Have you ever had to call a premium rate 0845 or 0870 number just to make a complaint about a recent purchase? New government proposals could soon see premium rate charges scrapped for company helplines.
Being a loyal customer can be expensive. If you want to call your energy company’s customer service line, a pricey 0845 number may be waiting for you. And yet, what number is a prospective customer given? A free-phone 0800 number.
Well, this uncomfortable inconsistency could soon become a thing of the past. The government has said that calling a company’s complaints or customer service line should not cost any more than calling a geographic landline or, if calling from a mobile, no more than the standard mobile rate.
The new legislation is set out in the government’s response (PDF) to the European Consumer Rights Directive, and should come into force in June next year.
The end of rip-off call charges?
So, could this be the beginning of the end for rip-off call charges? Yes and no. Companies will still be able to charge higher rates when you’re purchasing goods or services, but not when you call up to complain about that purchase.
It’s also worth noting that financial services aren’t included in the government’s proposals, as they are covered by separate regulations. This is disappointing considering that last year we found that most banks and insurers use 0800 numbers for new customers and 0845/0844 numbers for their existing loyal customers.
Government departments will also not be covered by the new rules, and the inclusion of transport companies is currently up for consultation.
What about calling from a mobile?
Of course, if you don’t have a landline, calling from a mobile could still be a bit pricey, just as calling an 0800 number can be at the moment. However, at least you’ll be content in the fact that it won’t cost more than calling another mobile.
I’m one of the landline-less among us, but I am lucky that my mobile provider doesn’t charge for 0800 numbers. So, how do I call my bank or energy company? I track down their 0800 sales number for new customers and ask them to put me through to the right department!
Confusing 084 and 087 call costs
And it’s not just the cost of non-geographic 084 and 087 numbers that are frustrating – working out how much it will actually cost can also be very confusing. This is because the rates differ depending on the company you’re calling and also the phone provider you’re with. The cost of calling an 0845 number from a BT line can be dramatically different to calling from a Virgin line, for example.
To this end, the communications regulator Ofcom is also working to simplify non-geographic charges. Ultimately, call charges for calling helplines need to be clear and transparent so that you know exactly what you’re going to pay before making a call.
It’s encouraging to see that the government is tackling this issue – it’s been a long time coming. Do you resent having to call premium rate numbers to make a complaint?
Should companies scrap premium rate numbers for their helplines?
Yes (99%, 6,176 Votes)
No (1%, 46 Votes)
Total Voters: 6,222