/ Technology

Have you paid for ‘speaking clock’ calls you didn’t make?

Man looking at mobile phone bill

Do you check your monthly phone bill? It might seem like a bit of a chore, but you might miss something – like a ‘speaking clock’ call you were charged for but never made…

For most of us, looking through the list of calls and charges on our monthly phone bill is one of those mundane tasks we don’t always get round to. But maybe we should. Why? There are heaps of eagle-eyed landline owners who’ve spotted that they’ve been mysteriously charged 30-50p for a call to Timeline 123 (the speaking clock) that they didn’t make.

Engineers checking lines in your local area could be the cause. That’s what one Which? member was told after contacting Plusnet about a charge for a speaking call on their landline – placed when no-one was at home. After some back and forth Plusnet provided a refund, attributing such calls to BT Openreach engineers checking lines, despite having asked them to use a free number.

Others report ‘phantom’ call charges

A quick Google search reveals similar reports of being charged for Timeline 123 speaking clock calls, many on forums belonging to BT, Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk.

Many of the posters are able to rule out themselves, children or elderly relatives from having made the calls. For some it’s a one-off, while others report up to seven calls over a couple of days. Some also managed to get a refund from their phone provider after persistence.

Are engineers calling ‘123’ to test lines?

We notified Openreach about the phantom calls – a spokesperson told us:

‘This is not an issue as far as we know. Openreach engineers have a special number to call to test a line that doesn’t result in a charge.’

Openreach offered to investigate any further examples we have, so we want to hear from you. How many of you are paying for calls you didn’t make? We may only have just scratched the surface, as not all of us religiously check our phone bills, nor do those who have bother to report odd calls we can’t explain. With 25m landlines in the UK, there could be millions of pounds going to these phantom calls.

Do you check your phone bill and have you spotted a rogue 123 call that you know wasn’t made by you or someone in your household?

Daniela Logan says:
6 March 2018

I am with NowTV and charged for multiple calls to one mobile number (07712112579) across October and February which cannot be made by us as we don’t even own a handset, and have nothing plugged into the line. They refuse to send an engineer to check the crossed lines and have told me I have to go to Argos to purchase a handset so they can test! I cannot believe they can’t test the lines themselves and have asked me to go shopping for them (don’t worry they’ve offered a whole £5 compensation) to prove that their is actually a fault? How can this be proper customer service and are they allowed to refuse to send an engineer?


Daniela I just spent 15 minutes reading through the long Terms+Conditions and use of NowTV they certainty have many disclaimers and they say they are not liable for viruses, errors, bugs ,etc etc . You know you are dealing with SKY Daniela ? It looks ,to me, as if you have been either hacked or an app is dialing out that number to give out your info to its headquarters. As I dont posses a cell phone and I dont want to dial it from a landline as it costs me 50p/min , who answers the phone on that number ? its an O2 number .


I should have added its near impossible ( but not impossible ) to have a cellnet crossed line . O2 will know who it is get Sky to check it for you . If I can get the mobile operator then your company can get more info.

Julie Viligiardi says:
16 March 2018

Good evening, I found my home telephone was engaged and there was nobody home so I found this strange and wondered what was happening. I decided to check my phone bill as I was suspicious and found that I have 5 calls to 123 (speaking clock) and two calls to local landline numbers that I rang but found them to be really odd – one asked for a pin and the other for a password. I rang BT (my provider) and was practically accused of lying when I explained I could not have made those calls as I was either at work or on one day was out for the whole day. The advisor said “as those calls are recorded against your home phone number you must have made them”. I was appalled with the way I was spoken to so asked to speak to a Manager. I was kept on the phone for 28 minutes holding and finally the advisor came back and said after speaking to my Manager we know there is a problem with the 123 number but because your bill is not due yet we will have to call you back on the bill due date to speak again about the problem. I asked for this to be logged as a complaint and the advisor said he did but now has to remove the complaint off his system. I queried this saying that the complaint was not resolved but he said the only way it can be progressed is if he removes it off the system! I now have to wait until 26 March to get a call back in an attempt to resolve but nothing I can do if it keeps happening. I am very upset with the way I was spoken to and made out to be a lying. I am not going mad and grateful to see it has happened to others but I feel helpless.


Sorry to hear about you problem Julie > log into MY BT >contact BT > by email > fill in the info then fill in your complaint in the box provided , don’t miss a question or it wont be accepted > click to send >get verification by email with a complaint number . BT are then obliged to reply to you within 4 working days and more to the point they have to ask YOU if you are satisfied and the complaint can be closed . This is the legal way to do it, meaning its in the regulations . ANY problems get back to me I have done this several times , if you have a severely handicapped relative or someone in very old age living with you , you can ask BT to BLOCK -123- 118-118/118-500 but it must be genuine as BT will check into it first as many try to get it done without being qualified and that upsets BT .


Thank you Duncan – it is good to be heard and I will log the complaint in the way you describe. I very much appreciate your response and I will keep you posted.

Anon says:
23 June 2018

I work in BT billing and I have been trained to advise that these types of calls must have been made by someone (Child, Elderly, Visitors etc) however this all changed when it happened to me. I took out employee Broadband which comes with a Landline as standard. I however use a mobile phone and therefore do not have a phone plugged in to make calls. I noticed on my most recent bill that I had been charged for a 1 second call to TimeLine. I looked at the date and also noticed that Me and my Girlfriend (the only residents at the property) had gone out that day during that time about 30 miles away when the call was supposed to have occurred. I was able to get the charged refunded with ease because of this and today I am sat in the call centre with a colleague just having dealt with a customer with the same issue. 4 years on from this post and this is still an ongoing issue and I would like someone to find and stop this from happening

Joanne says:
19 August 2018

I have been with sky for 10 years my bill was no more than £50 a month I never used my landline it was only for internet for 6 months I argued with sky as my bills were over £200 every month phone numbers appeared on my bill and the numbers never existed I first complained as I had cordless fones and when I picked my fone up it was engaged and no one was in my house it freaked me out a bit i even got the police invold my last bill from sky was £ 275 i stoped my direct debit and told sky I am not paying for calls I never made if anything the months i did pay they should be paying me back i was so up set no one cared or helped I now had to go with other company after been a loyal customer to sky :((

Kate R says:
29 September 2018

£7 with of calls to unknown numbers and the speaking clock in this month’s BT bill, which is mysterious seeing as I don’t actually have a phone handset plugged in, its just a PSTN line for internet


Kate log in to MY BT go to complaints , click on , then contact by email , then fill in the boxes and complaint – send email . They are obliged to answer you in 4/5 working days , you will be given an complaint number by email , you can tick-contact by phone/email . Its possible to get 123-118 blocked but you might or might not have to,pay for the privilege depending on your circumstances . Also log into -community bt.com (forum ) there are professionals you can ask for advice and get a Moderator to take up your case click on https://community.bt.com –this website is for BT customers ONLY .