It is now illegal to provide an 0845 number for a customer service line.
From 13th June 2014, it became a legal requirement that businesses provide a standard rate number (i.e. 01, 02 or 03) for their customer service lines. This law has been passed to ensure that no customer is forced to pay an additional charge – frequently incurred with 0845 and similar numbers – when making a complaint about a faulty service or product.
High-profile names, including the Environment Agency (EA) and Tesco, have already moved away from the costly 08 numbers and towards cheaper 03 numbers, ahead of the changes to the law this summer.
The EA came under fire for charging flood victims up to 41p per minute (via an 0845 number) to get through to the designated helpline service, and have since changed to a standard-rate 0345 number. They have also changed their general enquiries number from 0870 to 0370.
Tesco have made the change ahead of schedule simply to benefit their customers. They now provide free 0800 numbers for customers calling in from a landline, alongside 03 numbers for those calling in from a mobile phone, therefore ensuring that no one has to pay more than the standard rate to get in touch.
“We understand that a growing number of our customers want to contact us from their mobiles, so we’ve added an 0330 number to our existing 0800 numbers,” said a Tesco spokesperson. “We made this change as we believe it’s the right thing to do for our customers.”
What exactly is happening this summer?
From 13th June 2014, it will be illegal for companies to provide premium-rate numbers (including 0845, 0870 and 09) for their customer service lines. This law was passed as part of “The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013″ on 13th December 2013.
This applies to any phone line that is in place for existing customers (anyone who has a contractual relationship with a company or is an ongoing receiver of a company’s services) to make a query or complaint. This law does not apply to value-added services, such as technical support or sales lines.
What will happen if I don’t comply?
From 13th June 2014, any company which fails to comply with the new law and still offers a premium-rate number for their customer service line will be putting themselves at risk of court action.
Customers will be within their rights to take such companies to court and successfully reclaim the excessive charges made to them. Trading Standards are also at liberty to get involved in bringing non-complying companies to justice.
“There is no escaping the fact that these measures will soon be the law,” said David Hickson of the Fair Telecoms Campaign. “The best thing any affected company can do is to make the switch as soon as possible, and try to gain some positive PR coverage from doing the best thing for their customers.”
A poll of 362 of Call Centre Helper readers revealed that 39% are using 0845 or similar numbers for their customer service lines.
If you think that your contact centre might be affected by the upcoming changes, read our Quick Guide to the 0845 and 0870 number changes to find out what you need to do next.