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Third of government phonelines are premium-rate, costing public £56m

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The government made £56m from members of the public who had to use premium-rate numbers to contact departments, an MPs’ committee has found.

One in three government phone lines are premium-rate, and, shockingly, half of those premium-rate lines serve the poorest people in society, the Public Accounts Committee found.

The Committee’s report found that 100 million of the 208 million calls made to government in 2012/13 were to premium-rate numbers.

Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: “Customers of government services should be able to contact those services easily and cheaply. 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.

“We found that one third of customer telephone lines across central government used higher rate numbers. Half of those lines serve the poorest people.

“Customers spent an estimated £56m on calls using higher rate numbers, from the lines run by the Department for Work and Pensions, to helplines for victim support and the Bereavement Service and the inquiries and complaints line of the Student Loans Company.”




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