back to article DVLA, Tiscali, Barclays rake in phoneline cash

Which? magazine has produced a list of 30 companies and organisations it found to be using high-rate numbers such as 0870 and 0845, including the DVLA which apparently made £3.4 million last year from punters calling in. The list includes Tiscali, Barclays Bank, British Gas and the TV Licensing authority as well as the DVLA. …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Steven
    Thumb Down

    Yeah Right...

    "Companies claim it's up to customers if they want to call them".

    Oh look British Gas have overcharged me £300 on my electricity bill, like you'd have a choice but to phone them...

  2. Jon G


    Its amazing how quick these companies are at answering the phone when they think they are going to get a sale - its only when you've got a query or a complaint that they keep you hanging on. The times reported by Which though are nothing compared with what NTL used to be like......I'd be regularly be kept hanging on for 45 minutes only for someone to hang up the call.

  3. g e

    Don't forget the doctors...

    Our doctors' surgery also has some 0845 (I think) number you have to use to call them which I think is becoming common practice. Getting dearer all the time to be poorly...

    Has anyone ever known a skint GP?

  4. Jason Clery
    Thumb Up


    I called Npowers 08 number when they incorrectly billed me. I mentioned getting a refund for the 08 number and they sent me £5 which was well over the amount I rung up (+-£0.60 - £1).

    Well done Npower.

    I also raised a complaint to my MP re 08 numbers and Inland Revenue. One number answers the call then says its too busy. That costs 8p a time.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about OFCOM...

    do the consumer a favour and make the current crop of numbers cheaper to call and the 03 numbers the same rate as the current 0870, 0845... numbers. That'll force the scamming idiots to change their numbers to make the money then.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Say No To 0870 - look up numbers there for geographical alternatives before calling!

    Although I thought 0845 was local rate, not premium, it's supposed to be cheaper...

  7. Andy

    Oh look -

    Tiscali appear on a list of "Companies that are fuckers". Who'd what thought it?

    At least people like British Gas usually sort your problem out - Tiscali will *tell* you they're sorting it out, till after several dozen phonecalls you give up and cancel your payment to them... Yes, I'm still bitter.

  8. Chris

    How much OFCOM understand the market.

    Problem: Companies have an incentive to keep people on hold whilst charging them money for the privilege of being on hold. They use 0870 numbers for this purpose to get round the onerous premium rate rules that involve actually answering calls.

    OFCOM solution: Stick your finger up your bum for 2 years, then abolish 0870 numbers.

    Company solution: Use 0871 numbers for exactly the same purpose.

    Result: No change. Idiots.

    Why didn't they just make it that if there is a revenue share, you have to abide by premium rate rules and you can't keep people on hold? Job sorted - you either get rubbish service but don't pay for the call, or you get someone to actually answer the call, for which you pay.

    But OFCOM will probably just abolish 0871 numbers, and make them use 0872 ones instead... Numpties.

  9. Mark Manderson

    hows this for an 0871 number rate

    We have a 24" chinese made generic tft, it went pop after 3 days. So I get warranty bumf out to call for an RMA. The number listed on the documentation has the following 8GPB/min.....yes £8 a minute!!!!!!

    turns out the support contractor is in Holland...but even though £8 a minute!!!

    This has to be a record!

    thank god for the web page for submitting RMAs is available, downright scandalous companies can charge you for calling regarding THEIR faulty goods!!

    Mines the coat with the bottomless pockets......

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Virgin Media....


    09 number for technical support!!!! and if you're on their line it costs a bomb (which they refund) but if not you're stuffed.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    THERE IS NO LOCAL RATE, not since ages ago

    Yes, shouting intended.

    It is several YEARS since BT introduced a tariff "improvement" package which abolished the distinction between "local" calls and "national" calls. That's when 0845 calls effectively started being premium rate.

  12. dervheid
    Thumb Down

    @ how about ofcom.

    Not worth the bother.

    A toothless, mange-ridden old dog of a 'regulator', barely able to bark, never mind bite.

  13. mh.
    Thumb Down

    Quick way to stop this nonsense

    Have a mandatory freephone or geographic number for customer services. Don't they have something similar in the US?

  14. Stephen Gray

    Non geo numbers

    Just remember all non geo's have a DDI under them so for example 0870 100*** will point at 0161444***** so simply them you will be calling from overseas and you need the DDI

  15. Lnz
    Thumb Down

    Even the JOB CENTRE!

    Even the Job Centre uses 0845 numbers.

    Considering that most young people do not have a land line, and calls from a mobile are outrageously expensive, I think it's totally shameful.

    They keep you on the line for a long time listening to their inane music, then a bored, untrained, uncomprehensible and uncomprehending bod sort of answers, and all the while you are paying pounds which you don't have.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    DVLA is just a big telephone.

    It's impossible to speak to a human being there. Most of the phone numbers they give out just go to voicemail systems, automatic payment systems or taped information.

    I only managed to complain to them about the fact they were chasing me for tax on a car I'd never owned by trawling the depths of their website and eventually finding an email address for complaining to.

    They simply do not have real phone numbers.

    They exemplify everything that could possibly be done badly about a public service agency. That's our tax money, that is... right there.

  17. Rich

    No choice

    0870 number and their friends are a pain in the arse and ofcom ought to make the bloody things illegal.

    They are an even bigger pain when you call them from a mobile because (for reasons best known to the mobile operators - oh, let me guess - it makes them a pile of money?), these numbers are excluded from your "free call allowance".

    I use as often as I can. The problem is though that a lot of companies don't publish "normal" numbers - I have asked my bank etc for a normal number and quite often, they just don't know what it is! Luckily is reasonably good at coming up with the goods.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use snail mail

    I have recently completed a dispute with British gas that has gone on for over two years. Their debt collectors made plenty of empty threats, but consistently refused to tell me the address and dates the bill referred to. It turned out I did owe them money because they had not taken the money when I paid by telephone+credit card. That really was the last time I talked to them - everything from that call on was snail mail.

    Tiscally are famous for having the lowest rate broadband. If it works for you then fine, but there is no point complaining about problems. They do not appear to have the resources to diagnose any non-trial fault. Perhaps that is one reason they are so cheap. I always assumed that the quality of service was inversely proportional to technical support cost.

  19. Rich
    Thumb Up

    @Non geo numbers

    "Just remember all non geo's have a DDI under them so for example 0870 100*** will point at 0161444***** so simply them you will be calling from overseas and you need the DDI"

    Sorry - can you explain that again? How do you get from 0870100 to 0161444? I'm not saying you're wrong - I would just like to know how you do it - it's actually useful to know.

    And from past experience, I can say that many people in companies simply can not tell you what their real phone number is - they only know the 0870 one.

  20. Matt Thornton


    Thanks for the heads-up on the 0845 change... I was oblivious to it being moreorless premium, and thought it was still local rate.

    When they're making it illegal to use premium rate numbers for support calls, they should also make illegal to have anyone answer the phone who doesn't speak comprehensible English.

    Mine's the one with the Cobra stain and faint whiff of Vindaloo.

  21. Steve Foster

    It's all OFCOM's Fault!

    The whole purpose of 0800/0845 and 0870 was to provide non-geographic numbers that were charged (or not in the case of 0800) in special ways to the caller, with the callee picking up the difference.

    All that is really required is that OFCOM reinstate that position: ie calls to 0800 are paid for by the callee, and 0845 and 0870 charged at the lowest equivalent price to call the underlying geographic number with any excess cost charged to the callee.

    Then OFCOM should also force the mobco's to put these numbers back into call plans.

  22. Steve Foster

    @Stephen Gray

    0870 numbers at least _can_ be dialled internationally (ie +44870* works), so trying to argue that with a provider isn't going to work. Not sure about 0800 and 0845 though.

  23. peter
    Paris Hilton


    WHICH is trying to shame them into changing their behavior? Good luck with that. You can only shame someone who has morals or can actually feel a sense of shame.

    I wanted to leave Tiscalli’s dialup as I was (finally) getting Broadband in my area. They said of course I can cancel – just as long a I can quote the contract number, which was only on the original sign-up documentation sent several years previously. Of course I could not find it, but any amount of other information (name, address, username, direct debit information) was not sufficient for them to find the contract number on their records. I just threatened to just stop paying, so they threatened to take me to court and send in the Bailiffs.

    I tried a bit of lateral thinking and rang to ask for the contract number “for my accountant doing my tax return” They gave me it within seconds (– and within seconds I was canceling the dialup). It was obvious that the phone operators had been instructed top make finishing contracts as difficult as possible, and to lie to their customers to achieve it.

    Trying to shame that bunch of unscrupulous, amoral ‘tards will be like asking the Fox to apologize to the Chickens for distress caused when he came visiting last night.

    Even Paris has some shame....

  24. CABVolunteer

    Mobiles are even worse!

    I'm a volunteer at one of the 800 Citizens Advice Bureaux, providing free advice via drop-in and telephone. Our national umbrella organisation, Citizens Advice, is trying to get bureaux to sign-up to a national "Single Telephone Number" project which will be an 0844 number (which will give Citizens Advice a revenue stream to pay for its infrastructure costs but the bureaux actually answering the phones won't see a penny!). Many bureaux are reluctant because most have their telephone advice services on local geographic numbers which are "local rate" for our local population calling from landlines and mobilephones. But when the 0844 number comes in, we've been told that some mobilephone calls will cost 50p/minute! For a service which has to deal with huge numbers of callers with debt and housing problems, and nearly half our callers now use mobilephones, the cost to our callers for an 0844 number is just unacceptable. So many bureaux won't join the national system.

    The long-term answer is for 0844 "local rate" numbers on mobilephones (and VoIP services) to be charged at the lowest tarriff.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ g e

    Your local surgery is obliged to maintain a geographical number. Report them to the PCT as its a breach of the "contract" between the surgery and the PCT.

  26. Tom


    I know a few years ago my girlfriend had to have several conversations with the DVLA because they kept getting her address wrong. She found if you phoned the Welsh speaking number you would get through straight away. Not speaking Welsh myself, and being fed up being passed around when complaining about a mistake on my license I tried my luck, phoned the Welsh line, made out I made a mistake and carried on in English.

  27. Dom

    @Mark Manderson

    What was the (first part of) the number? With NTL the most expensive international calls are 95p / minute (that's mobiles in Africa, etc.) The most expensive premium rate 09xx is 150p / minute. The most expensive possible call is to one of the Inmarsat regions, at 592p / minute. These numbers begin 0087xx, which just happens to be one digit different from a valid UK number...what a mess.

  28. Dave

    I hate 0870

    I got a credit card through the post with one of those stickers on the front saying "call to activate your card" and giving an 0870 number to call. So I emailed them to point out that I don't call 0870 numbers and so wouldn't be activating their card. The response was that I could call their 0845 customer service line and get them to activate it. I've still got that card somewhere, unactivated and never used. I dn't even remember asking them for the card, seeing as I once had one from them as a spare and they cancelled it because I didn't use it enough. Then they sent me another one anyway. It never hurts to have a little eXtra.

    Contrast their approach to the other company that asks me to call to activate and provides an 0800 number for the purpose. I use their card and they make lots of money from my transactions, much more than it cost them to run that 0800 number. Mind you, this lot also provide an 0800 customer service number.

    One tip for extracting geographic numbers from companies is to tell them you need to call from abroad and the 0870 doesn't appear to work.

  29. David Cornes


    I have to say this for TT, all of their numbers are 0870 ones *but* they're free if you're calling from one of their landlines. Useful when I had to spend several hours on hold to their support when I first took the (at the time) hopelessly unreliable broadband.

    One thing that irks me is companies that think they're helping you by *only* providing an 0800 number, which of course are anything but free from mobies. Wherever possible I try and get an old fashioned geographic number out of the company, even if it's only a head office number or something from the website. They'll often redirect you to customer services anyway.

  30. Eddie

    @ Doctors too...

    It's been debated in parliament...

    for details....

  31. Terry Bernstein
    Thumb Up

    International nos

    The international "calling from abroad" number on the back of your credit card is a normal geographic number. Just put a 0 instead of the 44 ( but I notice that Mint don't have one of these!)

  32. Jason Walker

    tiscali rip off

    Well i had to call them thanks to the huge problems with their service after being migrated from Homechoice to their network. After being on hold listening to Leona Lewis entire album twice my home phones battery died, so i had to call back on my mobile. Got bill this morning, £15!! for them to not help at all

  33. Stephen Gray

    @ Rich

    The non geo number ie 0870 etc has to point at a real number ie 0161blahblah just like how DNS works to resolve to an IP address

  34. Stephen Gray

    @ Steve Foster

    I see your point about but you can only ask, if they say No then I threaten to cancel whatever it is, they soon find the DDI or they find someone who can find it, its just a matter of being a bit bolshie

  35. Stephen Gray

    @ By Dom

    Good point, we bar all calls out to 00 870 imagine dialing that by mistake!! LOL

  36. Matt
    Thumb Down

    Purely for the money

    I tried ringing one of the utility companies recently, I avoided the 0870 number by using their 'Calling from abroad number (+44 1xxx xxxxxx), substituting +44 for the 0. The message said I needed to use the 0870 as it detected that I was calling from within the UK. Not at 20p a minute from O2, I wouldn't. So I withheld the number, rang it back, and got through. Proves that they were just after the revenue.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Ok can I clear things up.

    0845 is NOT a premium rate number. The receiving company tends not get any money from the call.. 0870 are the evil one.

    So why does xyz use an 0845 (yes they do point to a "normal" number)

    Well for example. Most of our critical 0845 have 3 -4 DDI's (phone numbers) associated, so if one exchange goes down, it switches to another; if one call centre fails, it goes to another. Then of course companies move offices, change numbers, change phone systems & change carriers.

    I'm currently moving a call centre from one location to another over 3 days; so we could issue out another 1 or 2 thousand DDI's (but we'd have to specifiy a time when to change over from one to the other) to all our thousands of customers, or, we could just migrate in the background, the customer blissfully unaware. Tough call.

    Back to work, just moving the French now....Italy tommorow..

    So stop whining about 0845's, unless you actually know what goes on in the background and why they are used.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Sack the wallies at Ofcom !

    The first digit after the 0 is supposed to indicate the cost of calling, so it's ridiculous that Ofcom have allowed the 08 range to be hopelessly muddled up with 080 (free), 0844 (always a rip-off), 0845 (sometimes cheaper, chargeable at weekends when 01/02 are free, prohibitively expensive from payphones and mobiles), and 087 (so expensive it's about to become premium rate but won’t be blocked by 09 barring on PBXs).

    Ofcom should insist that companies with 084/087 numbers must migrate to the equivalent 094/097 numbers (thereby becoming premium rate) if they wish to generate revenue. Any honest companies that only want Intelligent Call Routing would migrate to the equivalent 034/037 numbers (which are charged at normal geographic rates).

    Ofcom should then instruct telcos to bung a recorded announcement on 084 telling callers to try replacing 084 with 034, or 094 if it doesn't work. A similar message would direct 087 callers towards 037 / 097, and there would be a free warning message before 09 calls were connected.

    Easy peasy, all problems instantly solved !

    So why have Ofcom faffed about for two years, achieved absolutely nothing at all, and still have no sensible proposals?

    Paris, because she knows what it’s like to be shafted...

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beat them at their own hi-tech game...

    Really devious companies such as National Rail Enquiries (020 7278 5240) will tell you to use their rip-off 0845 number, even if you've used the 141 prefix to withhold your number. Needless to say, they’ll add insult to injury by still charging you for the recorded message.

    But there's an easy answer, just use 18185 to connect the call. Your number will be classified as 'Not Available' rather than 'Withheld', so you’ll qualify as an international caller.

  40. Busby
    Thumb Down

    No one has mentioned Orange

    Not sure on the situation for Broadband but for mobile customers if you need to call them and can't use your mobile then it's a mobile number you need to call ie 07973100xxx so if your using a landline chances are it's much more expensice than any 08 prefix would be. I don't understand why companies are alowed to use customer services lines to generate revenue they provide a shoddy service and then receive payment when people call up to resolve problems or complain. Why are the regulators so toothless in this country?

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ Stu Reeves

    Good point - the non-geographic numbers were originally intended to enable better and more resilient phone services, like the examples you give.

    However, that still doesn't excuse the charging and sneaky profit-taking (I call it sneaky because most callers don't realise what they will be charged, and most companies don't inform them when calling or on adverts). How can any company justify using 0871 numbers instead of 0844? There is no technical advantage, the only difference is how much you can charge per minute ..

  42. Ascylto

    087... Never!

    I NEVER use 087.. numbers. I will use saynoto0870 but some companies are wising up to this.

    I do, however, make a point of letting companies know about lost business. Last year my nephew and myself were looking for replacement mobiles. Every Carphone Warehouse number listed was 0870 so when I passed one of their stores I called in and let them know they had potentially lost two customers.

    Also, at work, I have responsibility for some purchasing. I always ask companies what their phone numbers are and if they have an 0870 number I tell them, politely, that we can't do business. In every instance I have been given a geographical number.

  43. jon

    Mobile scam

    Mobile companies tend to charge the same rate for any number starting in 08. That's right, the same for 0870 as for 0800. How they're allowed to do that is beyond me.

    I'm with Three and recently queried this with them. They informed me that "some 0800 numbers were free". I asked them to provide me with a list of those numbers. They referred me to a website which used to list some numbers but doesn't do any longer. After a few more weeks of hassle, they eventually dug out the list and sent it to me. Not that it matters as I now refuse to call anything starting in 08 from my phone (the website is one of my top 3 bookmarks now).

    And Three (at 15p/minute) are, I believe, a lot cheaper than most of the other mobile networks.

    I don't have a landline, because it's the 21st century (oh and BT wanted £125 to turn it on), so the sooner large organisations start switching to 03 numbers, the better.

  44. Tony Dickinson

    @ Stu Reeves

    The point is that if I dial a standard number I get charged a reasonable amount it I dial a 0845 number I get charged a fortune - why should I pay for the companies infrastructure when other companies don't ask me to do so?


  45. Joe Montana

    Encourages keeping you on hold...

    When a company uses a kickback number like this, they gain a financial incentive for keeping you on hold as long as possible. Some companies will actually work out the optimal length of time to keep someone on hold, balancing the revenue they make against the irritation of the customer.

    Conversely, it's very rare to be kept on hold when calling an 0800 number, as the cost is reversed.

    I don't think companies should be able to profit from inbound calls, unless they are offering a specific service directly related to the line (eg dialup access or chat lines etc)... And ALL such services should be regulated just like the higher rate 09xx numbers are currently.

    It's completely immoral for a company to profit from keeping you waiting on hold...

    To add my own experiences...

    If you want to contact many insurance companies about anything to do with your policy, they expect you to call an 0870 number, yesinsurance are particularly bad, they will auto renew your policy unless you pay to call them and spend quite some time on hold before telling them you don't want it renewed...

    And Barclays, despite offering an 0800 complaints line, will call you back to discuss the complaint, but if you don't answer they will leave a voicemail asking you to call an 0870 number... Paying for the privilege of complaining? Ridiculous...

    If you don't call back, the complaint is simply discarded.

  46. Bob Gender
    Thumb Up

    We stopped using them

    We went for an 0870 number a while ago to feign largeness ("clicks 'n' mortar", too), but I decided (since we're in the Telecomms retail field and deal with lots of people on their mobiles) to move back to 01xxx about a year ago - definitely the best option, as it a) shows you have a geographic presence in the UK, b) either counts as minutes from your allowance or isn't barred from your workphone and c) shows that we value customer service above making a few extra K a month.

  47. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Corrections ...

    @ Stephen Gray - no, NGN numbers do not HAVE to point to a geo number. At work we have customers using VOIP and they have 0845 numbers which do NOT get delivered to a regular geographic number.

    And people forget how these numbers came to be premium rate. At launch, 0845 was the same cost as a local call via BT, and 0870 was the same cost as a national call. Then came lots of price reductions, the abolition of a separate local rate, bundled calls, etc, etc. The cost of 0845 and 0870 numbers was never reduced accordingly, mostly being something similar to what the non-discounted BT rate was many years ago - but even at launch, many people were already in discount packages that made standard calls cheaper than the "same cost" 0845 and 0870.

    Mobile carriers (and others) won't include these calls in the allowance for the simple reason that the termination costs to them is too high. They are frequently not callable from abroad either, which can cause problems.

    The "simple" answer is to make it that calls to these numbers must be charged to the caller at the same rate as a 'local' or 'national' call - that's what they were made for, that's what they are still advertised at (in some cases). If the recipients don't like the new costs then tough, either accept it or change your working methods to suit.

  48. Jon Cooper
    Paris Hilton

    not rocket science

    The problem is very simple

    I pay nothing for 01etc and 02etc numbers

    I pay something for 0845

    however much it costs, even 1p an hour is too much

  49. Stephen Gray

    @SImon Hobson

    "Stephen Gray - no, NGN numbers do not HAVE to point to a geo number. At work we have customers using VOIP and they have 0845 numbers which do NOT get delivered to a regular geographic number."

    So what do they point at in order to complete the call?

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    D V L A

    Useless - to the point of inspired. I have been in contact via phone and post this year a total of 6 times. I have been told by DVLA 3 different versions of "what I need for proof" and "what I need to pay". Each time, the subsequent attempt to update my licence was rejected for a new (and stupid) reason. Finally gave up (since legally I am required only to "inform" them, not specifically to have them DO anything with the information) and complained to the post office about the "licence checking service" that I had used on 2 of the occasions. I got a REALLY helpful chap on a "geographical number" who not only knew the correct answers for all the DVLA crap but also re-imbursed me for the excess costs, gave a formal verbal apology and backed it up with a formal written apology. Thank You to the Post Office.

  51. William Morton

    Goverment agencies are not allowed to charge more than the cost of a local call

    There was a petition with a link to a goverment statement that no gov service was allowed to charge more than the cost of a local call. It did not say anything about bundled calls but next time you call an 0845 0870 number for a gov service point out to them they are breaking their own rules and insist on a call back, go higher up until you get one.

    The best one I saw was the jobcentreplus 0845 for people on income support, i.e. the lowest amount that the gov say they are able to live on

  52. Ian Watkinson
    Dead Vulture


    @ g e

    By John Naismith

    Posted Thursday 29th May 2008 13:50 GMT

    Your local surgery is obliged to maintain a geographical number. Report them to the PCT as its a breach of the "contract" between the surgery and the PCT.

    you sure about the John? got more details?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019