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Monday, 20 September 2010

BBC and NHS Direct - Victories for the campaign against rip-off telephone numbers - an example to follow

Longstanding defenders of expensive telephone numbers are now relenting
Two major examples have been moved to "03" numbers, but there is more to do.

Unlike revenue sharing and premium rate 08 numbers, all 03xx calls are charged as for an ordinary "geographic" (01/02) number, and included in packages on the same basis. (This applies to landlines, mobiles and payphones from every provider.)

·       BBC "Question Time" announced its new audience application number 0330 123 99 88, on Thursday. This replaced 0871 626 99 88.

·       The NHS Direct NHS Trust now uses 0345 60 88888 for The (Choose and Book) Appointments Line, in place of 0845 60 88888.

·       The direct equivalent 0345 number is available for every 0845 number. It may be adopted as an alternative or replacement at any time, with minimal cost and confusion.

David Hickson, campaigner for equity in access to public services, commented:

"Both the BBC and the NHS Direct NHS Trust are to be congratulated, as campaigners who have fought them for years over these numbers now celebrate. They and other public service providers do however have much more work to do in moving 0845 numbers onto 0345. This saves money for them and their callers.

Callers pay up to 25p per minute extra to call 0845, rather than 0345, numbers. NHS Direct must know this, because of the change it has made.

The cost of a complete number change for the core NHS Direct service on 0845 4647 is inappropriate. It has been announced that this service will be withdrawn altogether if and when 111 is implemented fully. 0345 4647 should be simply switched on now to work in parallel for the 3 or more years that the core NHS Direct service will continue to operate.

Other 0845 users, notably HRMC (using 0845 3000 627 for enquiries about tax code errors) and the DWP (using 0845 604 3719 for jobseekers and 0845 606 0265 for pensioners) should follow this example.

The BBC must address the 0845 numbers used by many local BBC services.”


1.            There is lots more information in my blogs. Specific comment on the items mentioned above are available at these links:
          BBC Question Time          The Appointments Line          NHS Direct         HMRC          DWP

2.            The modest benefit acquired from revenue sharing on 0845 numbers is more than offset by the additional cost to callers. The DWP and other 0845 users always offer to call back, because these numbers are expensive for most callers. The cost of callbacks to every caller who suffers a surcharge far exceeds any possible loss of revenue sharing benefit. Both public service users and the exchequer benefit from a switch from 0845 to 0345.

3.            The BBC stations listed below all use 0845 numbers for phone-ins and enquiries. I have a list of 19 others which do not.

  • BBC Radio Bristol
  • BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
  • BBC Coventry & Warwickshire
  • BBC Radio Cumbria
  • BBC Radio Derby
  • BBC Devon
  • BBC Radio Essex
  • BBC Hereford & Worcester
  • BBC Radio Kent News
  • BBC Radio Lancashire
  • BBC Radio Leeds
  • BBC Radio Oxford
  • BBC Radio Solent
  • BBC Radio Somerset
  • BBC Radio Suffolk
  • BBC Radio Sussex
  • BBC Radio Three Counties
  • BBC Radio Wiltshire
  • BBC Radio WM

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