/ 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?

Mrs Rachel Needle says:
12 September 2021

Have just seen my latest bill from BT 4 50p calls for 123 needless to say I didn’t make them

Andrew Cassels says:
9 December 2021

Just checked my mother’s BT bill (I’m POA) and there were 4 50p calls to 123 Timeline. Called BT and they refunded the £2. All the calls were at odd hours….two in the wee small hours. My mother is 90 and the type of person who does call anyone unless the world is coming to an end. BT were very good.

Just contacted BT to get a 50p charge removed for a call to 123 that I couldn’t have made, as I don’t even own a landline phone.

My phone bill this months shows two charges: one for 50p to 123; the other for the engineer visit. The date/time stamp for the 123 call shows it to coincide with the engineer visit. (I otherwise avoid of my landline except for incoming calls or when I can’t use my mobile.)

Yvonne Smith says:
24 March 2022

TelNo CallDate CallTime Duration Megabytes Cost Destination
12321212 18/02/2022 12:38:15 00:00:16 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12311121 21/02/2022 10:17:28 00:00:06 0.4815 Speaking Clock
123 21/02/2022 12:35:04 00:00:24 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12311111 21/02/2022 12:35:39 00:00:02 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12311121 21/02/2022 15:00:02 00:00:01 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12321211 22/02/2022 00:20:22 00:00:04 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12314471 26/02/2022 13:49:09 00:00:01 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12311 27/02/2022 12:44:10 00:00:10 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12312211 27/02/2022 14:07:14 00:00:01 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12321111 27/02/2022 15:07:07 00:00:01 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12311121 28/02/2022 01:22:56 00:00:13 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12331111 28/02/2022 12:17:26 00:00:07 0.4815 Speaking Clock
12331112 28/02/2022 13:47:41 00:00:03 0.4815 Speaking Clock

Here’s mine from my last bill

[Moderator: the duplicate comment has been deleted]

Tina says:
9 April 2022

Noticed on my mobile bill from sky 8 charges for 123 i rang sky telling them i havent called 123 they told me maybe id dialled it by mistake while in my pocket! I said what 8 times! Over 4 days they said they would have to look into it! It seems im not tge only one this is happening to

I didn’t think there was a ‘speaking clock’ anymore, everyone has a mobile with the time on it these days…