/ Money, Technology

Moving away from costly customer phone lines

Red telephone with blue flashing light

I have two bits of news to share with you about our Costly Calls campaign – one involves the Big Six energy suppliers, and the other GP practices. Both had expensive 084 phone numbers in common…

Scottish Power is the last of the Big Six energy suppliers to move away from an expensive phone number for its customer service line.

You can now call Scottish Power on 0800 0270 072 or 0345 270 0700. That means your call will either be free or won’t cost more than a local rate number, whether you’re calling from a landline or mobile.

Scottish Power made the change following the launch of our Costly Calls campaign, with a spokesperson telling us:

‘We want to make it easier for our customers to deal with us and that’s why, following feedback from our customers and consumer groups including Which?, we are moving our main number to 0800 for our most frequently used Customer Service number.’

GP phone numbers

In other news, NHS England this week wrote to GPs asking them to stop forcing patients to call expensive phone lines.

Around 8% of practices still use pricey 084 numbers, despite rules in 2010 saying GPs couldn’t sign new deals with phone companies that would require expensive numbers for patients.

Of course, many GPs had contracts in place before the new rules came into effect. However, the Department of Health told GPs at the time that they should take ‘reasonable steps’ to change contracts that didn’t comply with the rules.

Many of you have been sharing GP practices that use 084 numbers here on Which? Convo. You shouldn’t have to pay a premium to make an appointment with your GP. In fact, NHS England’s deputy medical director Dr Mike Bewick says it’s a ‘health equalities issue’:

‘There is a real risk that more financially secure patients will wait on hold to get an appointment, no matter how much it costs them, where a poorer patient will be forced to hang up because they can’t afford the cost of the call, and not receive treatment because of that.’

Have you spotted a costly number?

We want all companies and public bodies, including GPs and NHS dentists, to offer either freephone or local rate numbers for their customer phone lines. You can help by joining 58,000 others by signing our Costly Calls petition.

Have you spotted a company or GP using an expensive number? Did you get hit with a big phone bill?


The worst example I’ve seen is Creation which issues credit cards affiliated to a number of organisations such as the travel industry and football clubs. Creation uses a premium rate 0871 number for its customer services department.


Shockingly, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills proposes to exempt financial services from Regulation 39 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 (which is the UK’s implementation of Article 21 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights) so that Creation and others will be allowed to continue this unfair commercial practice.


I’m interested to find out whether any NHS GPs or Dentists have started using 0844 or 0845 (or 0870) numbers after April 2013. Has anyone spotted any?


My GP still uses an 0844 number & has done so for at least 4 years. I am lucky to have access to a pc & have registered with my surgery to book appointments on line. I am well aware there are patients that are unable or unwilling to do this & it’s about time all GP surgeries were forced to use their local numbers.

Ian01 says:
15 November 2013

I’m interested to find out whether any NHS GPs or Dentists have started using 084 or 087 numbers after April 2013. Has anyone spotted any?


I was very pleased to hear about NHS England’s recent letter. However since then there still seems to be groups trying every trick to avoid changing back to 01.03 numbers. Will the Fair telecom team please keep up the pressure.


The recent comments by Which? about Ryanair obviously upset someone in the company, judging by one of their first posts on Twitter. I wonder when Ryanair will drop its expensive phone numbers and whether they will do this quietly or make a point about how they are improving their customer service. 🙂


A permanent link to their comments about Which? and the various responses to that can be found here… http://archive.is/0ZC09

JohnP says:
12 November 2013

Just dont have anyting to do with Raynair they are Crap!! I think we all know that!!!