U.K. Will Ban Premium Rate Lines for Customer Service Calls
August 15, 2013
By Christopher Mohr
, TMCnet Contributing Writer
The U.K. government announced recently that it would ban the common practice of premium rates for customer service calls. The decision was made in compliance with the European Union’s Consumer Rights Directive.
For people living in the U.S., the practice seems odd and puts into perspective what Americans take for granted. Typically if you pay for a product or service in the States, you can call a local or toll-free number to get assistance in resolving problems. In the U.K., customers often had to pay for those calls. It’s the closest thing to adding insult to injury the consumer market can dish out.
The ban is no small measure. Premium rate calls cost consumers about $3.1 billion per year, making up one-eighth of call traffic and one-tenth of phone industry revenue. Companies using 084 and 087 numbers to handle customer service calls will now have to provide land lines that charged normal or geographic rates, mobile numbers or toll-free numbers.
Several exceptions will apply to the ban, which goes into effect June 2014. Gambling, financial services, transportation industries and certain government agencies would not be affected. It’s possible that airline and train companies will be included later, however.
The government exemptions are sure to upset many consumers. According to the Telegraph, agencies like the Bereavement Service, Pension Service and the NHS Choices website have been under constant fire for their use of premium rate lines, yet will see no changes under this initiative.
Additional proposed rules, designed to protect retirees from sales scams, would allow consumers the right to cancel a purchase within 90 days.
The ban on premium customer service lines puts an end to many unscrupulous practices in the U.K. Companies that fail to deliver after selling a product or service won’t be rewarded with more money when these customers call to complain.
Unfortunately, the ban does not go far enough, especially by excluding some government agencies. As public entities, they should not charge more to serve customers, especially those who pay taxes to fund these agencies in the first place.
Edited by Blaise McNamee