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Friday, 22 October 2010

HMRC and DWP rip-off telephone numbers attacked by Watchdog

From: David Hickson – Public Services Campaigner

BBC Watchdog yesterday attacked the use of 0845 and other expensive telephone numbers by HMRC and DWP and many companies. (See the text and the clip)

The key point made was that public sector bodies (and commercial companies offering non-premium services) should now be using 03 numbers, which are charged at the rate applicable to calls to ordinary (01/02) numbers on every telephone tariff.

It was announced that both HMRC and DWP claim not to "make any revenue" from use of their 0845 numbers. If this means that they gain no financial advantage, then they would lose nothing in changing to 03, because they are currently being ripped-off by their telephone companies. The only difference for users of 03 numbers is that they lose the subsidy of their telephone systems, which those using 0845 numbers (should) have.

The cost and confusion of number changes could be avoided by simply offering the 0345 equivalent for every 0845 number. Simple announcements to the effect that the "8" could be swapped for a "3" would avoid the heavy cost of changing lots of paperwork and websites.

For example, those calling about the HMRC coding errors would be able to call 0345 3000 627, rather than 0845 3000 627. This call would be free for many mobile callers, much cheaper for others and furthermore it would avoid HMRC having to incur the cost and wasted effort involved in calling back after the caller had waited for their call to be answered - everybody wins!

N.B. The DWP claim quoted in the Watchdog blog entry - 0845 calls are charged at a "standard rate" - is a simple falsehood. The charge is unregulated and is seen to conform to no standard whatsoever. 40p a minute on a mobile, when ordinary calls may be free in a bundle, can hardly be called “standard”.


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