/ Technology

Making a complaint shouldn’t come at a premium

Cartoon of woman on phone

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

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Comments

As I’m sure many other enlightened people do, I look on the SayNoTo0870 web site:

http://www.saynoto0870.com/search.php

I am with you but please see my later comment regarding this website.

I recently had a minor RTA and had to phone my insurance company. The only number I have is an 0800 number which should be free but when i dialled it from my mobile phone I got a message that the call would cost 14p per minute (Vodaphone). I later discovered that the ins co only has an 0800 number for claims. So why should I have to pay so much for what should be a free call?

Presumably you had to use your mobile if you phoned while you were at the scene. This is the problem with mobiles and their providers – these “freephone” numbers may be charged for, apparently up to 31p/min. To be fair to the company, they make the call free to landline users.

It’s not only car insurance companies. The same comment applies to vehicle breakdown companies. If you need to call for help while out somewhere, you may not have access to a landline for a free call.

I’m not sure why these calls should be free. There is a good deal of convenience in having a mobile phone that has to be paid for whatever type of call it makes. Presumably if you have a contarct with bundled minutes these call charges do not apply – or use the landline number if you have it.

Not everyone has or normally needs contract phones and if you’ve had a vehicle accident or have broken down, you may be nowhere near a landline phone. Why add unnecessarily to someone’s distress by making them pay a fortune for the call (plus, you may not have enough credit on the PAYG phone).

Mobile services cost money – it should not “cost a fortune” (up to 31p a minute) and it is your responsibility to keep your phone credit adequate – you can top up by credit card while you are out if necessary.

jbengr says:
9 August 2013

Try googling 0800 buster, its a landline number that you call, then the 0800 number is entered, it comes off your minutes or charged at landline rates.

Hope this helps

If everything goes to plan, Ofcom will shortly confirm their often-stated intention that 080 numbers be free calls from mobiles as well as from landlines.

The new rules might appear before the end of 2013. It may well take until 2015 for those provisions to be put into effect, but it is very likely to happen.

Nick Beach says:
9 August 2013

There is a lot of confusion about so-called “premium rate” numbers. 0845 number are NOT premium rate. They are generally charged at the same rate as a local call.

O870 numbers are charged at a higher rate and the company you are calling gets part of that charge so I certainly wouldn’t be happy about calling an 0870 number.

0845 numbers are fine however. Companies need to use them because it gives them the flexibility to move call centres without issuing new numbers.

Sorry, but if your call package includes free geographic numbers then ANY call to a UK number that costs money is a premium rate number as far as I am concerned.

0870 numbers have not imposed a Service Charge since 2009, and revenue sharing has also not been allowed since then. Let’s be very clear that 0845 certainly is a premium number and that 0870 will shortly be so once again.

Calls to 0845 numbers incur a Service Charge around 2p or 3p/min. BT and some other landline providers choose to cross-subsidise that charge and allow the call as “inclusive”. This is unlikely to continue once BT’s “NTS Condition” is removed next year and once all phone networks have to specify a single Access Charge per tariff covering all 084, 087 and 09 numbers.

0870 numbers currently do not have a Service Charge and revenue share is not permitted. It is voluntary whether phone networks make these calls inclusive. Some landline operators have chosen to do so, but mobile networks have not.

There is now intense customer confusion because 0870 and 0871 numbers are charged at vastly differing rates from landlines, but are charged much the same as each other when called from mobiles. Likewise with 0844 and 0845.

All that happened when Ofcom removed revenue sharing from 0870 in 2009 was a mass exodus of businesses from 0870 to 0844. This increased the phone bill for many landline callers. Call charges remained high, and perhaps increased by a small amount, for mobile callers. Additionally, many businesses using 0845 numbers were tempted by the possibility of earning several pence per minute from incoming calls, and moved from 0845 to 0844.

Other than calls to 0870, all calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers result in the caller paying a Service Charge within the call price. The Service Charge pays for the non-geographic call-handling features. If there is anything left over, the called party may receive a revenue share out-payment. Since the call-handling features consume only around 2p or 3p/min, only 0845 and the lowest level 0843 and 0844 numbers fail to pay out.

Ofcom’s recent consultations should result in draft legislation before the end of the year. Their “simplification” of non-geographic numbers is likely to confirm all 084 and 087 numbers as being revenue-share numbers that impose a Service Charge on callers, as well as introducing new call cost declaration rules for these numbers. BT call prices will also change to become more like the other landline networks.

Although 0870 is going to return to being a revenue share number and 0845 will continue as such, the new BIS regulations will force very many businesses away from using 084 and 087 numbers and on to 03 or 080 numbers.

0845 and 0870 will be seen by all as being revenue share numbers, in the same way as 0844 and 0871 already are. However, most businesses with any sense will have moved to the equivalent 03 number and will be keen to convey to their customers that “calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calling an 01 or 02 number and will be inclusive in landline and mobile call packages whenever 01 and 02 numbers are inclusive”.

Ofcom will eventually also confirm that only 01, 02 and 03 are geographic-rate numbers and only (0500 and) 080 are free. Other numbers, those beginning 084, 087 and 09, will be clearly noted as imposing a Service Charge on all callers (subsidising the recipient’s call-handling costs) and therefore potentially paying money to the called party through a revenue-share scheme if the Service Charge is greater than 2p or 3p/min.

Roy Smillie says:
9 August 2013

STILL going to have to pay premium rate to call my doctors surgery– 0844 to a recorded message before I even get the ringing tone. There is NO geographical alternative number to ring.

Have you tried visiting the surgery and speaking to the practice manager about this?

Cilla says:
9 August 2013

Oh so cynical. This increased our phone bill by at least £5 per month and we now use their old local number which is free. Initially roundly told off by the Receptionist, but now accepted with good grace.

I exchanged a number of emails with my practice manager, but he maintained that
a) They cost no more than a land line call – WRONG, my calling package has free geographic numbers.
b) The practice made no profit from the calls – WRONG, either he was too stupid to claim his cut from the provider or he was an outright liar.

GPs were banned from using 084 numbers in April 2010 through a variation to their contacts with the NHS. This ban was re-confirmed in the April 2013 version of the contract. The same wording still applies.

GP surgeries should have moved to a number beginning 01, 02 or 03. This arrangement means the caller no longer pays a Service Charge within the call price. The surgery will have to pay for the special call features found on a non-geographic number. The caller will no longer be funding the system.

Contact NHS England, your local newspaper, and your MP and voice your opinion.

Graham Cox says:
9 August 2013

Better still, add that customerservice and fault lines etc should cost no more than sales lines.

With that suggested rule, a company that uses a 50p/min phone line for sales, would be allowed to use the same phone line for customer service.

BIS has the right idea; their draft legislation requires that traders will have to use an 01, 02, 03, (0500 or) 080 or mobile number for customer service.

The cost of calling mobile numbers from a landline should soon be similar to the price of calling other geographc numbers. It’s not going to be long before landline providers offer free calls to mobile phones on any mobile network within inclusive call packages. Some landline operators already offer free calls to mobile numbers that are on a mobile network that is owned by the landline operator.

Kate says:
9 August 2013

No company should be immune from this, banks and government departments should be included too.

Goverment departments aren’t covered by “business” legislation.

That said, HMRC have almost completed their move from 0845 and 0870 numbers to new 0300 and 0345 numbers.

The July 18th National Audit Office report is highly critical of government use of 084 and 087 numbers. With the new BIS business legislation becoming law by the end of the year and applying from June 2014, central government can’t afford to hang around and risk being seen to let the same rip-off continue to be effected by themselves.

As for banks and transport, both currently proposed to be exempt, consumers should make their feelings be known to the relevant parties while they continue to ask for opinion and input. This is draft legislation and can be beefed up either now or later. Now is better.

Richard A Willson says:
9 August 2013

I am profoundly deaf and with an impaired speech, and do not have a ‘voicing / hearing’ telephone at home. I get a lot of annoying that many well-known companies do not including the ‘text messages’ mobile Phone number and email addresses on their website, especially ‘contact us’. I think it is high time they should including the name of person who is in charge, clearly head-office addresses and so on, rather than their ‘self answering’ to the computerised questions on the website.

Val says:
9 August 2013

When did 0845 numbers become premium? I thought they were local rate.

They come under the heading “chargeable 08 business rate numbers” and, from a landline, cost between 1p and 10.5p a minute plus possibly a call set-up fee. However these call may be free if included in a package that allows calls free of charge at certain times of the day, just like 01, 02 and 03 numbers. Premium rate numbers are 09 where “goods and services” are charged to your phone account on top of the call cost.

Mike Mundy says:
9 August 2013

No such thing as local rate now.

Calls to 0845 numbers incur a 2p or 3p/min Service Charge. This money is used by the called party to pay for the non-geographic call-handling. Other numbers, such as 0844 and 0871 can have a larger Service Charge. In those cases, the called party may also receive a revenue-share out-payment.

0845 numbers ceased to be local rate in 2004. This happened when 01 and 02 numbers became “inclusive” calls in call packages. If you have a deal where there are no inclusive calls (rare!) the price paid for a “local” 01 or 02 call is the same as the price paid for a “non-local” 01 or 02 call. “Local rate”, as such, no longer exists.

The only non-geographic number range confirmed as ALWAYS costing the same as a call to an 01 or 02 number, is the 03 range. This applies to calls made from all mobiles and landines.

Mary says:
9 August 2013

Many organisations including those who are in existence to provide help for people in trouble use outrageously expensive numbers.

Citizens Advice Service use 0844 numbers for their helplines which is a deterrent for many.

Also I have never understood how the police are allowed to use 101 for their non emergency contact number. It costs 20p per minute from landline or mobile which is iniquitous. No wonder many people still dial 999. Its impossible nowadays to find out a number for your local police station.

FYI it’s not 20p per minute. It’s a one off cost of 15p.

http://www.police.uk/101

I’ve just looked up the number for my local police station. Finding it was not problematic at all; it took me less than half a minute. But instead of a geographical number, it is listed as 0845 and 0345.

I was once charged more than £6 for a phone call to Citizens Advice, it has definitely put me off phoning them, would try to email next time.

Dave White says:
9 August 2013

I’ve never been happy that phone calls that put me in a queue are not free.
We should follow the American model and make all calls to companies’ call centres free of charge.
In the US they believe that a customer call is an opportunity to do business and so the company pays via an 800 number.

We’re going to follow the European model. Draft legislation was published last week. It must be in place before the end of the year. It will apply from June 2014.

Calls should cost no more than calling a geographic number or be free. Businesses must use phone numbers that are inclusive in call packages whenever geographic or mobile numbers are inclusive. The legislation is clear.

In: 01, 02, 03, 080, mobile numbers.

Out: 084, 087, 09, other numbers such as 070 etc.

Ofcom have several other changes in the works that will bring even more clarity.

This looks promising. Can we please have a Which article on the subject, and can Which monitor progress to prevent the telcos cheating and wiggling out.

Richard says:
9 August 2013

Ofcom is getting more feeble as the years go by. The plan was to fix the cost of a call in the UK from its prefix, eg 0800… is free, but Ofcom allowed mobile phone companies to cheat and it led to the present chaos, extortionate ‘connection’ charges and weird short code numbers.

Vodafone charges 66p per minute for calls to “personal numbers/calling cards (starting 07 but not UK mobile networks)” but we don’t know that before we call. It looks like a mobile number.

Phone calls are basically free, it’s the infrastructure that costs money. Ofcom needs to be strong again: 0800 must be free to the caller, 01/02/03 and 0845/0870 should be the standard landline charge, 07 should be the standard mobile charge and no exceptions. Premium numbers should all move to the 09 range and be disallowed by default.

The number that costs is 070…, not 07 which are normal mobile numbers. 070 numbers can be used for “follow me”services where calls are diverted to another number and make calls easy to manage by some traders and small businesses. They can also be bought on a one-off basis where you want to, say,sell a used car but don’t want to advertise your own mobile or landline number. But they are expensive – 5p to 50p a minute from a landline plus maybe a set-up fee, and £1 or more a minute from a mobile. They need to be distinguished from ordinary mobile numbers when thinking of ringing them if you don’t want to pay the costs.
It is a very murky area – not knowing the cost of the number, how much your provider charges, whether there is a set-up cost, how long your call will last…. so it appears as a money-making racket. Needs to be “made transparent” is, I think, the current catch phrase (better than “lessons will be learned” though!)

Richard says:
9 August 2013

Nope. There are many disguised premium rate 07 numbers and the list is unpredictable. For examples look at the O2 special numbers page http://www.o2.co.uk/support/generalhelp/howdoi/specialnumbers

This list of 07 non-mobile and call forwarding services which are not included in your inclusive minutes is correct as of January 2012:
07406 075205 077448 079781
074171 075207 077449 079782
074172 075208 077552 079783
074176 075209 077553 079784
074177 075370 077554 079785
074179 075373 077555 079786
074181 075375 078220 079787
074182 075376 078221 079789
074185 075377 078222
074186 075378 078224
074188 075379 078225
074390 075590 078226
074391 075591 078227
074409 075592 078229
074410 075593 078644
074411 075595 078722
074419 075890 078925
074574 075899 078939
074576 077000 079110
074577 077001 079111
074578 077442 079112
074579 077443 079113
075200 077444 079117
075201 077445 079118
075203 077446 079245
075204 077447 079780

As I read O2’s tariffs:
070 numbers are charged at 51p/min, for monthly contacts, 66p for PAYG.
The other 07 numbers quoted are at more usual mobile rates, or included in the monthly package – same as 0844, 0845. So technically although many of these are “follow me” numbers they do not get charged at the high 070 rate.

Richard says:
10 August 2013

The point is that you should _not_ have to check the small print for each phone prefix for each telco for each contract, every month. Life is too short.

| 0800 must be free to the caller.
| 01/02/03 and 0845/0870 should be the standard landline charge,
| 07 should be the standard mobile charge and no exceptions.

Three standard rates for each telco, then consumers can make meaningful comparisons.

| Premium numbers should all move to the 09 range and be disallowed by default.

No surprises.

“Premium” as used normally means calls that include the cost of a service. As far as I am aware these are all 09 numbers and easy to avoid.

RE: “0800 must be free to the caller.”

Ofcom will shortly move to make both 0800 and 0808 free from mobile phones.

RE: “01/02/03 and 0845/0870 should be the standard landline charge”

Only 01, 02 and 03 will be confirmed as standard “geographic rate” calls.

0845 numbers currently impose a hidden Service Charge of around 2p or 3p/min on all callers. This charge pays for the non-geographic call-handling features that would normally be paid by the call recipient on other ranges, such as on an 03 number. Ofcom propose this Service Charge be revealed and declared by all users of 084 and 087 numbers.

Although BT and one or two other landline providers allow 0845 numbers as inclusive calls, this is not the “normal” situation. Mobile operators do not allow these as inclusive calls. BT has chosen to cross-subsidise these calls; and several other landline providers have copied BT. BT may be unable or unwilling to continue with this subsidy once the “NTS Condition” has been lifted.

All phone providers will shortly have to set and declare a single Access Charge per tariff covering all 084, 087 and 09 numbers. The Access Charge will replace the current (large) “connection fee” and modest per-minute markup (if any) found on calls made from landines. It will also replace the huge, often extortionate, per-minute markup currently found on calls made from mobiles. In this situation, 0845 and 0870 numbers are unlikely to remain as inclusive calls.

This, however, is not a huge problem. Some six months to a year before the Ofcom changes come into force, many businesses will have to comply with the recently published BIS regulations. Very many businesses will have to stop using 084 and 087 numbers and move to geographic (01 or 02), non-geographic (03), or free (080) numbers. In certain circumstances, a standard mobile number is also acceptable.

The fact that 0845 will continue as a premium number with a Service Charge and 0870 will return to revenue sharing with a Service Charge won’t matter all that much when the vast majority of calls will instead be to the replacement 0345 and 0370 numbers.

Likewise, many 0844 users will be compelled to move to 0344, and many 0871 users will be compelled to move to 0371 numbers. In all of those cases only a single digit is changed in the phone number: the “8” becomes “3”. Alternatively, those businesses can elect to take a brand new 01, 02, 030, 033 or 080 number.

RE: “‘Premium’ as used normally means calls that include the cost of a service. As far as I am aware these are all 09 numbers and easy to avoid.”

All 084, 087 (except 0870) and 09 numbers impose a Service Charge on the caller. The only diference between the various number ranges is the level of that charge. Those with the highest charges are also covered by additional Premium Rate Services (PRS) rules.

At present, the Service Charge is hidden within the call price. Ofcom will shortly publish draft legislation compelling every user of 084, 087 and 09 numbers to declare the Service Charge.

I use a website called SAYNOTO0870 which is enables users who find out alternative landline and Freephone numbers to these dreaded numbers to add them to the database.

The only trouble is it would appear that the IT/communication management teams for these organisations cotton on to this and start pulling the plug on the alternative numbers as soon as they realise that they have been rumbled.

One such organisation is the HMRC which deals with our income tax!

Some doctors surgeries also use these awful numbers too which really ought to be banned.

RE: “One such organisation is the HMRC which deals with our income tax!”

HMRC have already moved the bulk of their 0845 and 0870 numbers to new 0300 and 0345 numbers. Check their website for the new numbers. This huge operation should be completed within the next few months.

The recent NAO report (July 18th) is highly critical of the usage of 084 and 087 numbers within government. With BIS currently about to impose stringent conditions on business, government departments would be wise to also change their phone numbers in the same way. HMRC is proof that it can be done both in an orderly manner and in a relatively short timeframe.

RE: “Some doctors surgeries also use these awful numbers too which really ought to be banned.”

They HAVE been banned. GP contracts were amended in April 2010 to make it so.

If yours is still using an 084 or 087 number, contact NHS England, your local newspaper, and your MP and voice your opinion.

Further to my earlier comments, I am also a member of Utility Warehouse, an organisation recommended highly by Which?

I have the whole package from UW, i.e. gas, electric, phone and broadband. Because of this I get my landline telephone calls for free at all times.

So what do UW do?

When I contact them I have to dial an 0870 number!

There should always be a cheaper/free alternative to the 0870/0844 number for services.

RE: “So what do UW do? When I contact them I have to dial an 0870 number!”

Presumably, calls to the 0870 number are free within your inclusive call package if you call from a UW line?

The big problem is that calling an 0870 number from a mobile phone (such as when you have to call UW to report a fault with the landline) will cost 15p to 35p/min or so.

UW will shortly have to comply with the new BIS regulations. Expect to see an 0370 (or some other 03) number come into service at that point.

Fred says:
9 August 2013

Not before time, and typical of rip off UK that we wait till EU legislation forces us to take action. Side note to anti EU brigade in government and media, its not all bad. These charges have angered me for years. Lets see the history of this………… well nigh impossible to get help face to face as companies retreat to call centres. Then they charge you for calling them, whether you have a phone package or not. On top of all that you can wait for ages in their phone Q’s while the meter runs. Then how often does it turn out you are in wrong part of organization and get passed into another Q. Its like being charged to talk to staff in a store if you go back with a problem. No doubt they don’t just cover the cost of their operation by charging us rather than building these overhead costs into their new product/service prices (and losing business to higher quality lower cost competitors), they also make a profit. Its treating us with contempt. As several have commented, they don’t get away with this in the US, from where the UK could still learn a lot about customer service.

RE: “No doubt they don’t just cover the cost of their operation by charging us rather than building these overhead costs into their new product/service prices (and losing business to higher quality lower cost competitors), they also make a profit.”

In all cases (084, including 0845; and 087, not including 0870), the caller pays a fee which is passed on to the “terminating telecoms provider”. This can be up to at least 5p/min on 084 numbers and up to at least 10p/min on 087 numbers. On 0845 numbers it is around 2p or 3p/min. Ofcom will shortly set these rates as “up to 7p/min” on 084 numbers and “up to 13p/min” on 087 numbers. The fee currently varies according to the number called and will continue to do so in the same way.

The “originating call provider” currently adds their own markup on top of that fee, and they usually retain that markup. BT is currently regulated to retain almost nothing, but that condition will be lifted next year. Mobiles add a huge per-minute markup. Landlines add a modest per-minute markup (if any) but then add a large connection fee of around 15p per call. In some cases (e.g. 0845 numbers called from BT lines), the call provider chooses to subsidise the fee from the monthly call package price and designate the calls as “inclusive”. This latter case is a rare exception.

The fee collected by the “originating telecoms provider” is passed on to the “terminating telecoms provider”. Apart from the lowest-rate calls (under 2p/min), this “termination fee” adequately covers the cost of the non-geographic call-handling features (call queueing, IVR, etc) which usually cost a couple of pence per minute.

Anything left over may be paid out as revenue share to the company that uses the non-geographic telephone number. Companies using non-geographic numbers typically make about 2p/min from calls to 0844 numbers, and perhaps as much as 8p/min from calls to 0871 numbers. On 0845 numbers they make nothing; the 2p/min fee paid by the caller just about pays for the call-handling features.

The “termination fee”, ultimately handled by the “terminating telecoms provider” (part of which may be paid out as “revenue share”), will shortly be designated the “Service Charge”. Ofcom will shortly require all businesses using 084, 087 and 09 numbers to declare this Service Charge every time they advertise their telephone number.

Revenue share is currently banned on 0870 numbers. Users of 0870 numbers therefore have to pay for the non-geographic call-handling features. 0870 numbers remain expensive to call from mobiles and offer the worst possible outcome for all parties: both callers and users are paying fees.

All users of 0870 numbers may as well move to an 03 number right now. The business will pay no more for the call-handling on an 03 number than whatever they currently pay for call-handling on an 0870 number. However, the caller gets to pay the same rate for 03 numbers as whatever they pay for calling 01 and 02 numbers, even when calling from a mobile. Additionally, the 03 call will be “inclusive” if the caller has a call package on their mobile or landline. This makes little diffrence to users calling from a landline but makes a huge difference to mobile users who may pay about 30p/min less for “inclusive” 03 numbers than for “chargeable” 0870 numbers.

Ofcom will shortly confirm the Service Charge details for 084 and 087 numbers, including the continuation of this scheme on 0845 numbers, and the return of 0870 numbers to this scheme. Revenue share will return to 0870 numbers.

The “connection fee” (often around 15p per call) imposed on calls from landlines will be scrapped. Networks will no longer be able to add a variable markup to the call price. Instead each network (landlines and mobiles) will each set and declare a single Access Charge covering all 084, 087 and 09 numbers. There will be one Access Charge per tariff. In these circumstances, it is very posssible that 0845 and 0870 numbers will no longer be inclusive calls from landlines. However, that’s not the disaster it might at first seem.

Many businesses fled from 0870 to 0844 as soon as revenue sharing was removed from 0870 in 2009, so there’s not all that many 0870 numbers still in use. More importantly, any business currently using an 084 or 087 number for customer service will need to move to an 01, 02, 03 or 080 number before June 2014. When the new pricing arrangements for 084 and 087 numbers come into force in 2015, most people will not be affected by them as, by then, most of their dealings with business will be made by calling an 03 number.

What really infuriates me, having dialed 0845 or 0870, I then go through a computer menu, only to be told “all our operators are busy. Your call is important to us. Please hold” You bet the call is important to them – it’s earning them money!

There is one major reason that companies use these premium rate numbers, and that is purely to make, not earn money at the public’s expense. Asking a conservative government to correct this quickly is a no go. They will gently nibble at the edges and pretend that they are doing something about it.

Compared to what the caller pays (especially when the call originates from a mobile), the amount made by the called company is tiny.

Nevertheless, these charges will shortly be outlawed on customer service lines. Businesses will be banned from using numbers beginning 084, 087 and 09 for customer service.

Public opinion will pay a big part in convincing other businesses, including those not directly covered by the legislation, to also adopt the same measures. Which business wants to be exposed as using a Service Charge number when their competitors mostly use 03 and free numbers?

It’s not just commercial companies that are at fault; in fact in almost every single case SAYNOTO0845 comes up with a decent alternative. However our doctor’s surgery, in common with many NHS health centres, use premium rate lines and there is no alternative, despite directives from the Health Authorities to the contrary. In the last six months calls to my doctor are the ONLY calls that accrue a charge on my bill. In one case three calls added £5.00 to my bill. Free health service? Perhaps not.

Contact NHS England, your local newspaper, and your MP and voice your opinion about GPs using 0844 numbers.

Richard says:
9 August 2013

I think the next issue to take up is that no one can charge for a call until you are connected to a human being, I resent having to pay to sit in a queue.

This has already happened for new premium rate numbers coming into service in Germany.

The caller pays nothing while queueing or while placed on hold mid-call.

One of the biggest offenders is the government itself.

All government departments should be forced to offer a standard “geographic” telephone number – one should not need to pay premium rates to contact people like HMRC!

HMRC have already moved many of their numbers from 0845 and 0870 to 0300 and 0345. The remainder are expected to move in the next few months.

The National Audit Office recently published a highly critical report on the government’s own use of non-geographic numbers. It appeared around July 18th.

It’s down to central government to set their policies in line with what they now require of businesses.

Ralpheyesight says:
9 August 2013

Why should the government allow itself to be exempt but expect all others to comply. What happened to setting by example?

Government departments aren’t “exempt”. They are simply not covered by “business legislation”.

The recent (July 18th) National Audit Office report is highly critical of government usage of these higher rate numbers.

HMRC are already replacing their 0845 and 0870 numbers with 0300 and 0345. They started doing this in the spring and it will all be completed within the next few months.

It has now become more difficult for other departments to avoid making the same move. HMRC has shown how easy it is to change the phone numbers over. Clear direction from (presumably) the Cabinet Office is now required to set things in motion.