MSE News: Lib Dems demand free calls to customer service lines

in Phones & TV
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This is the discussion thread for the following MSE News Story:

"The Liberal Democrats are campaigning for a shake-up of customer service standards in Britain, including free calls to helplines.
In a series of proposals outlined this week, Lib Dem Shadow Business Secretary John Thurso also states ..."


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  • HeinzHeinz Forumite
    11.2K Posts
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker Car Insurance Carver!
    BT (now) does it (although you frequently have to speak to someone in India).
    Time has moved on (much quicker than it used to - or so it seems at my age) and my previous advice on residential telephony has been or is now gradually being overtaken by changes in the retail market. Hence, I have now deleted links to my previous 'pearls of wisdom'. I sincerely hope they helped save some of you money.
  • michaelsmichaels Forumite
    26.3K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Photogenic Name Dropper
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    Imagine if companies could only be reached on 0800 nos - it would cost a fortune every time you wanted to reach one by mobile :(

    I used to have the misfortune of being a virgin media customer - the CS number was free and hold times were occasionally less than an hour if you managed to pick a quiet time...

    I think there are two issues here.
    1) The mobile companies shoud not be allowed to charge more for calls to non-geographic numbers beyond the termination charges. Generally the termination charges for 084 numbers are less than for those for connecting to other mobile networks - what possible justification is there for not including these calls in bundled minutes?
    2) I think all organisations (including / especially govt departments) should be forced to issue standard rate numbers (geopgraphic or 03) - fair for consumers to pick up the cost of the call without the company making a profit, after all not all cs calls are complaints.

    No automated CS? Why not? If it means doing things more quickly for some users and lower costs and hence prices then why not, as long as it is possible to reach an agent if needed. three mobile company it is easy to reach an agent but they have no powers to resolve any issues - might as well be talking to a machine...
    I think....
  • wizk1wizk1 Forumite
    911 Posts
    Part of the Furniture 500 Posts
    In all honesty, there are more pressing issues going on in the world than how much customer service calls cost. If I make a call, I'll hunt for an alternative landline number first, as many others on MSE probably do.
  • michaels wrote: »
    Imagine if companies could only be reached on 0800 nos - it would cost a fortune every time you wanted to reach one by mobile :(

    You could use this service if you have inclusive geographical minutes.

    http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/cut-cost-0800-mobiles
  • The mobile operators do take the P on 08 calls. The termination rate they pay for them is typically the BT retail tariff minus approx 0.5ppm. And yes, if it's an 0800 number, that retail tariff is zero, so the mobile operators not only pocket e.g. your 40ppm call charge, but also receive revenue from the terminating company as well. BT have been seeking to penalise this (or you could regard it as getting a piece of the action) by charging more for calls received from operators that they know to be charging higher rates on calls to their 08 numbers (for example by charging the mobile operator 15ppm rather than paying out 0.5ppm as they'd normally do), but it can be difficult to know the origin of a call where there's transit networks involved, so they've had limited success. My own view is that regulation should focus on sorting these issues out, so rather than quoting !!40ppm!!, the article could have stated the rates as intended, at <10ppm.

    Personally, I believe that any political party that believes private companies should be forced to have customer service lines on 0800 and not use interactive voice response systems has a fundamental lack of understanding of the market. Inherently companies have a choice whether to go for the model of call-centres being self-funded (hence you pay for the call and get an IVR), or the gold-plated approach of being on a freephone number with every call being answered by a human...but the latter can't be self-funding, the money to do this has to come from somewhere and that means higher prices for the underlying product. So long as there are private companies out there offering each option (which there are), and customers are informed about call costs (which is Ofcom's job, and it's open to debate how successful they are), customer choice will determine which companies will thrive and which will fail : we don't need a political party over-ruling the market and dictating business models.

    Now Government-funded bodies are another matter as they're fundamental monopolies. For some, such as GPs, it's pretty clear that charging breaches the NHS principle of treatment which is free at point of use (although arguably you could say the same about hospital carparks). For others, such as the DVLA, it's not so clear. If DVLA didn't charge for calls to their helplines, they'd have to get the revenue from elsewhere which means either via general taxation or higher road-related taxes. So what's right..that all of us meet the cost of those who need to speak to the DVLA, or that only those who need to make such a call meet the cost? In the case of DVLA, I'm more comfortable with the latter. For monopoly utilities such as water companies, it's the same principle as DVLA in my view.
    I really must stop loafing and get back to work...
  • I would settle for geographic numbers.
    Hi, we’ve had to remove your signature. If you’re not sure why please read the forum rules or email the forum team if you’re still unsure - MSE ForumTeam
  • stclairstclair Forumite
    6.8K Posts
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    I think that if these big companies used free phone numbers they would only reflect the cost back onto its customers anyway by upping the price of the products/services to cover the cost.

    However i do love saynoto0870 its a god send.
    Im an ex employee RBS Group
    However Any Opinion Given On MSE Is Strictly My Own
  • i think a ban on outsourcing call centres outside of the uk would be more productive
    things arent the way they were before, you wouldnt even recognise me anymore- not that you knew me back then ;)
    BH is my best mate too, its ok :)

    I trust BH even if he's from Manchester.. ;)

    all your base are belong to us :eek:
  • Interesting debate this.
    I have an 0845 number for my own business. I bought the use of this for £200 quite a while ago. I know it is possible to set them up free of charge but I wanted an easier to remember number. It is not revenue generating for me. In fact, it actually costs me when someone phones it - even more if I have divert to mobile switched on. It's not a cheap option for me but I got the number for two reasons.
    1) I wanted an easy to remember number
    2) At the time, a future house move to a different exchange area looked on the cards. This would have meant informing several hundred customers at short notice of my number change - not to mention changing advertising etc. I decided to switch to the 0845 well in advance so that I could do the informing of new number at my own leisurely pace. It also meant that when I did the house move (it all fell through in the end and subsequent housing market issues meant that I ended up staying put), all I needed to do was to point the 0845 at the new number.

    Just wanted to input this to show that not everyone who uses these numbers is on the make. There are other reasons for using them. To receive a call costs me 2.5ppm (assuming it's not diverted to my mobile) with a minimum charge of £2.30 a month. It's not a high traffic number and I've only ever started paying over and above the minimum once in a month.

    Unfortunately it turned out to be a similar number to the one used by a police force many miles away so I go through phases of people trying to report stolen wallets, lost driving licenses etc. Someone once kept going on and on about her husband's bad treatment of her without letting me get a word in edgeways. When she finally paused for breath, I suggested that she tried phoning the police.
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