/ Technology

Your view: no to 0845 and 0870 helplines


The reaction to our premium rate numbers post was pretty resounding – with more than 5,500 voters saying companies should scrap these pricey numbers for their helplines. Here’s a selection of your comments.

Commenter Pjaj summed up the mood:

‘High time this was banned. Unless absolutely necessary, I will only deal with companies who provide a geographical, 03, or 0800 number or for whom I can find one at saynoto0870.com. As for excluding financial institutions from the legislation – why?’

What about the rest?

The exclusion of financial institutions is something Which? Convo regular NFH raised – his comment received an impressive 24 ‘thumbs up’:

‘For some unknown reason, some industries (eg airlines and banks) are exempt from complying, but the UK government can remove these exemptions in the UK if it wishes. Let’s hope that it applies a blanket ban across all industries.’

Kate agrees:

‘No company should be immune from this, banks and government departments should be included too.’

Jon Shapiro also picked up on government departments not being included:

‘One of the biggest offenders is the government itself. All government departments should be forced to offer a standard “geographic” telephone number – one should not need to pay premium rates to contact people like HMRC!’

Paying for automated systems

Lilian’s Girl shares her recent experience of calling an 0845 number:

‘I’ve just finished complaining to Boots about a delivery and the number was an 0845. I wasn’t on long fortunately and my query was dealt with politely and quickly, but I have phoned some of our high street shops and been on for 30 minutes or more. It also annoys me when I ring that number I am listening to a spiel and given dozens of button options while paying the premium price. It can take minutes before you reach the section you are after.’

Having to pay premiums to use an automated system also annoys Richard Foinette:

‘What really infuriates me, having dialled 0845 or 0870, I then go through a computer menu, only to be told “all our operators are busy. Your call is important to us. Please hold” You bet the call is important to them – it’s earning them money!’

Going the extra mile for an alternative number

Finally, our Commenter of the Week Lee Beaumont always tries to find an alternative to premium rate numbers:

‘When I need to speak to a company, the first thing I will do is search for a 0800 freephone number and if I can’t find one, take to Twitter and get the company to phone me (on my 0871 number) or speak via DM instead… and it works as companies like to show they help people on social networks.’

Do you think all companies should stop using premium 084 or 087 numbers for their customer helplines? And if you haven’t voted in our poll yet, add your voice to more than 5,000 others.

Should companies scrap premium rate numbers for their helplines?

Yes (99%, 6,176 Votes)

No (1%, 46 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,222

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Patrick, are you going to summarise the proposed future of these numbers on landlines and mobiles, as I understand changes are in prospect? And how about the proposal made in the conversation that Which, under company contacts, include an 01-02-03 or 0800 number as a requirement for publicising the company?

As it will become illegal for businesses to promote an 084, 087 or 09 number for customer services, presumably it will also be illegal for third party websites and publications to promote them too?

However, Which? could easily take the lead by introducing this requirement before the June 2014 deadline. Indeed, someone should be auditing web site content at the earliest opportunity and identifying everything that requires updating.

The law applies from June 2014. This isn’t the date when people should start making changes. This is the date when all of the changes should already be in place.

Paper-based phone directories should have started months ago. They will obviously miss the June 2014 deadline in many areas of the country.

Has the government published any rationale for excluding financial services and passenger transport services from Article 21? I can’t find it. It was absurd for the European Commission to exclude these sectors from Article 21, but even more extraordinary for the UK government to exclude these sectors when it is not compelled to do so. These two sectors comprise many of the worst perpetrators of the 084 & 087 scam, so why should they be excluded from the forthcoming ban of this unfair commercial practice?

Financial services are covered by different legislation to that covering other businesses. Maybe these provisions would have to be incorporated within a different law in order to be applied to financial organisations?

The exclusion of transport services is nonsensical. They’re some of the worst offenders for using these numbers, and possibly one of the sectors most likely to be called from a mobile phone, currently at an extortionate rate, after a purchase is made.

Why would the provisions of Article 21 need to be incorporated into separate legislation specific to financial services? You’ll find that almost every sector has sector-specific legislation of some sort and it would be nonsensical to add the provisions of Article 21 to each sector-specific law. Why can’t there be one piece of legislation, relating to the provisions of Article 21, that applies across all sectors?

I still don’t understand why Article 21 shouldn’t apply across all sectors.Regulation 6(1)(c) of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 requires businesses to provide an e-mail address in order to be contacted by customers; there is no exemption for financial services or passenger transport sectors. In view of this precedent regarding other communication methods, why should the UK’s implementation of Article 21 of the Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU exempt any type of business from complying?

The widespread abuse of 084 and 087 prefixes by the financial services and passenger transport sectors should be curtailed as soon as possible.

You can still comment on the Consumer Rights Directive via email address: For some reason this comment including the email address has been awaiting approval in the other Conversation all afternoon.

Apologies if you already know this, but I didn’t. I keep hearing about consultations after they are closed. I also missed the deadline on Free to Air listed sporting events. I wrote to the Culture, Media and Sport Dept. and did not get a reply. Is Which? consulted on these issues and how is the consumer given the opportunity to comment?

I have already made the necessary comments in my response to the consultation in September 2012. After BIS told me “When implementing European legislation, the Government starts from the principle that we do not extend the application of the directive unless we see a pressing need. We are not aware that premium rate phone calls are a pressing problem in the passenger transport sector. If consultees provide evidence that there is a problem in this sector, we would, of course be prepared to reconsider this. Again, with the financial services sector, we are not aware that premium rate calls are a problem in this area. In addition, financial services are excluded from the scope of the Consumer Rights Directive, because it is considered that industry specific legislation is more appropriate to deal with this area, rather than legislation on consumer rights“, I wrote in response “Article 3 of the Directive exempts certain industries from complying with Article 21, specifically social services, healthcare, gambling, financial services, construction, package travel, timeshare, regular food/drink deliveries and passenger transport services. BIS proposes to extend the scope to cover social services, healthcare, package travel and timeshare, but has chosen to preserve the exemption for the other industries. I understand that BIS takes the view that other legislation covers these industries; however no industry-specific legislation contains similar provisions to Article 21“. I also gave several examples of abuse of 084 and 087 numbers by businesses in both sectors. BIS appears to have ignored my comments. What is the point of a consultation if BIS ignores the opinion of the majority of consumers?

Hi All, A really handy website I use is http://www.saynoto0870.com its a database where people add local numbers for the high rate ones or freephone numbers, you can search by the number or the company name its not a solution but it is really useful for the time being.

NFH, how did you find out about the Consultation?

Someone on Twitter saw my comment to the RAC about quoting an 0844 number on their account and told me to contact BIS with my views. I checked the Gov website, saw that Consultation closed on 6/7 Aug. I tweeted back that I was too late and they replied that I could still comment.
I emailed my comments about exclusion of Financial Services and Airlines to BIS and don’t know if they received it as I have not had an acknowledgement yet.

The RAC has now dropped the telephone number from their Twitter a/c and refer you to their website where there are several numbers to choose from including an 0800 and 0333 number for breakdowns although the 0844 number is most prominent on their website. A partial victory only.

I believe that as well as commenting in Which? Conversation we should all be emailing or tweeting the offending companies to make our views known to them.

The original consultation about implementing the Consumer Rights Directive ran from 20 August 2012 to 1 November 2012.

Now that the draft legislation has been produced, BIS want comments on the proposed wording of that legislation. They want to uncover anomalies and loopholes before this becomes law. They’ll also take comments about the proposed exemptions.

As it says here:
“Use the proforma to provide feedback on the related draft regulations by 11 October 2013.”

The requirement to use 01, 02, 03, 080 or mobile numbers is unambuous (although it does rely on Ofcom updating several of those definitions in the UK Telephone Number Plan).

I made my comments yesterday about the exclusions. I hope others do the same. It is supposed to be a consumer rights directive so why on earth should financial services and transport services be excluded. Are we to have less rights in those sectors or do they donate more money to political parties so get excluded as a result.

stephen says:
22 August 2013

I do object to having to use 0870 numbers to contact an organisation to book a service appointment for which no charge is made as the service is included in the monthly fee. Surely if the service is free booking it should be free.

jimbo says:
22 August 2013

Just another way of making the working class misserable goverment robbing b******* .

When firms use 0845 and 0844 numbers and you want to complain about a service or product why not write a letter of complaint addressed to their Managing Director? Companies make money on these numbers, letters of complaint however cost them money..

I avoid 087 and 084 numbers wherever possible, using the “saynoto0870.com” website to find geographic numbers (which are free on my phone tariff) or 0800 numbers. If a business doesn’t have a number I can use free of charge, then it doesn’t get my custom.

But my doctor’s surgery phone has changed to an 0844 number, and I can’t find any alternative. So if I have to call I have to pay – not a great deal, it’s true, but I do resent it and so I phone only in emergencies. If it’s not urgent, I call in at the surgery next time I’m passing. Many other patients will no doubt have to pay more, especially if they are using a mobile, and they may not live close enough to drop in to the surgery like I do. I thought the Health Service was supposed to be phasing these numbers out. I have complained about this but got nowhere, and I don’t want to change doctor. Why is my doctor still allowed to use this 0844 number?

Ian01 says:
16 November 2013

They’re not allowed to use an 084 number. This was banned in England and Wales in April 2010 with existing users given until April 2011 to cease such usage.

NHS England wrote to all non-compliant practices at the beginning of November 2013 to ask each one to “explain their plans for swiftly moving away from 084 numbers”. They will treat future usage as a breach of contract.

Even though Welsh GPs are covered by an almost identical contract to the one found in England, NHS Wales has yet to take similar action in their patch.

Scotland and Northern Ireland haven’t yet got to gips with this issue, even though it has been going on since 2005.

When did your doctor change over to using the new 0844 number? Is it recent?

I have just retired from an organisation which is part of the Department of Transport. They have outsourced all aspects of payroll, annual leave etc to an organisation called Shared Services who are part of Arvato Bertelsmann. Shared Services have a well earned reputation for incompetence and they did not manage to get one single thing right in regards to myself, including not passing on any of my details to the Civil Service Pensions Authority. To further compound matters the only number they can be reached on starts with 0844. I have searched the Internet in vain for another number to ring them but there quite simply isn’t one, so I have no alternative but to continue paying while I am held in a queue and, when I eventually get through, am then put on hold while they find my details etc. They have all my details but never ring me back giving me no choice but to keep chasing them. So I continue paying extortionate phone bills in an effort to put right their mistakes. You may be wondering why I don’t just email them? I wish, but they do not have a facility to do that once you no longer have access to your company’s IT system. I am so angry and frustrated that somebody not at fault can be exploited in this way.


They do have a contact form here accessible to anyone If you get no joy from that I would suggest contacting your union or you could try Which? Legal services.