Government services still using premium rate phone numbers

Marion Dakers
CALLERS to government-run services are still being forced to pay for premium rate numbers, and departments are not even sure they are getting a good deal on their phone lines, a report out today claims.

A third of phone lines for government services go through higher rate numbers, costing callers £56m in the last financial year – of which £26m was paid for time spent on hold.

The public accounts committee said that different departments are getting different benefits, such as services in kind, for using higher rate numbers. Others, such as the NHS, have agreed to ditch expensive calls.

The committee called on departments to reveal their deals with phone service suppliers to the Cabinet Office, to ensure the taxpayer is being charged fairly.

“Charging customers higher rates by making them use 0845 or other high rate numbers is not acceptable, especially when the customers are often vulnerable people,” said Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the committee.