What is a Call Connection Service? (Be aware, and then avoid) [Updated for 2020]

edited 24 December 2019 at 2:18PM in Phones & TV
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edited 24 December 2019 at 2:18PM in Phones & TV
Nowadays, most organisations use inclusive 03 numbers or free-to-caller 080 numbers. These numbers will be published on their official website.

If you are searching the web for the contact details of any well-known organisation such as a retailer, trader, passenger transport company, bank, card company, insurer, health service, government department or public service, be aware that many of the results will be for copycat or call connection service websites offering expensive 084, 087 or 09 telephone numbers and avoid them.



What is a Call Connection Service?

A call connection service is a website that offers a selection of premium rate numbers starting 084, 087 or 09 supposedly for "connecting" callers to well-known organisations. These premium rate numbers are offered on the connection service website in place of the inclusive 01, 02 or 03 numbers or free-to-caller 080 numbers published on the organisation's official website.

Call Connection Services charge premium rates for calls that would otherwise be inclusive or free. Some people may consider this to be a scam.


Why use a Call Connection Service?

You would use a Call Connection Service and call their premium rate number if:
  • you are in the habit of calling phone numbers found in web search results without checking if they are genuine or what they will cost,
  • you failed to read the disclaimer on the call connection service website that says it's not the official number, or such declaration was hidden or missing,
  • you didn't see the call costs that are required to be declared alongside all such premium rate numbers, or the call costs weren't stated,
  • you missed seeing the mention of, and link to, the official cheaper number for contacting the organisation, or such information wasn't supplied,
  • you read all of those things but simply didn't understand what was being offered,
  • you are happy to pay up to £4.25 per minute for calls that would otherwise be inclusive or free had you got the correct contact number from the official website, or,
  • you are in a hurry, or otherwise vulnerable or believe everything found on the web to be genuine.


What does it cost to call a Call Connection Service number?

Call Connection Services use premium rate numbers starting 084, 087 or 09. Callers pay an Access Charge and a Service Charge when using a Call Connection Service.

The Access Charge is set by the caller's phone provider. From landlines, this is usually around 10p to 20p per minute. From mobiles, this is usually around 44p to 65p per minute. The same rate applies irrespective of which 084, 087 or 09 number is called.

The Service Charge is set by the Call Connection Service itself. For 084 numbers, this can be up to 7p per minute. For 087 numbers, this can be up to 13p per minute. For 09 numbers, this can be up to £6 per call or up to £3.60 per minute. The Call Connection Service earns money from revenue share payouts derived from the Service Charge.

In comparison, calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers are simply inclusive in allowances and calls to 080 numbers are free-to-caller.


Are Call Connection Services legal?

Call Connection Services using 084, 087 and 09 numbers are defined as Controlled Premium Rate Services (CPRS) and are regulated by the Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA).

Services are required to state they are a Call Connection Service and the premium rate number is not the official number for contacting the organisation, must declare the call costs immediately adjacent to the premium rate number and must also provide the official contact number or a link to it for each organisation they claim to connect callers to.

At the start of any call, they must state the call charges and mention they are a connection service or that this is not the official number. These rules are designed such that no-one would ever call the premium rate number as doing so offers no value to callers, it merely parts callers from their money for failing to be completely aware of what they were doing.


Advice

Avoid websites offering premium rate numbers starting 084, 087 or 09. These numbers are unlikely to be genuine.

Look on official websites for numbers starting 01, 02, 03 or 080. Most reputable organisations now use these numbers.


Where to complain

If you feel you have been misled into using a Call Connection Service, or simply see a site that appears to be misleading, complaints should be directed to PSA. They deal with all such services operating on 084, 087 or 09 numbers.

It is estimated that at least thirty thousand people per week fall victim to this scam, and yet this generates only a handful of complaints per month.

Only when there are complaints is any action taken.

When action is taken, the penalties levied have been substantial:
https://psauthority.org.uk/tribunal-adjudications?type=ICSS


Additional Information

Replies

  • edited 24 December 2019 at 2:53PM
    Ian011Ian011 Forumite
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    edited 24 December 2019 at 2:53PM
    To illustrate the huge problem posed by these scam Call Connection Service websites, take a look at this example.

    Searching on Google or other search engines for the telephone number for a particular and well-known government service yields many results. One is the official free-to-caller 080 number found on the official gov.uk website. Also listed are more than three hundred Call Connection Service websites offering a variety of premium rate 084, 087 or 09 numbers. The charges for these range from 7p per minute plus Access Charge to £3.60 per minute plus Access Charge.

    The official number is a free-to-caller 080 number, but there is only a one in more than three hundred chance of finding it. There is no reason for these other sites and their premium rate numbers to exist other than to trick people into calling them. They do not offer a genuine service.
  • edited 24 December 2019 at 2:54PM
    Ian011Ian011 Forumite
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    edited 24 December 2019 at 2:54PM
    Since their change of name in November 2016, PSA has issued just six penalties. See
    http://psauthority.org.uk/for-business/tribunal-adjudications?type=ICSS#searchresults

    From the figures given in the adjudication reports for the estimated number of calls made and the number of complaints received, it is becoming clear that far fewer than one in a thousand victims makes a complaint.

    Even so, of all the fixed line services regulated by PSA, ICSS generates the largest number of complaints. Some services tried to evade the existing regulations by swapping to 0870 numbers (failing to realise these came under PSA control on 1 July 2015) and then swapping to 084 numbers (once they did realise). This is why the regulations have been both extended to cover services operating on 084 numbers as of 16 January 2019, and further strengthened with amended and additional provisions that came into effect on 20 December 2019.

    If you feel you have been misled into using a Call Connection Service, or simply see a site that appears to be misleading, complaints about regulated services using 084, 087 and 09 numbers should be directed to PSA.
  • Ian011Ian011 Forumite
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    This scam has around thirty-two thousand victims every week and yet awareness remains close to zero. The number of reports flowing to PSA is low in comparison to the number of scammers and the number of victims.

    Responses and feedback to warnings also remain non-existent.

    Websites promoting this scam can be reported to PSA. This applies irrespective of whether the scam telephone number starts 084, 087 or 09.
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