Valerie publishes report into the use of higher rate telephone numbers by Government Departments

On 3 January 2014 Valerie published a report into the use of higher rate telephone lines by Government department lines.

Valerie said:

“Using the Parliamentary tool of the written question, I tabled a written question to every Government department because constituents raised concerns over the use of higher rate telephone lines particularly the lines with the prefixes 0845, 0843, and 0843. I am pleased that as a result of the questions which were in the public domain, the Cabinet Office has issued new guidance, albeit on Boxing Day, advising Departments that cheaper alternatives to high-cost phone lines must always be offered.”

“My report found that Government continues to make extensive use of higher rate numbers. Government departments with access to the public such as the Department of Health (DH), the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) operate higher rate lines. HMRC has operated 511 0845 lines in the last 12 months, receiving 43,740,532 calls to those lines, the highest number of any Government department.”

“I am concerned that vulnerable users and those on low income often face the highest charges. The report shows that Government departments charging higher rates for customers to call helplines. Jobseeker Direct received 1,459,429 calls on an 0845 line, and 232,323 calls were made to Maternity Allowance on an 0845 line in the last 12 months.”

“The Government needs to go further to phase out the use of higher rate lines for those on benefits and set out a timeframe for phasing out these lines. The new guidance does nothing to actively stop the use of the higher rate lines immediately which would help people with further pressures on their cost of living.

The report is available to download here.