Government bans "rip-off" premium-rate phone numbers

Smartphone Mobile Phone

The government is to outlaw the use of 084, 087 and other "rip-off" telephone numbers for enquiries and complaints.

Included in the Department for Business, Innovations & Skills' (BIS) recent update on its consumer rights bill was a paragraph that states that if a trader makes a phone number available to customers, that number must be either a geographic number, a mobile number, or a freephone number.

David Hickson, campaigner with the Fair Telecoms Campaign, said the detail was "one among many measures not adequately prioritised by BIS" when it made its consumer rights bill announcement earlier this week.

Hickson said: "It is reassuring that the premium charges associated with 084 numbers are now recognised for what they are. This ban will be great for consumers and it will also highlight many other situations where use of the numbers must cease."

But he was quick to point out that the rule does not appear to apply to customers of government services. The Department for Work and Pensions, for example, uses numbers that begin with 35 or 0845, while BIS itself operates an 0845 number for its redundancy payments service helpline.

Other popular services that still use premium-rate telephone numbers include Citizens Advice, UCAS and the Student Loans Company.

"The imminent announcement of A-level results for England on 15 August will once again focus attention on the needs of those progressing to higher education," said Hickson in a statement.

"All vulnerable groups have a higher than normal tendency to use mobile phones, where the marginal cost difference in calling 084/087 numbers is at its greatest," he added.

The 'service charge' subsidy of more than 10p a minute earned by UCAS on calls to its 0871 number is only part of the call cost incurred. Most telephone companies also add an 'access charge' when originating calls to all 084/087 numbers. This can be as great as 39p per minute on some mobile tariffs for some number types.

"Companies and public bodies should be able to take responsibility for themselves. Does Citizens Advice really need government regulation to tell it how to behave? Whether compelled by law, inspired to do the right thing or pressed by angry customers, those who cannot justify a service charge on callers must cease using 084 and 087 numbers."

BIS is inviting comments on the draft regulations by 11 October. They will become law by the end of 2013, to be in effect by the middle of 2014.

Which are the premium-rate numbers that frustrate you the most? Let us know in the comment box below.

Your Comments

Some GP surgeries have 0845 numbers.  When you consider how long you are 'holding' with some surgeries after you have pressed 'One for appointments' the doctors must be making a tidy income from this.   Not all their patients are well off...

This pathetic Government - too slow to catch a cold! Rip-off telecoms companies should have been stamped-on long ago - and the poorest are the ones to suffer most through these vital agencies essentially overcharging for essential advice. Rip-off Britain is indeed alive and thriving with the Fat Cats getting fatter!!

All the more surprising - and regrettable - that John Lewis now has 0844 numbers if you phone one of their shops!

Some surgeries are still using 0844 numbers - even worse.

I would suggest that GP surgeries should not be allowed to use 0844 numbers. This is a form of privatisation of medicine.

Thankfully, I have a Post Office landline where I can phone these 0845 numbers after 6 and weekends for free.  Sadly, though, there are still other numbers where they are charging £1.53 a minute but on a so-called "ordinary" phone number.  How can we avoid these?
By the way, the DVLA, charges £1.53 per minute if you want to make enquiries about driving licences, etc.  How does the Government justify this and then want to ban 0845 numbers!

Kat, I understand that the new rules will not apply to GP surgeries. To me this is disgusting. The NHS is supposed to be free at the point of access. But well paid doctors will still be able to make profits from patients who have already paid. I despair that doctors do not have the ethics to see they are on the fiddle. 

I always check with and look for an alternative number. A short while ago, I refused to do business with a company that insisted that I called an 0845 number. They maintained that it was a local call charge and which I replied that as I get 01, 02 and 03 numbers free of charge, an 0845 number was chargeable and therefore a premium rate number. I think I'll get an 0900 number for companies to call me!

If M.Ps did not spend 4 months a year on holliday it would not take a year to pass any new legislation.
I agree with the "" site,I have used it for years and saved a fortune.
They should include 0300 numbers as they are not on many peoples inclusive minuts.

Why is this present Government bringing in new legislation?  There was a directive passed in Parliament in 2006 banning these 084/087 numbers to be implimented by 2008 to give companies sufficient time to change - did this happen, of course not.  Some of these national companies with high street departmental stores and shops are making half a million pounds and more a year sharing it with the telephone provider.  Why should customers have to pay to make an enquiry with a company - when applying to join a scheme ie home insurance, the company supplies an 0800 number, but once a customer has joined and has a query with the account, the company changes to an 0845 etc for the customer to contact them. I actually contacted M&S to voice my disgust at this practise. 
I telephoned Trading Standards to enquire as to why this law had not been implimented and was told that the feedback from the companies was that they had not had sufficient time to introduce the change!!  I have heard nothing further since.
I am also a great fan of "saynoto0870" and if that fails should there be a Head Office landline number I ring that and asked to be transferred. 
It will be interesting to see whether this Government makes any headway - I am not holding my breath.