UPDATE: - This issue was discussed on You and Yours today - listen here.
A government consultation has been launched today outlining the basis of new rules to stop business using expensive 084 and 087 telephone numbers for contact from customers.
The consultation is published at this link. It includes some issues open to discussion and a request for evidence of cases where consumers feel disadvantaged.
The fair telecoms campaign welcomes this long overdue move, compelled by a EU Directive, but asks the question:
“If it is wrong for businesses, why is it still seen as OK for the government?”
Even the consumer helpline, operated for the government by Citizens Advice, uses an expensive number - 08454 04 05 06.
Citizens Advice Bureaux have long used expensive numbers for access to their own services, including a recently launched national number - 08444 111 444.
HMRC and the DWP agencies use 0845 numbers for enquiries and helplines. The single exception is the HMRC Tax Credits helpline, which has recently switched from 0845 to the 0345 equivalent number.
This matter also highlights the failure of many NHS bodies to eliminate the use of these numbers, despite Directions and contract revisions issued in 2009/10.
Calls to all 03 numbers are charged at the basic geographic rate - now generally zero for those with landlines and contract mobile phones. Calls to 084 / 087 numbers cost landline users up to 13p per minute and mobile users up to 41p per minute.
Migration to the equivalent 034 / 037 number is what all users of 084 / 087 numbers should be considering, unless they can justify the imposition of a "Service Charge" on callers. New Ofcom regulations will shortly require this "Service Charge" to be declared in all cases.