No more forced 0845 numbers for customer service lines

12 June 2014

woman on the phoneWe’re not big fans of premium rate numbers here at Bitterwallet, particularly where there are only 08 numbers available when you need customer service. We have previously described how completely impossible it is to decipher the cost of an 08 number call, and from next June, 0800 numbers will have to be free for everyone, including mobile users, and organisations will have to spell out more clearly the true cost of calling that 08 number.

However, not all positive changes to telephony are so far away. From tomorrow, companies offering a customer service telephone number must have a non-08 number alternative to ensure that anyone calling will not suffer premium rate charges just to get some help.

From 13th June it will be a legal requirement that businesses provide a standard-rate number (i.e. 01, 02 or 03) for their customer service lines. Businesses that fail to comply can be taken to court by the consumer for recompense against excess charges incurred, and the new law will also be enforced by Trading Standards and The Office of Fair Trading, who could also take persistent offenders to court. The rules only apply to consumer-facing businesses, however; those dealing with other businesses can still charge upwards of 40p per minute if they so choose.

The changes are part of a group of new rules coming into force under the EU consumer rights directive, which also includes such consumer-friendly policies as increasing the minimum cancellation period offered by retailers, up from 7 to 14 days and the forced introduction of “express consent” for additional services- sneaky sellers can no longer automatically tick boxes for you to purchase insurance or other add-ons, you will need to tick to say you want the additional product/service yourself. Traders must obtain the consumer’s express prior consent for any additional payments.

TOPICS:   Consumer Advice

1 comment

  • Ian
    It's not just 0845 numbers! It applies to all 084, 087 and 09 numbers. None of these comply with the "basic rate" requirement for customer service helplines. The new law covers only retailers, traders and passenger transport companies. Most appear to be complying with the rules, but with many leaving it until the final day to complete the work. Separately, the Cabinet Office has directed government departments and public services to move to 03 numbers. The majority have now done so. If things carry on much as they have so far, the work might be substantially completed before the end of 2014. More good news is on the way. From June 2015, new Ofcom rules on how 084, 087 and 09 call costs are presented will come into force. Users of these numbers will have to clearly declare their Service Charge making it clear they are financially benefitting from the call, and by how much. Only a foolhardy or desperate business would consider using these numbers for sales lines. This is finally, truly, the beginning of the end for the forced making of expensive 084 and 087 phone calls. Ofcom made 03 numbers available in 2007. At last, usage of these numbers is massively increasing. Calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers and count towards inclusive allowances on landlines and mobiles.

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