Call for an end to premium rate numbers for Blackburn with Darwen Council

Call for an end to premium rate numbers for Blackburn with Darwen Council

Call for an end to premium rate numbers for Blackburn with Darwen Council

First published in News

COUNCIL Labour leader Kate Hollern and her Lib Dem counterpart David Foster have joined forces to call for an end to Blackburn with Darwen Council using premium rate phone numbers for enquiries.

At a meeting of the borough’s executive board, Coun Foster asked finance chief Andy Kay which services used 0845 or 0844 premium rate numbers and whether they were being phased out. Coun Kay said the council used no 0844 numbers and four 0845 non-geographic numbers for council tax and benefits, parking, automated payments, cemeteries and burials.

He added: “These are used primarily for resilience as alternative local numbers can be re-routed.”

He said no decision had been made on their future but said the council was looking at moving services to online or telephone rather than face-to-face. He denied 0845 numbers could cost 40p a minute saying it was a maximum of 10p.

Coun Foster said hard-up residents seeking advice should not have to pay excessive charges.

Coun Hollern agreed, saying: “We should be looking to phase them out.”

Comments (8)

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1:21am Thu 23 Jan 14

Ian_SE says...

The matching 0344 and 0345 numbers, available since 2007, offer the same call routing and resilience features as their 0844 and 0845 counterparts. They do so while ensuring the caller pays no more than they would had the same call been made to an ordinary 01 or 02 number. For many callers, calls to 03 numbers count towards their inclusive calls allowance and this applies whether the call is made from a landline or from a mobile phone.

Upon checking the price lists published by various popular telephone providers it takes only minutes to discover that calls to 0844 and 0845 numbers cost up to 41p/min. Calls to 0845 numbers are rarely included in call plan allowances and calls to 0844 numbers are never included. However, what is not readily apparent without delving deeper is that the 0845 call price includes a 2p/min Service Charge to the benefit of the called party; likewise the Service Charge levied on calls to 0844 numbers is up to 7p/min. The Council's telephone provider uses this revenue, originally collected from the caller, to subsidise the running of the telephone service for the Council, thereby reducing the amount the council has to pay for their telephone service.

In April 2013, John Healey MP dubbed the practice of getting callers to further subsidise a public service already paid for by taxation, the "Telephone Tax". A subsequent National Audit Office enquiry uncovered the extent of usage of 0844 and 0845 "higher rate" numbers within central government and their agencies. The July 2013 NAO report contains some shocking statistics and prompted an enquiry by the Pubic Accounts Committee. At the PAC enquiry in September 2013, DWP promised to end their usage of 0845 numbers and the Cabinet Office agreed to issue suitable guidance for the rest of government and the wider public sector. The November 2013 PAC report recommended the Cabinet Office consider the use of 03 numbers in place of expensive 084 and 087 numbers and that is exactly what the December 2013 Cabinet Office guidance now sets out.

The Cabinet Office guidance is intended not only to cover central government but also to reach into all parts of local government as well as contractors engaged in the delivery of public services. It is no coincidence that Lancashire County Council recently started a project to move all of their 0845 numbers to new 0300 numbers. This work is scheduled for completion by 31 March 2014.

In the private sector, section 41 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 recently published by BIS makes it illegal to use 084, 087 and 09 numbers for after-sales customer service lines for enquiries, renewals, complaints, refunds and cancellations in most business categories including most retailers, transport firms and many others, on and after 13 June 2014. The recent Cabinet Office guidance merely brings the public sector into alignment with what the government is requiring the private sector to do.

If Blackburn with Darwen Council is not minded to migrate their expensive 084 numbers to a cheaper alternative, it should be aware of Ofcom's forthcoming change of regulation. All users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers will be required to declare the Service Charge incurred by callers so that they are clearly informed that the called party is receiving a financial benefit from the call; something along these lines:
"Calls to the Council's 0844 number incur a 7p/min Service Charge, your phone provider will add their Access Charge."
and
"Calls to the Council's 0845 number incur a 2p/min Service Charge, your phone provider will add their Access Charge."


Kate Hollern and David Foster are to be applauded for raising this issue. The Council must now take rapid steps to fall into compliance with the guidance issued by the Cabinet Office in December 2013. A number of MPs including John Healey, Richard Burden and Valerie Vaz are monitoring compliance within central government and it cannot be long before their attention turns to local government. Indeed, Valerie Vaz has recently asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government about this very matter (Hansard Witten Answers; HC Deb, 20 January 2014, c64W).
The matching 0344 and 0345 numbers, available since 2007, offer the same call routing and resilience features as their 0844 and 0845 counterparts. They do so while ensuring the caller pays no more than they would had the same call been made to an ordinary 01 or 02 number. For many callers, calls to 03 numbers count towards their inclusive calls allowance and this applies whether the call is made from a landline or from a mobile phone. Upon checking the price lists published by various popular telephone providers it takes only minutes to discover that calls to 0844 and 0845 numbers cost up to 41p/min. Calls to 0845 numbers are rarely included in call plan allowances and calls to 0844 numbers are never included. However, what is not readily apparent without delving deeper is that the 0845 call price includes a 2p/min Service Charge to the benefit of the called party; likewise the Service Charge levied on calls to 0844 numbers is up to 7p/min. The Council's telephone provider uses this revenue, originally collected from the caller, to subsidise the running of the telephone service for the Council, thereby reducing the amount the council has to pay for their telephone service. In April 2013, John Healey MP dubbed the practice of getting callers to further subsidise a public service already paid for by taxation, the "Telephone Tax". A subsequent National Audit Office enquiry uncovered the extent of usage of 0844 and 0845 "higher rate" numbers within central government and their agencies. The July 2013 NAO report contains some shocking statistics and prompted an enquiry by the Pubic Accounts Committee. At the PAC enquiry in September 2013, DWP promised to end their usage of 0845 numbers and the Cabinet Office agreed to issue suitable guidance for the rest of government and the wider public sector. The November 2013 PAC report recommended the Cabinet Office consider the use of 03 numbers in place of expensive 084 and 087 numbers and that is exactly what the December 2013 Cabinet Office guidance now sets out. The Cabinet Office guidance is intended not only to cover central government but also to reach into all parts of local government as well as contractors engaged in the delivery of public services. It is no coincidence that Lancashire County Council recently started a project to move all of their 0845 numbers to new 0300 numbers. This work is scheduled for completion by 31 March 2014. In the private sector, section 41 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 recently published by BIS makes it illegal to use 084, 087 and 09 numbers for after-sales customer service lines for enquiries, renewals, complaints, refunds and cancellations in most business categories including most retailers, transport firms and many others, on and after 13 June 2014. The recent Cabinet Office guidance merely brings the public sector into alignment with what the government is requiring the private sector to do. If Blackburn with Darwen Council is not minded to migrate their expensive 084 numbers to a cheaper alternative, it should be aware of Ofcom's forthcoming change of regulation. All users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers will be required to declare the Service Charge incurred by callers so that they are clearly informed that the called party is receiving a financial benefit from the call; something along these lines: [quote]"Calls to the Council's 0844 number incur a 7p/min Service Charge, your phone provider will add their Access Charge."[/quote] and [quote]"Calls to the Council's 0845 number incur a 2p/min Service Charge, your phone provider will add their Access Charge."[/quote] Kate Hollern and David Foster are to be applauded for raising this issue. The Council must now take rapid steps to fall into compliance with the guidance issued by the Cabinet Office in December 2013. A number of MPs including John Healey, Richard Burden and Valerie Vaz are monitoring compliance within central government and it cannot be long before their attention turns to local government. Indeed, Valerie Vaz has recently asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government about this very matter (Hansard Witten Answers; HC Deb, 20 January 2014, c64W). Ian_SE
  • Score: 21

2:42am Thu 23 Jan 14

Steven Seagull says...

If I was ringing an 0898 number and paying premium rates I'd expect a better looking bird than the one in the picture!!!
If I was ringing an 0898 number and paying premium rates I'd expect a better looking bird than the one in the picture!!! Steven Seagull
  • Score: -6

6:47am Thu 23 Jan 14

caballo says...

The electioneering has started then!!
The electioneering has started then!! caballo
  • Score: 0

8:37am Thu 23 Jan 14

woolywords says...

Oh dear, the Council intends to move to a more telephonic form of communication, rather than face-to-face, does it?
Does this mean that there is an agenda here, where they will use the services of a call centre, where calls are answered by someone reading from a script on a screen, to resolve any problems?
Here's a thought, why not get an 01254 number, with a real person answering the call within 1 minute, who then routes your call to the relevant department, where it is answered by someone who can deal with the problem or take a message, your phone number and give an assurance that your call will be returned before the end of that day?
Some of us don't want to listen to a single note of the Nigel Kennedy version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, while being told every 20 seconds that we should continue to hold, as our call is important..
Calls to BwD Council should be answered by someone based in the Borough, who has a working knowledge or crib card of how to deal with problems raised by residents who call their council offices and not some bloke called, 'Mikey', with a blatantly obvious foreign accent, who can't tell you what the weather is like outside the Town Hall, as he's in a far off land!
Oh dear, the Council intends to move to a more telephonic form of communication, rather than face-to-face, does it? Does this mean that there is an agenda here, where they will use the services of a call centre, where calls are answered by someone reading from a script on a screen, to resolve any problems? Here's a thought, why not get an 01254 number, with a real person answering the call within 1 minute, who then routes your call to the relevant department, where it is answered by someone who can deal with the problem or take a message, your phone number and give an assurance that your call will be returned before the end of that day? Some of us don't want to listen to a single note of the Nigel Kennedy version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, while being told every 20 seconds that we should continue to hold, as our call is important.. Calls to BwD Council should be answered by someone based in the Borough, who has a working knowledge or crib card of how to deal with problems raised by residents who call their council offices and not some bloke called, 'Mikey', with a blatantly obvious foreign accent, who can't tell you what the weather is like outside the Town Hall, as he's in a far off land! woolywords
  • Score: 10

9:07am Thu 23 Jan 14

Jamaje says...

0845 0835 01254 0800 0898 07 in fact why not divert to an India call centre like everyone seems to do these days, let them run our council, understand our peoples needs. will probably get better service. Why should we pay to call the council anyway, its them most of the time that mess up and force us to call 0845 numbers and keep us on hold for ages so they can profit from our phone calls. Go on why not give more jobs away abroad and let more immigrants in. If you do not agree with my comment please call 0845 I DO NOT CARE (Premium rates apply at £10 a second)
0845 0835 01254 0800 0898 07 in fact why not divert to an India call centre like everyone seems to do these days, let them run our council, understand our peoples needs. will probably get better service. Why should we pay to call the council anyway, its them most of the time that mess up and force us to call 0845 numbers and keep us on hold for ages so they can profit from our phone calls. Go on why not give more jobs away abroad and let more immigrants in. If you do not agree with my comment please call 0845 I DO NOT CARE (Premium rates apply at £10 a second) Jamaje
  • Score: -6

9:12am Thu 23 Jan 14

HarwoodBiker says...

Surprising how many people still don't know this - you can get geographical alternatives to most non-geographic numbers (i.e 0844, 0870, etc) by going to saynoto0870 . com.
Surprising how many people still don't know this - you can get geographical alternatives to most non-geographic numbers (i.e 0844, 0870, etc) by going to saynoto0870 . com. HarwoodBiker
  • Score: 5

8:15pm Fri 24 Jan 14

Just an observer says...

Simple solution here folks, DON'T RING THEM write a stamp is cheaper.
Simple solution here folks, DON'T RING THEM write a stamp is cheaper. Just an observer
  • Score: 0

10:01pm Fri 24 Jan 14

mmickk says...

Just an observer wrote:
Simple solution here folks, DON'T RING THEM write a stamp is cheaper.
Blackburn town hall switch 01254 585585
[quote][p][bold]Just an observer[/bold] wrote: Simple solution here folks, DON'T RING THEM write a stamp is cheaper.[/p][/quote]Blackburn town hall switch 01254 585585 mmickk
  • Score: 5

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