You should always check that you’re calling official numbers when contacting businesses and organisations. Our guest, from the Phone-paid Services Authority, explains why.
This is a guest post by the Phone-paid Services Authority. All views expressed are its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Need to call HMRC, your bank or the delivery company? You should always check that you’re calling their official numbers. Why? Well, if you inadvertently call a third-party connection service, it could set you back as much as £40 for a 10-minute call.
Finding unexpected charges on your phone bill is frustrating at the best of times, but at a time of increased financial hardship for many, call volumes to organisations typically targeted by third-party connection services – such as HMRC, DWP, job centres, benefits helplines, banks and delivery companies – could be on the up.
A third-party connection service will charge you money for information or connection to the end organisation you actually want to call. Calling one of these services can set you back as much as £3.60 a minute plus network access charges, for connection to an organisation that may have a free or standard-rate phone number anyway.
That’s why it’s important to be vigilant, particularly when you’re searching for phone numbers online.
What is the Phone-paid Services Authority?
At the Phone-paid Services Authority, we regulate the content, goods and services you pay for using your phone bill, such as charity text donations and music streaming subscriptions.
This includes third-party connection services, or ICSS (Information Connection and Signposting Services) as they’re also known.
Complaints to the PSA about ICSS most often mention that the consumer did not realise that they were using a phone-paid service run by a third party with no connection to the organisation they actually wanted to call.
We introduced new stricter rules in December 2019 that make absolutely clear that ICSS must be marketed accurately, clear about the costs involved, and distinct in appearance from the organisation being sought by the consumer. As a result, we are better able to take strong enforcement action against services that don’t follow the rules and mislead consumers.
Advice on third-party connection services
Our advice to you is to take your time when you’re searching for a customer phone number online. The first result that comes up isn’t necessarily the direct phone number for the organisation you want to call.
This is because some companies pay search engines to advertise their services or design their websites so as to appear first in search results.
If you click on a link, take a few moments to read the URL (website address) and any terms and conditions on the webpage – spending time to do this before you call can save you time, money and hassle in the long run.
If you’ve found a phone number online, before you begin the call it’s worth checking what the phone number starts with. Official helplines usually begin 01, 02, 03 and 080, which are billed at low or standard rates.
Numbers starting 09, 087, 084 and 118 are billed at premium rates, and in addition usually include a network access charge on top of the service charge for the call, increasing the charge made to your phone bill.
If you have any concerns, use the PSA has a service checker on our website where you can find comprehensive details about providers of phone-paid services. You can also contact us online or by phone on 0300 3030 020 – our contact centre is open as usual during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was a guest post by the Phone-paid Services Authority. All views expressed were its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Have you ever inadvertently called a third-party connection service? Ever had unexpected bills arrive for calls you thought were made to legitimate numbers?
Let us know in the comments.