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HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers! (Read 64,501 times)
Dave
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HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Sep 13th, 2010 at 2:51am
 
The cost of calling HMRC was featured on 5 Live Investigates yesterday (Sunday) evening:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00tpvfr/5_live_Investigates_12_09_2010/

Listen to the programme using this link until 10:02pm Sun, 19 Sep 2010.


As the interviewee says, all public services currently using 0845 numbers should immediately switch on their 0345 equivalent numbers.

I call on HMRC, DWP and all the other users of these rip-off numbers to
Switch on your 0345 numbers!
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SilentCallsVictim
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #1 - Sep 13th, 2010 at 3:11am
 
Dave wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 2:51am:

The clip in question has now been extracted and can be heard at this link
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Trenod
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #2 - Sep 13th, 2010 at 6:47pm
 
Dave wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 2:51am:
I call on HMRC, DWP and all the other users of these rip-off numbers to
Switch on your 0345 numbers!


Seconded. After HMRC's recent c*ck-up with our money, it's the very least they can do.

In fact, they should go one step further and switch to 0800 or 0808 numbers - both free to call from all landlines and payphones.

Having to pay in order to inquire about one's tax is, frankly, insulting.
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« Last Edit: Sep 13th, 2010 at 7:04pm by Trenod »  
 
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #3 - Sep 13th, 2010 at 7:17pm
 
Trenod wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 6:47pm:
In fact, they should go one further and switch to 0800 or 0808 numbers - both free to call from all landlines and payphones.

Having to pay in order to inquire about one's tax is, frankly, insulting.

This is perfectly fair point to make in argument, so long as one is happy to pay one's share towards someone else's mobile phone call cost when they enquire about their taxes.

I am personally content for us each to pay the cost of a normal telephone call, as a general rule. Likewise, I see it as fair that we pay for our computer and broadband access when using on-line facilities, for paper and a stamp when writing or our travel costs when visiting an office.

There are undoubtedly particular exceptional situations, e.g. a lengthy call to discuss a HMRC error, where it would be appropriate for HMRC to pay for the call. A special "free to caller" number for enquiries about the current coding mixup would perhaps be appropriate. I do not however believe that all calls to enquiry numbers should be paid for in full by other taxpayers. I would apply the same principle to all public services.
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #4 - Sep 13th, 2010 at 7:42pm
 
Most people would probably agree with you SCV, however what is completely unacceptable is people being kept on hold for ages and ages and having to pay for that luxuary.

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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #5 - Sep 13th, 2010 at 8:41pm
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 7:17pm:
This is a perfectly fair point to make in argument, so long as one is happy to pay one's share towards someone else's mobile phone call cost when they enquire about their taxes.


Huh? Mobile phone calls to 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers are not free (except on the relatively new 'giffgaff' network). I don't think they're even 'inclusive' (i.e. included with 'free minute' bundles)?

My suggestion is motivated by the notion that someone with a mobile phone and no landline (which is becoming increasingly common, especially among young people) could call HMRC for free from a payphone, rather than run up a huge bill or throw away all of his pre-paid calling credit on an expensive 084 call. And of course, someone with a landline phone would just use that. Surely neither would cost the taxpayer that much? Huh
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« Last Edit: Sep 13th, 2010 at 8:44pm by Trenod »  
 
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #6 - Sep 13th, 2010 at 10:00pm
 
Trenod wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 8:41pm:
Mobile phone calls to 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers are not free (except on the relatively new 'giffgaff' network). I don't think they're even 'inclusive' (i.e. included with 'free minute' bundles)?

DWP has made arrangements to pay for calls from mobiles to its 0800 "initial application" numbers, so that they are free to the caller. I assumed you were suggesting that HMRC did the same with all of its enquiry numbers. (The DWP continues to use 0845 numbers for enquiries.)

I would not support the suggestion that those without landlines (28% of socio-economic group DE households and 30% of under-25 households) should be required to use a public payphone, rather than calling from their home.

It is now standard practice with landlines to provide "normal" calls without call charges as part of a Call Plan or package to cover all the times when the phone is used. The "penalty" charges imposed for calling outside the terms of the package make this clear. Contract mobile deals are increasingly offering inclusive calls to normal landlines. Where this applies, getting the taxpayer to pick up the cost of the call is of no benefit to the caller. That does not cover all cases, but it is important to explain that "the taxpayer" would have to pay if advancing the argument for "free to caller" calls.


sherbert wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 7:42pm:
Most people would probably agree with you SCV, however what is completely unacceptable is people being kept on hold for ages and ages and having to pay for that luxuary.

Given that not every call can be answered immediately, I suggest that it is the use of 0845 numbers which is "completely unacceptable". The long hold times, and a horrifying number of calls where callers give up waiting, help support the argument against the use of numbers which cause a premium to be incurred.

I am arguing that avoiding the costs of call-backs would enable HMRC and others to save money from their budget by switching to 03xx, because this saving should be seen to outweigh the loss of the revenue share. Furthermore, the waiting times mean that the costly call-backs only provides a modest benefit to callers. The additional time that agents waste on discussing and dialling call-backs reduces their ability to take new calls and thereby puts more pressure on the waiting times.

I agree that where the waiting times are excessive, more money should be spent on making additional agents available. That is not an easy argument to advance at present, if one hopes for it to be accepted. Other options are improved telephone systems, better training for agents to enable them to deal with enquiries more swiftly and improved system support for agents to help them to do their job. Unfortunately all of these points run into the same obstacle.

Spending money on new PAYE systems in the hope of reducing the number of errors and consequently reduce the number of enquiries is another option - but we know what happens when new systems are implemented!
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #7 - Sep 14th, 2010 at 12:42am
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 10:00pm:
DWP has made arrangements to pay for calls from mobiles to its 0800 "initial application" numbers, so that they are free to the caller. I assumed you were suggesting that HMRC did the same with all of its enquiry numbers.


No, I wasn't. I accept that public (and many private) bodies can't afford to pay the extortionate fees charged by the greedy mobile phone companies for connecting calls to 0800 and similar numbers! Some may not even be able to afford to pay for connecting such calls from landlines, in which case they should just be honest and say so - and, instead of automatically resorting to 084 and 087 numbers as the 'easy way out', give serious consideration and study to the use of 01/02 numbers (which would require paying extra staff to answer calls), or 03 numbers (which, as an automated service, would require paying an extra subscription to their telco - albeit a slightly cheaper one than for an 08 number, as I understand it?).

SilentCallsVictim wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 10:00pm:
I would not support the suggestion that those without landlines (28% of socio-economic group DE households and 30% of under-25 households) should be required to use a public payphone, rather than calling from their home.


Of course they shouldn't "be required" to do so, but until the situation with mobile phone companies changes they may feel that they have no choice. Until the mobile phone companies agree to make all 0800 and similar numbers free to call (with giffgaff leading the way in that area, it could well happen eventually), it makes financial sense for people without a landline - especially if they have a low income - to phone an 0800 or similar number from a payphone than from a mobile. The poorest might have no access to either a landline or a phonebox - in which case, why should they have to pay for these calls from their basic, Pay as You Go mobile?

SilentCallsVictim wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 10:00pm:
It is now standard practice with landlines to provide "normal" calls without call charges as part of a Call Plan or package to cover all the times when the phone is used. The "penalty" charges imposed for calling outside the terms of the package make this clear.


I'm fully aware of this. I assume that's why line rental now is so expensive, and going up all the time! That, and the inclusive calls to 0845 and 0870 now offered by BT and TalkTalk - which I predicted, at the time they came in last year, would lead to line rental increases (that's where BT prefers to put price rises, rather than on its call packages).

SilentCallsVictim wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 10:00pm:
Contract mobile deals are increasingly offering inclusive calls to normal landlines.


I'm aware of that too, but do those "inclusive calls" include ones made to 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers? I've always been on Vodafone Pay as You Go, with no interest in changing to a billing system, so I wouldn't know - but all companies except newcomer giffgaff charge those numbers at their standard rate on PAYG. Come to think of it, I've no idea how giffgaff can afford to make them free, given that they are a 'virtual' operator piggybacking on the o2 network!

SilentCallsVictim wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 10:00pm:
Where this applies, getting the taxpayer to pick up the cost of the call is of no benefit to the caller. That does not cover all cases, but it is important to explain that "the taxpayer" would have to pay if advancing the argument for "free to caller" calls.


In the case of calls from mobiles, yes. But surely the big four at least (Vodafone, o2, Orange and T-Mobile) could easily afford to make all 0800 and similar numbers free if they wanted to - given how much profit they rake in from calls to geographic numbers and mobiles and, in particular, their hugely-overpriced SMS texting! (Apparently it's cheaper to download data from the Hubble telescope than it is to send a text message!!!)

SilentCallsVictim wrote on Sep 13th, 2010 at 10:00pm:
I am arguing that avoiding the costs of call-backs would enable HMRC and others to save money from their budget by switching to 03xx, because this saving should be seen to outweigh the loss of the revenue share. Furthermore, the waiting times mean that the costly call-backs only provides a modest benefit to callers. The additional time that agents waste on discussing and dialling call-backs reduces their ability to take new calls and thereby puts more pressure on the waiting times.


Out of interest, how does the cost of subscribing to an 03 number compare to the cost of subscribing to an 0800, 0808, 0844, 0845, 0870 or 0871 number? I understand that it's much cheaper than all of those, but presumably that benefit is offset for companies that use them by the lack of revenue share?
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« Last Edit: Sep 14th, 2010 at 12:44am by Trenod »  
 
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #8 - Sep 14th, 2010 at 2:25am
 
Trenod wrote on Sep 14th, 2010 at 12:42am:
... ...

Firstly can I say how good it is to be able to engage in discussion on these points; "welcome to the forum" sounds a little patronising, but it is good to get into these exchanges.

The problem with mobiles is that they do not charge a "line rental" fee, they recover their costs through charges for outgoing and incoming calls. This makes comparison between landlines and mobiles difficult. They may also be "too profitable" as businesses, but that is another issue.

The process of mobiles recovering money from incoming calls is being halted in stages over the next few years. Some believe that the only effect of this will be a reduction in profits, others (including myself) wait to see what will happen. It could be that outgoing call charges will rise and severe minimum usage limits are set, or some form of line rental charge will be introduced. The complex arrangements with call bundle and handset lease/purchase being combined into a single contract price makes it very difficult to follow just what is going on.

BT has just increased its line rental charge, however the most severe increases over the last few years are in the charges for calls made outside a Call Plan. I am tracking these and they show a steady rate of 30% per annum. This is all about encouraging customers to subscribe to the appropriate Call Plan. BT making 0845 inclusive is easy (because it makes no money on these calls anyway). Talk Talk and Sky have only done the same because they compete fiercely with BT and perhaps feel that they have to; in general commercial terms, it is nonsense for them to do so.

GiffGaff is offering a radically new and different approach. Sometimes this type of thing can change a whole market, sometimes the idea sinks without trace. Many of the present deals are obviously give-aways used to enable the company to win customers and get off the ground. I have no idea how long it will be before it starts to actually make money and what sort of deals it will be able to sustain in the long term. I wish it no ill in saying that time will tell.

Non-geographic numbers are not "Normal landlines". Only calls to 03xx numbers have to be (and are in practice) charged at the same rate.


Our campaigning can get complicated as there are three general target areas: Telcos, Ofcom and the various groups of users of the different types of non-geographic number.

This thread is focussed on what HMRC (and perhaps other large public sector users of 0845 numbers) should do NOW.

We may feel that DWP missed a trick by agreeing to pay the mobile operators to make their 0800 numbers free to call. I cannot say whether those who negotiated this arrangement were aware that the mobile companies could have (allegedly) afforded to do it for nothing, and also made all other 0800 calls free at the same time.

I suggest that anyone with the skills or information necessary to enable HMRC achieve a better deal offers this immediately to the officials who are currently looking into its telephone arrangements. I am sure that it would be gratefully received.

With a 03 number there is no external element to the cost of the services used. With 080 numbers there is an additional cost in paying the call originator. With 084 and 087 there is a benefit from the revenue share to offset costs. Because non-geographic numbers have to come with certain additional features built-in, not least the ability to route the calls to terminate somewhere, there is a charge to pay for these features. This is typically levied on a per call basis, as the industry has been used to funding these from revenue share. Some providers are however now offering simple inclusive rental deals. In all cases the actual price paid would depend on which particular services were used and on what scale.

When it comes to HMRC and the like we are talking about massive contracts for complete packages of telecoms services at enormous discounts from standard list prices. This may even be part of a larger contract for a complete call centre operation.

We must however stick to the point:
WITH CALL-BACKS OFFERED TO ALL THOSE WHO PAY EXTRA TO CALL 0845 NUMBERS, IT WOULD BE CHEAPER FOR HMRC TO SWITCH TO 0345.
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #9 - Sep 15th, 2010 at 12:01am
 
Whilst the issue of long wait times to speak to an agent may always exist at certain times, with all the technology available these days it would surely not be beyond the imagination to tell callers what the average wait time is at any given moment.

Perhaps any introduction of 0800 numbers could be mirrored with 03 numbers. I do fear that, whilst this is in theory this allows landline callers to call for free, and mobile callers not to incur a premium, it does require callers to know which number to use. I remain to be convinced that this would work.
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #10 - Sep 22nd, 2010 at 6:53pm
 
SilentCallsVictim: Vodafone claims in its online forum (in response to complaints) that it has no choice but to charge for 0800 numbers because BT charges it a premium for connecting calls to those numbers. But I still reckon the big mobile companies could afford to pay for them, at least at certain times (e.g. for a couple of hours in the evening or at weekends). It makes me wonder how giffgaff, a brand new network, can afford to give them free to its members at all times... but as you say, time will tell if that will be sustainable for them in the long term. That's why I'm hesitant about joining giffgaff. They're not even a year old yet and I want to see if they manage to stick to the principles with which they began.

Incidentally, as calls to 03 numbers are inclusive I wonder why BT insists on listing them separately on the phone bill (i.e. not under the section titled: 'Your free calls - included with your calling plan')? I called the NHS Direct 03 number last month, just to test it, and got a recorded message, but even that number is listed separately on our latest bill (with a charge of £0.00).

Have you ever worked in telecoms, SCV? You seem to have a lot of technical knowledge in the field. I find your posts interesting, but sometimes longwinded and difficult to follow.

By the way, I believe Sky only allows 'free' calls to 0870, not 0845 (unlike BT, TalkTalk and Post Office, which allow both). Which is odd - if, as you say, BT loses money on allowing such calls to 0870 but not 0845.
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #11 - Sep 23rd, 2010 at 8:03am
 
Trenod wrote on Sep 22nd, 2010 at 6:53pm:
Have you ever worked in telecoms, SCV?

My dear Trenod

We clearly both try to engage in the issues in detail. It is the consequence of this engagement, making contacts on all sides and conducting research to gain a comprehensive understanding, so as to determine what improvements could readily be made, which may create the impression that I am an "insider" - I am not. I am sorry if you find that if I sometimes try to offer too much. I admit to sometimes writing comments only for the benefit of those with some detailed understanding. It is sadly not possible to fully discuss these complex matters in a way that a beginner can join in at any point. The forum must be open to all, however it is inevitable that not everyone will wish to follow every discussion.

I do try to stick to the topic of each thread in this forum, so I must ask you to look around the forum to find the answers to some of your questions and points.


I will quickly address the points on 0870, as there could be said to be some relevance.

From 1 August 2009 revenue sharing on 0870 ceased. Anyone who does not now charge for calls to 0870 numbers in the same way as calls to geographic numbers is profiteering. BT only lost money for a short period, as it anticipated the change with 0870 by 6½ months, by making both 0870 and 0845 calls inclusive in its call plans from January 2009.

Removal of revenue sharing from 0845 may be one of the options presented in a further Ofcom consultation due to be launched at the end of October. If so, there will be much discussion before a decision is taken and then an extended period before it could come into effect. I am very keen to press the issue of the quick and easy move from 0845 to 0345 now, before the idea of 0845 becoming OK comes onto the agenda and stalls progress.

I believe that by including 0845 in packages, along with 0870, BT was anticipating both ranges going the same way. The timescales are however very different. Any further discussion about what may be in the forthcoming Ofcom consultation currently belongs in the "Ofcom consultation - Review of non-geo calls" thread.

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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #12 - Oct 8th, 2010 at 4:39pm
 
[quote author=sherbert link=1284342717/0#4 date=1284403325]Most people would probably agree with you SCV, however what is completely unacceptable is people being kept on hold for ages and ages and having to pay for that luxuary.

[/quote]
I have a geographic inclusive tarriff.  This means that I don't want to use 0845 numbers.  I'm also unclear about 0345 numbers.  Presumably I have to pay for them.  My biggest objection is that HMRC callers to geographic numbers are now sometimes greeted with a message redirecting the caller to an 0845 number for UK callers and 44 numbers for overseas callers.  If you try to call the 44 number by replacing 44 with 01 you are identified automatically as a UK caller and asked to call an 0845 number, maddening!
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #13 - Oct 8th, 2010 at 5:11pm
 
[quote author=Alwyn link=1284342717/0#12 date=1286552390]… I'm also unclear about 0345 numbers.  Presumably I have to pay for them. …[/quote]
Hello and welcome to SAYNOTO0870.COM.

All numbers which start with 03 are treated in exactly the same way as geographic calls by all landline and mobile providers. They have to do that by regulation. So if you have inclusive 01/02 calls, then you have inclusive 03 calls as well.
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Re: HMRC, switch on your 0345 numbers!
Reply #14 - Oct 8th, 2010 at 5:33pm
 
[quote author=Dave link=1284342717/0#13 date=1286554310][quote author=Alwyn link=1284342717/0#12 date=1286552390]… I'm also unclear about 0345 numbers.  Presumably I have to pay for them. …[/quote]
Hello and welcome to SAYNOTO0870.COM.

All numbers which start with 03 are treated in exactly the same way as geographic calls by all landline and mobile providers. They have to do that by regulation. So if you have inclusive 01/02 calls, then you have inclusive 03 calls as well.[/quote]
Excellent.  I've listened to the radio prog but it doesn't say where are they to be found for HMRC?  Do you just replace 0845 with 0345 followed by the rest of the number?
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