From: David Hickson – campaigner for Public Services
The Department for Work and Pensions has today announced that from Monday calls to around 70 of its 0800 numbers will be free for callers from most Mobile phones (agreements to cover the remainder are pending).
There are still many public services using 0800 numbers which have not made equivalent arrangements (although this does apply in some other cases!)
A more comprehensive resolution of this issue to cover the remainder of public service 0800 calls is needed. Will provide sector providers of 0800 numbers do the same?
The DWP continues to lead the public service providers who use 0845 and 0844 revenue sharing numbers. IN ALL CASES these provide subsidy of the cost of providing the service through “Revenue Sharing” between the telephone companies. This generally leads to the cost being passed on to the caller, however present regulations covering BT creates some perverse distortion. Those who believe that BT charges are “typical” have it the wrong way around – BT is unique in being subject to regulation of the level of some of its charges (see this briefing).
Callers from Public Payphones, Virgin Media landlines and all PAYG and Contract Mobile Phones invariably pay more to call ALL 084x numbers than to call “ordinary” (01/02/03) numbers. (See this briefing)
The DWP and HM Revenue and Customs are amongst the leading public bodies that are content to have the cost of providing their services subsidised by those who use them.
The Department of Health is currently engaged in trying to address this issue. It has however completely missed the point made above by saying that NHS GPs, Hospitals and other telephone services may continue to use 084x numbers. The BMA has suggested that a false assurance from one of the providers of Surgery telephone systems could be used to deny the simple truth of what providers to patients actually charge.
Use of revenue sharing numbers (including all 084x numbers) must be ended wherever it is not proper for the caller to be paying the public (or indeed private) company delivering a service by telephone.
Many public bodies are now adopting numbers from the 03xx range. Calls to these MUST be charged at no more than the equivalent cost (if any) of calling an “ordinary” (01/02) number. Numbers from this range provide the solution for those who may benefit from the facilities of a “non-geographic” number and are prepared to meet the cost of these facilities, rather than imposing it on callers (see this note).