, calls to 0870 numbers will once again incur this charge. At the same time new Ofcom rules will rename this as the Service Charge and require all users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers to declare it wherever their number is advertised.

Mobile operators currently charge a high rate and take a substantial cut, often varying with the number that was called. Phone providers will be required to set and declare a single rate for all 084, 087and 09 numbers and advertise this as their Access Charge.

These measures will bring much needed price transparency. It will be clear that the called party is financially benefitting from the call. It will be clear why these calls do not count towards inclusive allowances. Call prices for 084, 087 and 09 numbers from mobile phones should fall.

Ian says:
8 August 2014

The various ‘special services’, ‘business rate’, and ‘premium rate’ designations for 084, 087 and 09 numbers will shortly be scrapped.

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/telecoms/numbering/Numbering_Plan_version_26_June_2015.pdf#page=12

These are numbers with an Access Charge paid to the benefit of the caller’s provider and a Service Charge paid to the benefit of the called party and their provider.

It’s now more than a decade since the old ‘local rate’ and ‘national rate’ descriptions ceased to apply.

John says:
2 August 2014

Not all banks have toed the legal line. The Cooperative Bank, you know, the one that nearly crashed-out of existence recently. They sent me a thank you letter for my loyalty whilst they were being roasted, then sent me a notification re their hiked bank charges. Their thanks didn’t reign long, and I told them so. They continue to use 0845 numbers too.

Ian says:
9 August 2014

There is no ‘legal line’ for the banks to toe.

Despite the Consumer Rights Directive being published in October 2011, the Financial Conduct Authority has failed to produce any such similar regulation for the financial sector.

The FCA had ample time to bring in parallel regulation, but it may well now be another year before that happens.