Saturday 20 July 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013 Posted by Jake 9 comments Labels: , , , , ,
Posted by Jake on Saturday, July 20, 2013 with 9 comments | Labels: , , , , ,

Would it surprise you to know the greatest perpetrators of the government premium rate phoneline scam, exposed by the National Audit Office, are IDS's Department of Works and Pensions and Osborne's HMRC? (Yes, we know HMRC is supposed to be 'non-ministerial'. But who are they kidding?). 

"Callers to higher rate lines paid £56 million in call charges in 2012-13. Callers spent a total of 880 million minutes on calls of which they spent 402 million minutes waiting to speak to an advisor. Customers incurred call charges of £26 million waiting to speak to an advisor."
“Callers do not receive a better service from higher rate numbers and many callers are put off calling government phone numbers altogether. The most vulnerable callers, such as low-income households, face some of the highest charges.”

The worse offenders are DWP (70 million high rate calls) and HMRC (47.4 million high rate calls), scamming money from the "most vulnerable callers, such as low-income households". 

Now there are depressingly many among us who believe the best time to kick a man is when he is down. They may see this £56 million as a decent contribution taken from the poor to save the nation's finances. They would be wrong. The lion's share of the loot goes to the telecoms companies:

See Fig10 of the NAO report
For 0844 numbers the telecoms companies take 73% of the money, and for 0845 numbers the telecoms companies take 96% of the money! The Department of Works and Pensions favours 0845 numbers. The people required to use these numbers are callers for:
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Bereavement Service
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Child Support
  • and many many more (See Figure 15 of the NAO report)
HMRC's targets include
  • BillPay Helpline
  • Child Benefit Helpline
  • Blind Person's Allowance
  • National minimum wage helpline
Did that surprise you? Perhaps not. After all it's all completely in tune with the policy of stealing from the poor (cuts to benefits and pensions) to incentivise the rich (cuts to taxes).


  1. To be fair to HMRC, they understood what was happening a year or more ago and already put in place a comprehensive plan to move all of their 0845 and 0870 numbers to 0300 and 0345.

    Many of the most-used numbers have already made the switch from 08 to 03. The remainder of the job should complete within several months. Soon, there will be very few HMRC lines that are not on 03 numbers.

    It remains to be seen whether the Cabinet Office recommends the same action for all of the other various government departments. In light of the proposed requirements of the Consumer Rights Directive on businesses and the similar HMRC action already taken, it will be very difficult for other governmnt departments to justify any sort of continuation of the current situation.

    Ofcom will shortly post the detailed timetable for the adoption of unbundled tariffs for non-geographic numbers. Ofcom will also announce the date when 0800 and 0808 numbers will become free calls from mobile phones.

    DWP have several 0800 and 0808 numbers and these are already free calls from mobile phones under deals specially brokered with the mobile networks. However, DWP also operate very many 0845 numbers and these are not free to call. If DWP continues using 0845 numbers they will soon be forced to declare the 2p/min Service Charge.

    A change to 0300 or 0345 means that most callers will use their inclusive minutes, paying nothing extra for each call, or else are charged at standard geographic rates. The vast majority of callers will pay less to call 03 than to call 0845.

  2. From what I understand, there are free-phones in the job-centres nowadays for contacting the DWP. Not at all allowing for privacy, but free all the same.

    1. And of course we can all travel for free to a job centre just to do this, can't we...?

    2. As someone who is disabled and housebound most of the time, that is not particularly helpful.
      The helpline for the disability benefit DLA and its successor PIP are both 0845 numbers.
      The same goes for calling Job Centre Plus regarding ESA claims.

      Even for someone like me for whom allocation of disability benefits is clear cut things quite often go wrong due to admin errors. It can take a long time to sort out and has to be done over the phone.

    3. Some landline providers offer 0870 numbers as inclusive calls on some packages. Some also offer 0845 numbers as inclusive calls.

      0844 and 0871 are never inclusive.

      It's all very confusing, but explained here in simple terms:

  3. In the Public Accounts Committee enquiry on September 2nd, DWP rolled over and have agreed to swap from 0845 to 03 numbers.

    In the same meeting, the Cabinet Office committed to formulating policy for government and public services "within 6 to 8 weeks".

  4. Don't forget to use to find alternative geographic numbers.

  5. "From what I understand, there are free-phones in the job-centres nowadays for contacting the DWP. Not at all allowing for privacy, but free all the same."

    Not any more! Those phones are being ripped out.

  6. Many, many people on limited incomes do not have land-line phones and rely entirely on pay-as-you-go mobile phones which they only use for incoming calls and emergencies. I found to my cost that, when homeless, my whole month's pay-as-you-go budget was spent in one afternoon trying to get hold of people in the tax office because, having travelled to the tax office, they gave me a number to call because they had no advisers at the office. Whoever ordered the premium lines to be put in should be sacked and all the money should be repaid and given to charity.


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