/ Travel & Leisure

Travel firms should send costly calls packing

Airport phone

Travel companies are supposed to give you memories that last a lifetime, not phone bills that take a lifetime to pay off! We found 70% of travel firms using expensive phone numbers for their customer helplines.

I’m happy booking my travel online, but if I’ve got a problem after booking I want to talk to someone. I’m not happy sending off an email into a corporate black hole – I want a person I can talk to and, if necessary, argue with.

So I find it infuriating that so many travel companies use expensive 084 and 087 phone numbers for their customer service and complaints lines. And some even use premium rate 09 numbers! This can make it feel like they’re just trying to discourage you from calling them in the first place. In fact, two-thirds of people think that’s exactly why companies use such expensive numbers.

And I know the impact these pricey phone lines can have. I was once sent a mobile phone bill that left me blinking in disbelief. It was about four times as much as I’d normally pay each month and I couldn’t work out why until I spotted the 08 numbers on the bill. I’d been calling holiday company reservation numbers, which is bad enough, but if I’d run up a high bill from calling customer services I would have been truly shocked.

Travel firms charging premium rates

Our latest research found that of the 76 travel firms we looked at, 70% were using expensive numbers for their complaints and customer lines. These included 24 airlines serving the UK, 15 of the biggest train operators, 11 ferry companies and four coach companies!

We typically found airlines using 0871 numbers, which cost at least 10p a minute from a landline but substantially more if you’re calling from a mobile.

We even found Jet2.com using a 09 premium rate number for its general enquiries line, costing 60p a minute!

Happily, Jet2 announced today that it’s going to scrap its 09 number in favour of a number that’ll charge no more than the national rate.

We want all costly customer phone lines banned

At the moment travel companies aren’t included in the EU Consumer Rights Directive, which says that customer helplines shouldn’t charge more than the basic rate.

The government’s currently consulting on whether to include travel, timeshare and package travel in the ban. And so we’re renewing our call on the government to close this loophole without delay. Travel firms should not be allowed to hit their customers with bumper bills when they just want to ask a question or make a complaint about their travel booking.

You can help increase the pressure by taking a trip over to our Costly Calls campaign and adding your name to our petition. More than 50,000 people have already signed.

Have you had to call a high-rate 09, 087 or 084 phone number just to talk to a travel company? Whether it was an airline, train operator or cruise ship company – tell us your experiences of costly calls.

Should travel firms be exempt from a ban on expensive customer helplines?

No - travel companies should not be exempt (94%, 1,796 Votes)

Yes - travel companies should be exempt (5%, 105 Votes)

I don't mind either way (1%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,915

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Comments
Member

I generally avoid calling on expensive numbers
given, whatever I wish to discuss or query can effectively
be made by email leaving both my mobile and landline
numbers in case other side wishes to clarify anything
further OR indeed effect a booking if it comes to that
at all.

Member

What was the European Commission’s rationale for excluding passenger transport services from Article 21 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights? It is nonsensical for this industry to be exempt when it is currently one of the worst offenders. Even if this unjustified loophole is closed when the directive is enacted in the UK, travel companies will be allowed to continue this unfair commercial practice in other EU/EEA countries. This will affect UK residents when they need to contact their travel company while travelling. The loophole needs to be closed at a European level rather than at a UK national level.

Member
Ian01 says:
10 October 2013

This business law doesn’t impact state-owned activities or financial systems. Perhaps the fact that in many European countries many of the passenger transportation systems are state-owned has something to do with the proposed exemption.

The UK’s position on EU directives usually seems to be to implement the minimum requirements. If something can be exempt, then unless there’s a good reason to include it, it remains exempt. Rip-off rate telephone numbers seems to be one of those cases where common sense suggests there should be no exemptions.

Member

I don’t think that railways come into this much. Most tickets, and queries about them, are dealt with at ticket offices at stations. On the other hand, most airline tickets, and queries about them, are dealt with remotely. Therefore the need to speak to a travel company by telephone is negligible with railways and local public transport compared to with airlines. Therefore the state ownership of the former wouldn’t have much of a bearing on this.

Member

Wish i had spare money to speak to a travel company and to go on holiday tbh.

Member
Julian says:
10 October 2013

http://www.saynoto0870.com/companysearch.php

Its a pain but I always check here when it comes to any non geographical UK number. There are even apps for it.

e.g. jet2.com

Member
Semper Te Fallant says:
10 October 2013

Do you call 60p per minute unreasonable? What, then, do you make of eDreams who charge £1.53 per minute?

eDreams had emailed me to say that my flight times had been brought forward 95 minutes, which would have made it impossible for us to make our onward connexion, although there was an identical flight leaving only 5 minutes later than our original time.

I emailed eDreams straightaway asking to be moved to the (slightly) later flight and was told to telephone on a premium rate number (£1.53 per minute). On my telephoning to ask for an amendment I was met with the curt response “It is not possible” and when I started to explain he hung up on me. In the meantime, I felt that I had no option but to book another flight at the later (or should I say “original”) time and argue it out by email. This was refused and I had to make another telephone call, at gross expense, only to be told eventually that they would not allow me to cancel the earlier flight, thus leaving us with two valid flights for the same journey and considerably out of pocket.

So – rudeness, extortion and intransigence in one package. If anyone should suggest using eDreams I would have no hesitation in quoting Punch’s “Advice to persons about to marry” – Don’t!’

Member
D Barnett says:
11 October 2013

Bringing forward a flight by 95 minutes sounds like breach of contract.

Send the airline a bill for the cost of the ticket plus the cost of the phone calls. Tell them that you will both sue and publicise if the fail to pay forthwith.