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. " …

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  1. proto-robbie
    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!

    1. LarsG

      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.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      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?

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        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.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          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!

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            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.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            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.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          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.

          .

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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.

            1. Khaptain Silver badge

              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.

              1. Nuke
                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.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  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).

                  1. Nuke
                    Headmaster

                    @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.

                    1. Matt 21

                      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.........

                      1. Khaptain Silver badge

                        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.

                    2. Dr_N Silver badge

                      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...

            2. Anonymous Coward
              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.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              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.

          2. Khaptain Silver badge

            Re: France isn't too bad

            @Terry

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

        3. N2 Silver badge

          Re: France isn't too bad

          Second that, mon ami,

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

        4. Jim 59

          Re: France isn't too bad

          Vive la France!

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      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?

      1. Dave Harvey

        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.

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          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.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes, this article is very misleading

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

      3. TheDillinquent

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

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

        1. Bunbury

          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.

    4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      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.

    5. Ian01

      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).

  2. Daniel Bower

    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...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use the 'international' number

      Do you work for a bank?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge
        Flame

        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".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

          1. the spectacularly refined chap

            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.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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!

      3. Soruk

        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.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        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.

    3. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Use the 'international' number

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

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Try here

    www.saynoto0870.com

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

  4. The Jase

    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.

  5. Doug Bostrom

    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.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      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.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        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.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Old Tom
        Boffin

        Re: Rare though it be...

        (I rarely call from a mobile)

        From my landline, calling a geographic number costs me nothing. Calling 0845 Costs me money - a lot.

        I can see no legitimate reason for 0845. You're telling me that geographic numbers can't be re-routed?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. Ian01

        Re: Rare though it be...

        RE: "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."

        0845 numbers do not cost a "standard basic-rate" for callers. The tie with "local rate" was scrapped by BT in 2004. It has never applied to calls made from mobile phones.

        Calls to 0845 numbers incur a 2p/min Service Charge plus whatever mark-up the originating network adds. It is true that mobile networks generally add an extortionate mark-up. This mark-up could not be added if there were no Service Charge.

        The presence of the Service Charge generally stops these calls being inclusive - except for calls made from BT lines. BT subsidises the Service Charge for 0845 numbers from the monthly call package fees of all subscribers. BT charges are neither "standard" nor "typical". BT prices are capped by the "NTS Condition", a regulation that ends in 2014.

        BT makes their money from call termination. BT are the largest provider of 0845 numbers to businesses and receive 2p/min from all other networks when calls are made to 0845 numbers registered as owned by BT.

        Ofcom's "unbundled tariffs" will force users of 0845 numbers to declare the 2p/min Service Charge. All mobile and landline networks, including BT, will set and declare a single Access Charge per tariff covering all 084, 087 and 09 numbers.

        Before that happens, many businesses will be forced to move their 084 and 087 customer service lines over to 01, 02, 03 or 080 numbers by the provisions of the Consumer Rights Directive coming into force in 2014. The simplest moves are from 084 to 034 and from 087 to 037.

        01, 02 and 03 numbers are the only numbers charged at the "basic" rate. The vast majority of landline users incur zero incremental charge for each call of up to 60 minutes duration. Many, perhaps the majority of, mobile users incur zero incremental charge for calls of any duration, up to the monthly limit of their inclusive minutes.

    2. plrndl

      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).

  8. Anonymous Coward 101

    Menus...

    My favourite trick is companies sending me through a multitude of queues only to get a canned statement at the end of the process that doesn't answer my question. Like Orange, when all I wanted to do was cancel their fucking £2 itemised bills, and there was no way to do it online.

    1. Soruk

      Re: Menus...

      When I was with Orange (left last year after 13 years), calls to 150 from the mobile were completely free. From non-Orange phones, you had to call 07973 100 150, standard mobile rate from a non-Orange phone.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Menus...

      Tesco mobile, at least the calls were free but I wanted to stop their SMS marketing messages, followed the instruction, minutes of recorded messages and menus to get to the announcement that I had to put the request in writing. Tossers. Ditched them and got a SIM from GiffGaff (uses O2 network).

  9. Sean Houlihane

    Call conection parasites

    The practice I think referred to here is buying a google search result for <abc> helpline, then promoting a number as if it were the standard 0845 number, but charging £1.5/min.

    Presumably, the cost of paying for clicks is covered by the fools tricked into making the wrong choice of which number to dial.

  10. Terry 6 Silver badge
    Devil

    menus

    Charging to phone and complain, long queues with messages that say how busy they are at the moment ( instead of putting more staff on at busy times), menu systems that lead to blind alleys, email replies that don't actually refer to the matter you queried, and my favourite which is making you go through technical hoops that they and you know won't change anything. Or just ignoring the email/letter.

    All of these are ploys.

    Some bean counter somewhere has presumably worked out the cost of managing complaints and compared it to the cost of not bothering or pissing customers off. Then decided we aren't worth bothering about.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    want to call Which?

    guess how much it costs ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: want to call Which?

      Their website has 01 and 02 numbers, and only them.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    discourage them from calling

    I'm baffled as to why ONLY 3/4 of people think it's to discourage them, I thought it's pretty obvious, i.e. 100%. That said, perhaps 1/4 think it's to discourage them and make the companies extra buck at the same time.

  13. Number6

    In contrast...

    I had to call my credit card company over the weekend. The automatic voice told me I was likely to be on hold for ten minutes because they were busy, but as it was an 0800 number, strangely this didn't annoy me nearly as much as it might have done.

    Perhaps it should be a requirement that any organisation whose average waiting time on hold during the day/evening exceeds two minutes should be obliged to either refund the money spent waiting on hold or provide an 0800 number. I only resort to the phone when other means of communication fail or I need an answer Right Now.

    1. Soruk

      Re: In contrast...

      I had to call my credit card company the week before last, as some scrote had cloned the damn thing. Thankfully, they weren't blocking UK-originated calls from their international (geographic) number, so while it ate 35 mins from my bundle, it wasn't as expensive as it could have been had I called the 0845 number!

  14. Velv Silver badge
    Boffin

    Agreed it should be "local" to reach the complaints or customer care.

    But when you offer technical services that go beyond pure customer service, why should you offer them for fee (other than its good customer service). If you need technical help, you either fix it yourself or you pay an expert (and I admit the term expert for some of these lines is a bit of an exaggeration)

    "I can't get this computer to work"

    "Have you plugged it in Sir?"

    "Yes"

    "And have you pushed the On button?"

    "I can't see the On button"

    "Why can't you see the On Button!

    "The lights are off."

    "Turn the light on please Sir"

    "No point, the power's been cut off"

    "OK, sir, have you still got the box, you're going to need to take the computer back to the shop"

    "What should I tell them?"

    "Tell them you're too stupid to own a computer"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agreed, there is a place for premium rate numbers for such as technical support or even calling (allegedly) "attractive young" ladies to talk dirty to you. The problem is where the system is abused. Drawing the line is difficult but certainly the charging clock shouldn't start until you get to a real person, charging for time spent navigating menus or being on hold is theft.

      On the other hand If I could charge Indian call centres £1.50 a minute for their phone-spam I'd just wonder why it can't be £5 a minute.

  15. Psymon

    So misinformed it has to be trolling from Which

    0845 is local rate, and 0870 is NATIONAL rate, NOT international. In fact, 0845 SAVES you money, as it is charged at local rate no matter where you call from within the UK. Both of these numbers cost the company for you to call them. To claim they make a profit is idiotic at best.

    It is only numbers beginning with 09 that are premium rate, £1.50 being the legal maximum that can be charged. The laws are very strict. You cannot be held in a cue (it will either ring, or you will get an engaged tone - you will never be charged until you are actually accessing the service), and maximum call duration is 20 minutes, which they are required to tell you the moment they pick up the line. You cannot be forwarded in any manner whatsoever to a premium line.

    There is no company that uses a premium rate number for customer service or complaints, this is again banned by law. Violations of any of the above can result in the immediate removal of the 09 service, and can be prosecuted under CRIMINAL law.

    The whole Which article smacks of trite sensationalist Daily Mail-esque trolling.

    The only services allowed to be run on premium numbers are those which you have to pay for, such as sex lines, and non-warranty software support. The latter, I know from experience just barely covered the cost of running a 24/7 line, staffed round the clock by techies on a average wage of £20k.

    By all means, complain to Ofcom, but the target of your complaints should be your mobile service provider who has made the very deliberate decision to exclude 0870 and 0845 from any deals within your contract. Both of these numbers were firmly established long before mobile phones, so who are the scammers?

    1. flibbertigibbet

      Re: So misinformed it has to be trolling from Which

      Thanks for the clarification. This was difficult to believe.

      We have the same problem here in Australia. Companies publish 13 and 1800 numbers because they are in free - for land line customers. Mobile carriers charge them at a premium. I am buggered if I know why, but it pisses me off something chronic.

      As it happens, just like the UK it costs Aussie companies a pretty packet to provide those "cheaper" numbers, so they often publish the normal land line number beside them. They are the saviour of savy mobile users.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: So misinformed it has to be trolling from Which

      Sorry, but you are completely wrong. That was the case about 20 years ago when those numbers were first introduced, but not now.

      Geographical numbers cost you the same no matter where you call from within the UK. Most people have bundled minutes as part of their contract, so the marginal cost of calling a geographical number is zero. There is no such thing as local rates or national rates now.

      0845 and 0870 numbers cost more to call than geographic numbers, and are called special rate numbers. They are very rarely included in bundled minutes, so it costs quite a bit to call them. Companies receive typically about 7p per minute when someone calls an 0870 number. The amount they receive for calling an 0845 number is quite a bit less, and is usually in the form of a reduction in phone charges rather than actual cash.

      1. Psymon

        Re: So misinformed it has to be trolling from Which

        I'm not exactly sure how you can claim that I am wrong, when in your very next paragraph you confirm everything I have said. Perhaps you skim-read?

        As you point out, "Most people have bundled minutes as part of their contract". The over-charging issue is between you, and your phone service provider. THAT is the only component which has changed, and Ofcom knows this.

        http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2009/04/0870-numbers/

        Sorry, but local and national number categorisation still very much exists, even if most phone service providers offer flat rates. Again, this is nothing to do with the underlying structure, just a sweetener like the Family & Friends schemes, or Virgin-to-Virgin calls offered by your service provider.

        The 'revenue sharing' element is a red herring. It's a symptom of your phone providers overcharging, not the cause. While 7p a minute might be a welcome kick-back, it's a drop in the ocean when running a call centre, and wouldn't even cover the tax on the buildings lease, let alone the massive bandwidth pipes, call routing software/hardware or staffing costs.

        Almost all call centres are classed as cost centres. The only exceptions are cold-call sales, such as double glazing or PPI nuisance calls. This has nothing to do with your bank or tech support being evil or greedy, and if done from a landline costs no more than any other phone call not covered by a special deal.

        You need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Landlines are cheaper because they are unpopular. Because almost everyone has a mobile, selling a landline is a cut-throat market, and almost all hardwired phones are sold in internet bundles, hence landline charges were the first to hit the chopping block.

        As their popularity increased mobiles have been next in the price war, with the X number of minutes bundles, and similar offers to landline services.

        And therein lies the crux. 0845/0870 numbers from a landline cost what they have always cost (obviously adjusted with inflation). They only seem expensive because most phone providers/ISPs exempt them from the ubiquitous deals, and with the exception of British Airlines it seems, all call centres will allow you to use the normal phone number to take advantage of said deals.

        So, we are left with one glaring exception. The charges from mobile phones. And who decides the charges from mobile phones?

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: So misinformed it has to be trolling from Which

          Why do you think phone operators bundle minutes on calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers but not 0845 and 0870 numbers? It is because the termination payments are higher on the latter.

          0845 numbers are not local rate numbers and 0870 numbers are not national rate numbers. It is illegal to describe them as such, as well as being just pain wrong.

    3. pmb00cs

      Re: So misinformed it has to be trolling from Which

      I hate to break it to you but the £1.50 (and 20 minute) limits are not (or certainly weren't when I worked in a call centre advising people of call costs) legal limits that cannot be breached. They are simply the limits at which PhonepayPlus (previously ICSTIS) will not add extra scrutiny to your operations for running a premium rate number. There is also a limit of the total cost of a single call, which I cannot currently recall without looking it up. Breach of these limits will add extra scrutiny from PhonepayPlus, and additional requirements on your operations from PhonepayPlus, which may be onerous, and expensive. It is these additional sanctions (including needing to put a clear cost message at the beginning of the the call prior to anything breaching these limits) that prevent companies from setting up with 09 numbers charging more.

    4. Soruk

      Re: So misinformed it has to be trolling from Which

      0845 is a revenue share range (how else could Freeserve operate?).

      0870 USED to be a revenue share range, the revenue share was removed in 2010 (August, IIRC).

      Most low-level revenue share these days operate on 0844 (0.5 - 5p/min) and 0871 (6-10p/min) and although most outfits using these numbers use the highest price in each band, international call-through services can get enough revenue share out of a number charged at 1p/min to be able to forward calls to the far side of the world, sometimes including mobiles, without having to separately bill the person making the call. This is actually about the only use for revenue share that I'm entirely comfortable with - you're buying the international call at a potentially much lower rate than a direct-dialled call to the same destination would cost, so saving the consumer money.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No surprise

    So the banking scum rip us off some more, no surprise there.

  17. A J Stiles

    "Local" rate

    There is no local rate anymore. BT have been billing local and national calls at the same rate for a long time.

  18. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Yes and No

    There is a good reason for pay-per-minute phone numbers. If you have a product that is out of warranty, you can pay for the support you need on a case by case basis rather than buying a service contract on an annual plan that you may never use. It can be very hard for a company to support discontinued products. Being able to charge a nominal fee may help. I agree that there should be a mechanism so you are only billed for the actual time you are talking with somebody and not while they are playing Muzak at you. There should be a ban against any government agency using a toll line for enquiries. Anywhere that a customer has an ongoing relationship such as a bank or telephone company should have a ban on only providing a customer service number with a toll. There are times when I would be happy to pay a premium to get immediate service rather than wait in a virtual queue.

    There should be a requirement that if you are placed in a queue for more than 2 minutes, there should be a way to select the music you want to listen to.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Yes and No

      BUT: Most of these calls are not support calls.

      They may be customer service complaints, product inquiries, or fault lines etc.

  19. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Embassys are the worst

    Many embassys in the UK use £1.50/min 090 numbers for their enquiries lines. And there's no other way to contact them.

    You can spend a small fortune trying to sort something out.

    1. Daniel C

      Re: Embassys are the worst

      And the UK is even worse -- British citizens needing services overseas need to call a London number and pay a per-minute rate by credit card. British embassies don't even do passports & visas any more as it's all outsourced.

  20. Pete the not so great

    I've used WeQ4u, with varying sucess

    (yes the dragon's den, 1% bloke)

  21. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Public bodies such as local authorities certainly shouldn't be exempted

    I recently received a demand with threat of legal action from my local authority over a council tax payment, which I had made, but they had managed to mis-allocate. The letter had on it an 087-something number. I'm glad I managed to find the local number to call instead, buried on the council's web-shite, as once I managed to get through the near-impenetrable automated system to get onto a queue, I waited for almost half an hour before being cut off and having to start again. Even if it had been at 11p a minute (plus VAT no doubt), the call still would have cost me near a fiver to make, to sort out someone else's error.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Public bodies such as local authorities certainly shouldn't be exempted

      Always respond to anything involving the slightest chance of legal action by letter, recorded delivery. This has several advantages. They can't turn around and deny whatever they told you in their reply. They make themselves look bad (in court, or on your official complaint) if their reply is in any way evasive, inaccurate, or never arrives. And best of all, it costs them far more to process than a phone call would.

      I'd suggest the same retalliation to 0870 and 09xx numbers. Put down the phone. Write a letter. Send it recorded delivery.

  22. -tim

    Same story, different continent

    The Aussie "1-300" numbers work like the UK 0845 but are advertised as "for the cost of a local call" yet cost most punters twice as much. My local council (Yarra Ranges) has one yet repeated calls to the councilors can't produce a copy of the phone bill which is hidden in one or more piles of money so large that one could hide half a million dollars in them. Here the 1-300 number terminates according to geographical rules so when someone calls the Victorian council from Perth, we could have the call answered in Sydney. 1-300 have the callee pay per minute for inbound calls except local calls under ten minutes but non-local calls tack on long distance charges as well. The odd thing is should a property owner from Sydney call the council, it would be cheaper for them to call a a standard number from a landline and the cost of calling the published number from a mobile phone can be staggering.

    Oddly enough the local council and it's employees don't understand why I want to know how much this is costing because they see it as saving a few people a few cents.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rise of Malware and Conware means we all need the SAYNO switch.

    I doubt anyone apart from companies and conmen wants these numbers made available on mobiles.

    Get rid of this fraud by forcing the networks to offer an off switch.

    A saynoto0870 setting that 80% of us no doubt want.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I ate the 08

    I use a golden rule from a mobile phone that if it starts 08 or 09 I will never call it.

  25. Sam Machin

    Re: British Airways

    If calling BA's 0191 number you can dial 141 first to withhold your number then they don't bounce your call, works a treat for making sure the calls are included in my O2 inclusive minutes.

    Can do the same with skype although 141 doesn't work so you have to go into your account and turn off your CallerID which is a pain.

  26. Tom 13

    It's not so much the $1.50/minute charge I object to,

    It's the 20 minutes on hold at $1.50 before I start talking to a person. Just disallow charging while on hold. And no, switching me into the call tree before putting me on hold doesn't stop the "can't charge while on hold" bit. So if your call tree can't sort those bits out, you can't charge me for it. I only want to pay for the time I'm talking to a person and they are working on resolving MY problem.

  27. Nuke

    Reasons for Phoning

    I never phone these places unless I have an out-of-the-ordinary problem. Yet when I do phone I hear these long menus of trivial (to my mind) choices like "To find the address of a branch - To hear our opening hours - To hear our environmental policies - To hear our equal opportunities policies - To hear you overdraft limit - To hear our interest rates - To hear our accessibility arrangements". Last of all comes "To speak to an agent".

    Do people really phone help lines just to find out the address of their bank branch or to hear them spouting greenwash? That stuff is all on their web sites anyway. I NEVER find any of the assumed reasons apply to me, and I always need the "agent", always the last option.

    Even when you select the "agent" you are often forced to listen through much of the same list again, or are offered further automated replies, with the "agent" last again. Typically it is three levels of menus before the line even starts to ring for the "agent". Sometimes however you are just led back to Level 1 again (TV licensing - I am looking at you), or if you do not fit their recorded scenarios you are told to write or call in after all.

  28. QuietLeni
    FAIL

    BT gives us FREE 0845/0870, then these become 0844/0871!

    What I hate is that BT have included 0845 and 0870 calls in the deal these days, however, when I try to call the 0845 or 0870 numbers, I find that they have been moved to 0844 or 0871 (whihc are not included).

    This is a con - we think that we are getting a good deal and companies move away from the deal (or are encouraged to move) and we get the bad news again!

  29. Martin H Watson

    I'd rather talk to a friendly idiot who can't help me, than a robot.

  30. Martin H Watson

    The way ahead has to favour those companies with a web link asking you when you'd like THEM to call you.

  31. Evan Essence

    Free at the weekend

    In many cases (e.g., 0845, 03), calls at the weekend are free using BT's cheapest tariff, Unlimited Weekend Calls, so I phone then when I can, which is usually.

    Probably a silly question, but is it common these days for call centre staff to be paid extra on Saturdays and Sundays?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Free at the weekend

      "Probably a silly question, but is it common these days for call centre staff to be paid extra on Saturdays and Sundays?"

      In Indian call centres, probably not. Even if they are it's largely immaterial, if the normal pay rate is USD10 a day the infrastructure probably costs more so it's worth paying a bit more to keep recovering the fixed costs (a bit like the RyanAir business model - empty seats cost but earn nothing).

  32. Colin McKinnon

    OMG.....NO!

    While I have been extremely frustrated by support services (regardless if I'm paying for them or not) it costs money to develop, man and maintain these. Recovering some of the costs from a revenue share means that the costs are not being passed on to the customer via another route.

    Removing charges from support services means anyone who

    - takes time to RTFM

    - bothers to think about their problem

    ....will be subsidizing the stupid and the lazy.

    But worse - it actually ecourages people to be stupid and lazy.

    At least with a charged model you have the opportunity to recover at least some of the costs - when it's 'free' you'll never get your money back when it's the service provider's fault.

  33. Ian01
    Happy

    Various number types and charges, and many changes coming.

    (Part 1) The UK has several types of telephone number (landline, mobile, non-geographic) and several general charging mechanisms (inclusive call plan, pence-per-minute rate, free of charge, additional Service Charge within call price potentially paying out revenue share to called party). There are also some differences depending on whether the call is made from a landline or from a mobile. Additionally, some of BT's call prices are regulated making them non-typical in the market.

    01 and 02 - geographic numbers with an area code. Most people pay for a call package and call these numbers at no additional cost per call. This applies to calls made from landlines and from mobiles. A small number of people calling from landlines pay a pence-per-minute rate for these calls during the weekday daytime. This is because they have inclusive calls only during evenings and weekends or only at the weekend. Mobile phone users on a pay-as-you-go tariff also pay a pence-per-minute rate for these calls.

    071xx-075xx, 07624, 077xx-079xx - mobile numbers. Many mobile phones have a monthly call package covering 01, 02, 03 and other mobile numbers. The remainder pay a pence-per-minute rate for these calls. Mobiles are fairly expensive to call from landlines but the call price from landlines is being steadily reduced. By 2015, it should have reduced enough such that landline operators can offer calls to mobiles within their inclusive call packages.

    03xx, 08xx, 09xx - non-geographic numbers. These have call queueing and intelligent routing arrangements. They are usually forwarded to a UK landline for a small fee (about 2p/min, or less). The fee is higher if calls are routed to a mobile or to an international destination. There are a variety of charges incurred by the caller and it can get a bit complicated.

    03xx - non-geographic numbers without a Service Charge. These are charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers, and inclusive in call bundles on mobiles and landlines. The called party pays for the call handling and routing.

    080x - non-geographic "freephone" numbers, free call from landlines. The called party pays for the call handling and routing as well as paying for call origination. This fee covers the cost of origination from a landline. This fee is also paid to mobile operators when they originate the call, but as their costs are higher, they also bill the caller for the call. However, this isn't the 2p/min or so that might be expected, it's often 15p to 30p/min. Users of 0808 80 numbers and certain government departments, such as DWP, pay a higher fee for call origination so that their numbers are truly free from mobiles. Ofcom propose that all 080 numbers be free to call from mobiles from 2015. Consequently every user of 080 numbers will pay a slightly higher call origination fee to make this happen. The plans are currently delayed by several months as one mobile operator is strongly resisting this change.

    084x, 087x and 09xx - non-geographic numbers with a Service Charge. The caller pays their phone network for the call. Within that call price is a Service Charge to the benefit of the called party. The Service Charge is up to 7p/min on 084 numbers (2p/min on 0845), up to 13p/min on 087 numbers (currently zero on 0870, but will be about 10p/min from 2015) and up to 153p/min on 09 numbers (will be up to 300p/min from 2015). Where the Service Charge is 2p or 3p/min, and the number is routed to a UK landline, the number user pays no fees for the number or for the call handling and routing. Callers are paying those fees through the Service Charge. Where the Service Charge is over about 4p/min, the user receives a "revenue share" payment and is making money from each caller. From mobiles, these calls are almost always very expensive and almost never inclusive. From landlines, they are usually expensive and are generally not inclusive in call packages. There are a very small number of exceptions.

    0870 - non-geographic numbers. These currently have no Service Charge and revenue share is not permitted. These calls are inclusive from many landlines. Mobile operators charge highly for these calls, often up to 41p/min. They are not inclusive calls from mobiles.

    0845 - non-geographic numbers. These calls incur a 2p/min Service Charge. These are expensive calls from mobiles, often costing up to 41p/min. The largest landline operator, BT, confuses the situation by allowing 0845 numbers as inclusive calls. They do this by subsidising the 2p/min Service Charge from the monthly call package fee. Other landline operators generally charge for these calls. The Service Charge usually covers the call handling and forwarding costs, but is rarely enough for a revenue share out-payment to take place.

    Other 084x, 087x and 09xx non-geographic numbers. These are expensive from landlines and mobiles and never inclusive. The caller pays the Service Charge as well as various fees to their own network. Mobile operators mark up 084 and 087 calls by up to 39p/min, and 09 calls by a much larger amount. Ofcom propose that the call price be "unbundled". The number user will have to declare the Service Charge that applies to their telephone number and each phone network will have to declare a single Access Charge covering all 084, 087 and 09 numbers. This action should bring call prices down, especially when calling from a mobile phone. Indeed, the Access Charge should be very similar to the pence-per-minute out-of-bundle rate for calling 01, 02 and 03 numbers.

    0871, 0872, 0873 and 09xx - premium rate numbers. All 084, 087 and 09 numbers are technically "premium rate" due to the presence of the Service Charge, or "premium", to the benefit of the called party. However, only those numbers with the highest levels of Service Charge are covered by specific additional Premium Rate Services (PRS) regulation governing their use.

  34. Ian01
    Happy

    Various number types and charges, and many changes coming.

    (Part 2) In all this, one complication is that BT prices for 084, 087 and 09 numbers are capped by a very old "competition" regulation. A similar price cap that previously applied to 01 and 02 numbers was removed in 2004. This has led to an absurd situation affecting callers using a BT landline and with no inclusive minutes: calls to 084 and some 087 numbers are charged at a lower rate than calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers. That is, calls to numbers with a Service Charge cost LESS than to those without a Service Charge. Happily, the "NTS Condition" will be lifted in 2014. BT prices are likely to be adjusted such that they become similar to the "normal" price charged by some other landlines operators.

    The end result of various forthcoming changes is that 084 and 087 calls will cost more than 01, 02 and 03 calls right across the board (unless a provider artificially inflates the cost of calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers when called outside the allowances of an inclusive call plan). Just before this happens, the provisions of the Consumer Rights Directive will make it illegal to use 084, 087 and 09 numbers for customer service. Draft legislation has already been published and should pass into law in December 2013.

    Additionally, the cost of calling 084, 087 and 09 numbers from a mobile will likely reduce so that it is the same or only slightly higher than calling from a landline. This has already happened for 01, 02 and 03 calls; many people have these as inclusive calls on their landline and on their mobile. The requirement to declare a single Access Charge per tariff for 084, 087 and 09 numbers should see a hefty reduction in the markup mobile operators add as compared to current levels (however, these numbers will not become inclusive calls).

    When revenue sharing returns to 0870 numbers in 2015, landline users will see a hefty price increase. These calls will no longer be inclusive. However, some time before that happens, many of the companies currently using 0870 numbers will be required to swap to 0370 (or to another 01, 02, 03 or 080 number) under the provisions of the Consumer Rights Directive. Mobile networks currently charge excessively for these calls, so any change is likely to lead to a decrease in price.

    Virgin Media landline users may not see a price increase for other chargeable 084, 087 and 09 numbers. VM already adds a sizeable markup on these calls. They will simply have to set and declare a single Access Charge to replace their current connection fee and variable markup.

    BT users may well see a few small price increases. In particular, 0845 numbers will probably stop being counted as inclusive calls. The call cost will be the 2p/min Service Charge plus whatever Access Charge BT sets. However, the Consumer Rights Directive will have moved many 0845 users to 0345 (or to another 01, 02, 03 or 080 number) long before this happens.

    Once the "NTS Condition" is lifted and once Ofcom's "unbundled tariffs" come into effect, BT will be able to add an Access Charge for all 084, 087 and 09 numbers for the first time. This will likely lead to a small price rise. Other landline users may also pay a bit more for calling 084, 087 and 09 numbers. Several networks currently copy BT's prices and make no profit on these calls. These networks will surely be keen to add an Access Charge of several pence per minute.

    Even if these networks set their Access Charge at zero, there's another effect that will give the illusion of a price rise. A call currently advertised as e.g. 5.1p/min plus 15p connection fee (using BT's prices) will in future be advertised as having a 7p/min Service Charge.

    The major effect of the Consumer Rights Directive will be to reduce the need to call 084, 087 and 09 numbers. For those that continue to call these numbers, mobile users will generally be much better off after the price changes. Landline users may pay slightly more for most 084, 087 and 09 numbers and a lot more for 0870. BT users will probably pay more for 0845 than they do at present. However, these increases will mostly be bringing BT prices up to the sort of level that other operators already charge.

    Before 2004, the price of 0845 calls from BT lines was tied to the price of a "local" call and the price of calls to 0870 numbers was tied to the price of a "national" call. Those days are long gone. Today, it is the call price for 03 numbers that is tied to the price of a geographic call. This applies to calls made from landlines and mobiles, and those calls always count towards inclusive allowances in call package "bundles".

    Under the proposed new pricing framework, it will be clear that the Service Charge imposed on calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers earns money for the called party, or at least pays the running costs of their non-geographic number, and that these calls are always more expensive than calling 01, 02 and 03 numbers. Users will therefore need to justify imposing this Service Charge on callers. The law will say that this charge cannot be justified in the case of customer service lines. Government reports and the recent Public Accounts Committee enquiry also now deem it unsuitable to impose this charge within the provision of public services. Public opinion will deem it unsuitable in many other venues.

  35. Ian01

    RE: "Recovering some of the costs from a revenue share means that the costs are not being passed on to the customer via another route."

    While this might work for 09 numbers, it is a very inefficient means of collecting revenue on other number ranges.

    e.g. Caller rings 0844 number with 7p/min Service Charge and business sees about 2p/min revenue share from that. Caller could be paying up to 41p/min for that call.

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