In another win for our Costly Calls campaign, the Cabinet Office has released new guidance for the use of high rate phone numbers by government departments and public services. We’re on a roll…
When the government announced that travel firms would be covered by new rules banning companies from using pricey numbers for customer lines, many of you asked about public bodies.
‘What about all public sector offices? Taxpayers pay their wages, pensions, expenses, whatever, then are expected to pay yet further when we wait on the line for someone to answer our call.’
New Cabinet Office guidelines
The good news is that on Boxing Day, the Cabinet Office published new guidelines to call on departments to scrap high rate numbers.
The guidelines state that it’s ‘inappropriate for callers to pay substantial charges for accessing core public services, particularly for vulnerable and low income groups’.
This is illustrated by S Elliott’s comment:
‘Five calls to the Department for Work & Pensions last month cost me £27! I might add none of these calls were for myself but it seems that charging the poor, sick and disabled premium rate numbers is a disgrace!’
Government departments are now being tasked with using geographic 01 or 02 numbers. And if they can’t, they should use the non-geographic 03 prefix by default, which costs the same as 01 and 02.
The guidance doesn’t completely ban 0845 numbers, however an 03 alternative must be offered and departments are encouraged to use this as their primary number.
This will give callers a choice of which number is cheaper for them to call, depending on their call package. Departments are also encouraged to present the 03 option as their primary numbers.
Bye, bye costly numbers
So in the future you’ll be able to avoid high rate 08 numbers when you call government department or public service. For example, our research earlier this year found public services including the Jobcentre Plus, Student Loans Company and The Pension Service using high rate 084 or 087 numbers.
If departments don’t abide by these new rules they will have to explain themselves to Cabinet Office ministers. However, no deadline has been set, so we’ll be pushing for the rules to be enforced as soon as possible. You shouldn’t be left out of pocket when calling essential services.
How much have you been charged to call a public service? Are you glad to see them being asked to hang up on high rate numbers?