Customers are paying up to 40p per minute for calls to businesses that should cost pennies, Resolver has found. That’s due to the rise of ‘directory-style’ websites that offer to link you up direct to the customer services departments of big-name companies.
There’s a catch, though – the contact numbers they actually provide you with are chargeable business-rate numbers. These forward you on to the actual contact number, much in the way old-style directory enquiries services do if you ask the operator to ‘put you through’
Resolver has also found that some of these directory services are placing Google ads against key company search terms, so that the unwary smartphone browser in a rush could easily click on the phone number link and be put straight through.
We asked one of the main providers of these directory services – Contact Pages – to counter our suggestion that their service could mislead customers into thinking they were phoning straight through to a company rather than using an intermediary service. They declined to comment.
According to David Hickson of the Fair Telecoms Campaign, this is a deeply unfair situation that could be quite easily addressed: “We feel that this is a mistake by Ofcom, as there is no reason whatsoever why [these numbers] could not be covered by an additional entry in Ofcom’s Premium Rate Services Condition.”
These calls will cost between 1p and 13p per minute from a landline, and between 5p and 40p per minute from a mobile. What’s more, they are unlikely to be included in your free minutes package if you have a mobile phone contract.
There is also likely to be a call ‘set-up’ fee when you’re forwarded on to the real number.
The way to avoid falling foul of this is to find the number via Resolver. We provide contact numbers for the vast majority of companies and services within our system – and this will always be a number that costs the same as a national-rate landline whenever a company provides this option. Simply search for the company in the orange box on our homepage
If you have a mobile, you can also use Resolver’s app (iOS or Android) to make your call. Simply search for the company in the app, and you’ll be presented with the option to make the call. Plus, unlike an 0843 number, this call costs whatever it would with your standard mobile package (ie we add a top-up charge).
Most of these Chargeable 08 Business Rate numbers are 0843 and 0844 numbers, but beware 0845 numbers, too. Another trick to watch out for are 070 numbers. These tend to look like mobile numbers, but can cost up to £1.50 per minute.
Unfortunately, 0843, 0844, 0845 and even 070 do not count as premium numbers, so are not regulated by PhonepayPlus
, the service that ensures premium phone line operators play fair.
Numbers beginning with 0871, 0872 or 0873 are regulated by PhonepayPlus, but still cost up to 40p per minute.
You can also end up paying a chunky rate for directory enquiry numbers (those starting with a 118) From a mobile or a landline, the one-off charge can be between 50p and £4 and the additional per minute charge can be up to £5. However, these numbers are covered by PhonepayPlus.
Is there a plan to make the situation less confusing?
The short answer is yes. From this summer, a system called UK Calling is to be put into place. This will cover all calls from mobiles and landlines to 08, 09 and 118 numbers. To quote, the UK Calling website:
“From summer 2015, the cost of calling service numbers will be made up of two parts:
An access charge: This part of the call charge goes to your phone company, charged as pence per minute. They will tell you how much the access charge will be for calls to service numbers. It will be made clear on bills and when you take out a contract.
A service charge: This is the rest of the call charge. The organisation you are calling decides this, and will tell you how much it is.”
Savvy Caller – http://savvycaller.com/
Numbers Helpline – http://www.numbershelpline.co.uk/
Contact Numbers – http://www.contactnumbers.co
Number Connect – http://www.numberconnect.info/
Contact Pages – http://www.contact-pages.co.uk
Contact Telephone Numbers http://www.contacttelephonenumbers.com/