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back to article BAN THIS SICK FILCH: Which? demands end to £1.50-per-min 'help' lines

Consumer campaigners at Which? are calling for a ban on costly helpline and customer call-lines. Executive director Richard Lloyd said it was "outrageous" to force people with questions or complaints to call higher-rate numbers - such as those starting with 09, 0845, 0844, and 0871 - that could charge up to £1.50 a minute. "It' …

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Holmes

£1.50 for an 0845 number? Surely not. On the other hand, dial 0900 from my phone and I'll shoot you. And then there's saynoto0870, my favourite!

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Especially

after navigating through 11 different 'press 1' or press '6' then they keep you on hold and play naff music for 20 minutes and while you are on hold, reminding you that your call is important to them, they are busy but you are in a queue and will be answered shortly, or you might want to email instead.

Of course your call is important to them..... You are giving them free money.

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It's about 30p per minute from a mobile. How many minutes do you need to spend listening to a message telling you that your call is important to them at 30p per minute before you have your 1 minute conversation with them?

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France isn't too bad

Here in France you don't pay until you have a real person speaking to you on the other end. Companies are not allowed to charge during the obligatory Queue/Waiting Music period.

Which to me seems quite fair.

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Stop

Yes, this article is very misleading. 0845 numbers cost 5p/minute from a landline, although mobile operators can gouge more, up to 50p or so. That's the subject of an Ofcom review at the moment.

To be paying anywhere near £1.50 a minute would require an 09xx number, clearly identified as premium rate.

To say that financial services, the travel industry and public bodies are not included under the "basic rate" rule, and then to say that HSBC, Halifax and RBS use 0845 numbers, imples that those banks are abusing the situation. They are not, since 0845 numbers are charged at basic rate.

Sloppy reporting, or the usual Which? incompetence?

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Re: France isn't too bad

Which to me seems quite fair.

Unless you're a customer of Free, where the call to the helpline isn't charged, but they bill you separately for providing assistance!

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Re: France isn't too bad

Except, if I need to talk to you about your poor service, or even discuss my purchase with you, I've already paid so charging me to speak to you about it is plain robbery. Just in France apparently they only start robbing you when you start speaking.

.

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0845 is not "Basic rate" - it is what BT refers to euphemistically as "local rate". Whilst some companies such as BT "choose" as a marketing decision to make it inclusive, it is in reality a shared revenue service which is merely the least expensive of the premium rate possibilities.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: France isn't too bad

Nah, in France they start robbing you if you don't speak perfect French. When I worked in La Belle France, we soon realised that even people who were pretty fluent got the cold shoulder , I don't understand' from the banks and other help lines. In the end, we got a local to make the call.

Sadly if the Call Centre was near Paris, they made non-Parisiens life difficult as well.

You have to remember, France is for the French and only some French people qualify for that.

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Re: France isn't too bad

@Terry

At least you can complain, the alternative would be that they provide no complaints departments whatsover....

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Re: France isn't too bad

@Phil

Now that is a new twist - charging you for assistance on a seperate bill. Free are not so Free after all.

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Re: Everyone

"£1.50 for an 0845 number?"

No, that's not what Which? is saying. The campaign group says even the 0845 rate (at about 11p a minute tops, typically) is too much. The £1.50 comes from the very top rate (and forgive me for turning that into an attention-grabbing headline).

Having said that, BITD, an ISP charged me 8 quid for a helpline call to report a dodgy ADSL connection - that was quite a lot to be asked "have you retried rebooting your router?" That ISP's since changed its lines.

Anyway, I've tweaked the story to avoid any confusion.

C.

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Re: France isn't too bad

@AC 08:40

You mean you are surprised to learn that when living in a foreign country not everyone speaks "English".

I have lived in France for almost 20 years and I have never had that kind of problem as soon as they realise that you try and make an effort they usually lighten up and help you out. If you come across as the snotty Englishman expecteing everyone to speak English then you deserve what you get.

I think it is more about attitude than it is about competence.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, this article is very misleading

In reality I expect it is Which? who are being very misleading

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0845 has not been described as "local rate" for at least 10 years now. It is called "special rate". There is no such thing as local rate now as calls to a UK number cost the same no matter where in the UK you are calling from.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: France isn't too bad

Being a customer of Free and complaining about paying for every little extra is like flying RyanAir and complaining about paying for checking-In/luggage/wheel-chairs etc.

There's a reason it's low cost.

On SFR it's free to call customer help from your mobile. Has been for a good few years.

I'm not complaining about Free. They've had a very good impact on the mobile tariffs offered by the big boys.

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Anonymous Coward

> 0845 is not "Basic rate" - it is what BT refers to euphemistically as "local rate".

You're a bit behind the times. The term "local rate" for 0845 has been banned by Ofcom since July 2004.

0845 is explicitly not a preumium rate service, that term is restricted to 09xx numbers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: France isn't too bad

if the Call Centre was near Paris

Must have been a while ago, they're all outsourced to the Maghreb now. And they really can't understand you, just like a Geordie calling an Indian call centre.

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Re: France isn't too bad

Second that, mon ami,

& when we call 0870 rip off numbers in UK, we just use saynoto0870.com

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Re: France isn't too bad

Vive la France!

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Headmaster

@Khaptain - Re: France isn't too bad

Wrote :- "You mean you are surprised to learn that when living in a foreign country not everyone speaks "English". I have lived in France.. never had that kind of problem [French people refusing to understand you] as soon as .. you try and make an effort they usually .. help you out. If you come across as the snotty Englishman expecteing everyone to speak English then you deserve what you get."

You are lucky, or have been there so long you sound like a Frenchman.

My daughter was on a school trip to France and they had booked a tour of the Evian mineral water factory. Despite showing the invitation, the gateman refused to understand what they were saying or let them in. This was with the school French teachers speaking French.

So they played their trump card. My daugher's school has a French school within it - ie a school for French children in the UK whose parents may be working here, and some were on the trip. By this time however the gateman had dug himself in so far that he even refused to understand THEM - native French speakers!

They never did get into the Evian works. Never buy Evian mineral water.

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Re: @Khaptain - France isn't too bad

"Despite showing the invitation, the gateman refused to understand what they were saying or let them in. This was with the school French teachers speaking French."

The school French teachers. Hmmm. What makes you think the school French teachers could speak French in such a way that ordinary French people would understand them? (Let alone the pupils, who had probably never had a chance to speak with real French people at all).

When I was at a fairly good school, aeons ago, we had a French boy in our class one year. He came bottom of the class in French. (Clue: not because he couldn't speak or write French).

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@Tom Welsh - Re: @Khaptain - France isn't too bad

Wrote :- "What makes you think the school French teachers could speak French in such a way that ordinary French people would understand them? (Let alone the pupils, who had probably never had a chance to speak with real French people at all)."

If French teachers cannot get "understood" by French people, what chance do the rest of us have?

But I don't think you understood about the pupils. These were FRENCH kids, 15-16 year olds, who had grown up in France, but who were in the UK for a year or two while a parent was on a UK employement secondment. Schools exist for such kids in which they continue with the syllabus they would have been following in their native country, under teachers of their own nationality.

That the gateman refused to "understand" these kids proves that it was nothing but blood-mindedness.

Just one anecdote, but I could tell many similar about France.

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Re: @Tom Welsh - @Khaptain - France isn't too bad

Not being able to understand French teachers is not a big surprise. The standard in England is very low. I didn't realise how bad until I lived in a French speaking country.

I find it hard to believe that he then "pretended" not to understand the native speakers. I've got a strong English accent in French and I've never had a problem, or at least when I have I've found 99.9% of people are willing to be patient and work out what I want to say. Sounds to me more likely that the first bunch of people who spoke to the guy on the gate were so rude that he eventually decided not to cooperate.

I have seen problems the other way around, French speakers in England..... the English can be so rude to Johnny foreigner if he speaks with an accent they're not used to. Of course there are also plenty of helpful English men and women too.........

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Re: @Tom Welsh - @Khaptain - France isn't too bad

As I mentioned above , it's all about attitude.

Although I have lived in France for almost 20 years, I also have a typically broad Scots Accent, so it is easy to imagine that my French is heavilly "tainted".

The French can be extremely rude though , especially to impolite people, they do it amongst themselves all the time. Believe it or not the most French are normally very polite.

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Re: @Tom Welsh - @Khaptain - France isn't too bad

"Just one anecdote, but I could tell many similar about France."

Just like I could tell you many, many, many stories about UK ex-pats (15 years out-of-country with zero language skills) and the view from abroad that the UK is populated with shaven headed, sun-burned drunks.

Neither of which could be used to paint a whole country...

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"0845 numbers cost 5p/minute from a landline,"

errr.... that's 5p/min from a BT landline. Does anyoune still use BT landlines?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: France isn't too bad

I'm afraid we might just be drifting a little off topic here - but I'll not let that stop me.

The linguistic skill of British people is that we make a determined effort to understand foreigners slaughtering English (though understanding Glaswegians may be a step too far). Some foreigners make no effort whatsoever with English people attempting their language taking the attitude "your grammar and accent deviate from the standard so I refuse to understand you". On the other hand in most non-English speaking countries English is the second language taught in schools and many natives are happy to exercise that skill and improve their English. English is seen as a key life skill with global applicability in business, science and travel. Put simply, if you speak English your earning potential is significantly higher. If you aggregate those for whom English is their first language with competent second-language English speakers it is by far the most widespread, I read somewhere that there are more English speakers in China (as a second language) than in the USA. I've often seen speakers of two different languages choose to converse with each other in English rather than either struggle with the other's language. For example I recently saw a German traveller in Finland using English to speak with locals.

Most places do welcome your stumbling attempts to speak their language but my experience of the French is that it is not uncommon for them to make no effort to understand Brits speaking poor French and blankly refuse to make any effort to understand English - that's until my Russian wife attempts a few words in French, apologises for being Russian and tries English, then they suddenly become reasonably fluent. I think part of the problem may that for a long time French was widely taught as the second language in British schools and perhaps the French think this was to a level of fluency seldom achieved in practise. I've got French 'O'-level but can do little more than tell you about "La plume de ma tante " (- or should it be "Le plume..."? I don't know and I don't care whether a feather is a girl or a boy).

My experience in Russia is blank looks when I attempt to speak Russian. Once they've realised they start "helping" me by correcting, then they realise it's a lost cause and revert to English. I often find that they have a very good level of understanding of English but are reluctant to speak because, I think, of embarrassment in respect of their accent. Judging from their fruitless efforts to correct my Russian, accurate pronunciation seems to be very important to them. I have to explain that Brits are a bit like the predictive text function on a Mobile phone or autocorrect in a word processor, your "mistakes" don't matter. That's the skill the French refuse to use with Brits.

In contrast with many other nations, Brits tend to regard correcting others' attempts English as slightly rude, if I don't understand their English it's MY problem not theirs.

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Sloppy wording.

Up to £1.50 for 09 numbers called from a BT line (often a lot more on mobiles).

Up to 41p/min for 084 and 087 calls made from mobiles (up to 16p/min plus 16p connection fee from landlines).

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Well, I think the article gives a reason why people do. They can be cheaper for calling. Oh, and it might be handy to have one if you want broadband and aren't in a cable area.

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Use the 'international' number

Banks in particular publish a number to call if you need help whilst overseas. This is always a standard 01 or 02 number and invariable connects you to the standard call centre. Just use this instead...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use the 'international' number

Do you work for a bank?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use the 'international' number

Apart from....BRITISH AIRWAYS.

If you call them on their 01/02 number that they display, they cheekily tell you that you're calling domestically and that you have to use their 08 number.

Ironically, this made me very angry whilst travelling this year when, calling from Skype (which I had a London number assigned to) they refused to let me call them on, so it cost me more than it should've.

I hate 'smart' solutions that inconvenience the customer.

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Re: Use the 'international' number

You are right mbf99.

British Airwaysare so cynical that it beggars belief.

. They actually have software that detects that you are in the UK and tells you to phone back on their premium rate number. They might as well say "We're going to mug you".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use the 'international' number

Apart from....BRITISH AIRWAYS.

If you call them on their 01/02 number that they display, they cheekily tell you that you're calling domestically and that you have to use their 08 number.

Ironically, this made me very angry whilst travelling this year when, calling from Skype (which I had a London number assigned to) they refused to let me call them on, so it cost me more than it should've.

Had it the opposite way round on the net from the AA when, sitting here in my UK office, I went to check what price their EuroBreakdown cover was. However, as our corporate internet gateway is on our WAN in Switzerland their website told me that as I was already in Europe I could only get info by speaking to them on the phone!

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Re: Use the 'international' number

I live abroad and Natwest only put 0854 numbers on correspondence, despite requests to the contrary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use the 'international' number

They actually have software that detects that you are in the UK and tells you to phone back on their premium rate number. They might as well say "We're going to mug you".

Curious. If you're calling from a landline then the 0845 number will cost exactly the same as the 01/02 number, and if you're calling from a mobile how on earth could they tell where you are? You could be in Timbuktu. Are you suggesting that a call from a UK mobile to an 01/02 number is refused? That would merit a formal complaint to the regulator, I think.

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Re: Use the 'international' number

Curious. If you're calling from a landline then the 0845 number will cost exactly the same as the 01/02 number, and if you're calling from a mobile how on earth could they tell where you are?

Far too many people here are assuming everyone is on exactly the same package from exactly the same provider as they are, but this one has to be the worst of the bunch since it's spouting that sort of misinformed claptrap as an axiom.

I have all-inclusive landline calls so calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers cost bugger all. A daytime 0845 call call costs 9p a minute. That is not "exactly the same". It's also a fact based on real details as opposed to mere guessing about how these things work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use the 'international' number

So, you chose a package which doesn't meet all your needs? Not the fault of the people you call, is it? Are BA supposed to have just the right number for everyone who might call them on every possible package?

I have a package which makes almost all international calls free, except those to non-US mobiles. So, I don't call non-US mobiles unless I have to. I don't complain that my friends should give up their mobiles and get a landline so that I can call them for free.

If you want 0845 to be included in your bundled minutes, complain to your provider.

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Re: Use the 'international' number

This is why I have one of my VoIP trunks presenting my +883-5100 iNum number. Also, a good way to keep it off marketing lists, while enlightened carriers can call it for free or local rates, others see it as a satellite range (e.g. BT) and charge scary amounts to call it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Use the 'international' number

Does "withold number" help? (i.e. on BT dial141 then the number you're calling) Or if you put the international dialling code for UK in front? Or using a non-UK based VOIP service (like Sipgate - German)?

I know, more effort than it's worth and probably ineffective, I just like to mess with things.

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Try here

www.saynoto0870.com

Not a complete list but does go someway to redress the balance by listing the UK local numbers.

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email

I'd never call for a complaint, I'd rather email. And when no email address is listed, I look up the board of directors and email them.

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Diagnostic of monopoly

When you don't need to worry about hearing any complaints and thus can safely deter them with a fee you're enjoying being a monopoly. Woe betide you if any cracks appear in the dam of your control, once you've built up enough resentment in your victims.

In the case of firms and other organizations still having competitors, surely it's a stupid idea to charge complainers for offering what are often useful suggestions in the form of a raspberry. Complainers should be paid.

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Alert

"financial services, the travel industry and public bodies are not included"

There's no legitimate reason to exempt any organization from the ban.

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Anonymous Coward

Rare though it be...

...for TfL to start a trend worth following but, I am all in favour of growing the '03' number revolution, they have an 0343 number which is included in your mobile minutes, so it's cheaper than an 0845, 0870, 090x and the rest of the rip off numbers.

Companies need to understand that 0845, unlike in the past, is no longer a 'cheap' call because the majority of people call from mobiles.

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Re: Rare though it be...

Companies need to understand that 0845, unlike in the past, is no longer a 'cheap' call because the majority of people call from mobiles.

So complain to the mobile companies and Ofcom, not to the owner of the called phone number.

Using non-geographic basic rate numbers like 0845 allows companies to route the call to whatever call centre is convenient for the timezone, while keeping a standard basic-rate charge to customers. That should work for mobiles as well, but the realities of termination costs kick in and the mobile operators pass them on, with a mark-up.

Even more annoying is how 0800 "free" numbers aren't always free from a mobile. Even if there is a surcharge, it should be billed to the company that is receiving the call and advertising a "free" number.

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Re: Rare though it be...

What's the point of that (03 numbers)?

Companies should be compelled to list the real (ie standard land-line) number as an alternative to their virtual (ie premium) numbers, for customer contact. Premium numbers alone should be permitted ONLY on something that is clearly a sales line.

Smart companies should put their customer contact numbers on free call numbers, and charge the cost to their marketing department's budget. That gives them a strong imperative to handle customer queries properly (generating the highly sought-after word-of-mouth promotion), rather than trying to fob them off (or piss them off).

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Re: Rare though it be...

0345 numbers offer exactly the same features in terms of routing and so on, and are included in your bundled minutes. Anyone who has an 0845 number is entitled to the corresponding 0345 number so that only the second digit in their number changes. There is no reason, apart from the termination payments they receive when people call them, why they shouldn't change to an 0345 number.

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Re: Rare though it be...

Using non-geographic basic rate numbers like 0845 allows companies to route the call to whatever call centre is convenient for the timezone, while keeping a standard basic-rate charge to customers.

Using an 03 number allows that, without ripping the customers off.

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