It is now illegal for 0845 and similar numbers to be used for customer service lines.
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.
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.
The financial sector is unlikely to remain exempt from these changes
While the 13th June deadline doesn’t currently apply to the financial sector, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set its sights on removing this exemption. This is expected to be in force by summer 2015.
“The absolute minimum we want is that for basic issues, complaints, questions, there ought to be a basic cost way of doing that, not paying premium rate costs,” said Martin Wheatley of the Financial Conduct Authority in a recent interview on BBC Radio 4.
“Let’s hope more companies themselves can do it now so they are not following behind this June 13th deadline unnecessarily,” said David Hickson, of the Fair Telecoms Campaign in the same BBC interview.
While some banks, including Lloyds Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland, are already providing some alternatives to 0845 numbers on their website, the majority have yet to act in the best interests of their customers.
What do you need to do?
If you are currently using 0845 or similar numbers for your customer complaint lines, you will have to switch to either a geographical number (i.e. 01, 02) or, if you still require the technological benefits of an 0845 number, an 03 number. Switching to an 03 number is probably the simplest solution, as all you will have to do is substitute the 8 for a 3. For example, 0845 becomes 0345.
“Whilst 03 numbers are less commonly used than 01 and 02, they are in much greater supply and are more attractive financially to the call-centre operator than 01/02,” said Simon Beeching from Syntec. “03 is increasingly recognised by consumers as being tariffed identically to 01/02, and is included in all free minutes bundles which include 01 & 02, and is therefore ‘mobile friendly’.”
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.