Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/09/which_calls_for_high_rate_number_ban/

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

Consumer group reckons it should be cheaper to call banks and public bodies

By Brid-Aine Parnell

Posted in Policy, 9th September 2013 07:02 GMT

Consumer campaigners at Which? are calling for a ban on costly helpline and customer call-lines.

Executive director Richard Lloyd said it was "outrageous" to force people with questions or complaints to call higher-rate numbers - such as those starting with 09, 0845, 0844, and 0871 - that could charge up to £1.50 a minute.

"It's no wonder that people think companies do this deliberately to deter them from complaining," he said in a statement launching Which?'s new campaign.

“We want an end to all costly calls for customer service and complaints, and new rules so that all companies have to provide a local rate number. There should be no exceptions.”

Recent changes to the EU Consumer Rights Directive say that calls to customer helplines have to be charged at no more than the basic rate, but financial services, the travel industry and public bodies are not included under this rule.

High-street banks including HSBC, Halifax and RBS use 0845 numbers for their complaint lines, as do public bodies such as the Student Loans Company and the Redundancy Payments Service helpline, Which? said. Although 0845 lines are fairly low rate - typically no more than 11p a minute from a landline - campaigners argue this is still too much. Charges ramp up to about £1.50 a minute for an 09 number.

According to Which?'s survey of more than 2,000 adults in Great Britain, two thirds of people reckon that companies are using high-rate numbers to discourage them from calling, while three quarters are put off by the hotline codes. ®