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Sunday, 29 November 2009

BBC1 Daytime TV highlights revenue sharing Telephone Number Rip Off

From: David Hickson - public services campaigner

In the first of a series of programmes on “Rip Off Britain”, to be broadcast on BBC 1 tomorrow (Monday 30 November) at 9:15 am, three “Rottweilers” get their teeth into the rip off behind 084 telephone numbers.

Veteran reporters Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Jennie Bond present the series. This episode will expose the subsidy obtained by both commercial and public service providers at the expense of their users who pay premium rates to call 084 telephone numbers, although they are not honoured with the classification of being a “Premium Rate Service”. Where no fee is advised as being levied for the service, callers are being ripped off by the provider, the organisation they are calling, not by their telephone company.

Contributors, including myself, highlight the impropriety of this means of funding public services. Most notable is our NHS”, which we proudly proclaim to be “free at the point of need”, funded exclusively through progressive taxation. This rip off will continue, despite a recent government announcement. This declared a ban on use of “expensive” telephone numbers to contact the NHS, but inexplicably excludes 084 numbers from its provisions. This is despite a total of 51,367 signature on a e-petition to the Prime Minister demanding a ban.

The fact that some (generally more wealthy) users benefit from perversely reduced rates for calling these numbers (because the non-premium element is made minimal by regulation) is not only a red herring, it actually highlights the unfairness, because the cost burden falls heavily on the less wealthy. Unlike other more contentious cases that are raised in the series, this is one rip off that it clearly wrong, affects almost all of us (not least because we “own” the NHS) and could be ended swiftly and effectively.

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