/ Technology

Your view: no to 0845 and 0870 helplines

Phone

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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Comments
Member

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?

Member

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.

Member

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?

Member

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.

Member

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?

Member

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.

Member

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?

Member

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?