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Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls? (Read 53,189 times)
rfctabs
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Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Calls?
Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:13pm
 
Hi All,

A bit of a wierd question, but I'll ask it anyway.

I'm with Virgin media for phone and broadband. I had occasion at the end of June to call my local Tesco store. The number is, of course, an 0845 number (0845 677 9624), so I used saynoto0870.com to obtain the equivalent 01 number, which is 0121 253 7500. I made my call and was on the phone for five minutes or so. I can still see the 0121 number in the phone's register of outgoing calls, but I'm afraid I don't see the date or time because that is only stored for incoming calls.

I now have my bill from Virgin and see that I have been charged for a call to 0845 677 9624 at a cost of 57p + VAT = 62p. Angry

Naturally I resent paying the cost on principle, despite the minor amount. What scares me, however, is that Virgin have apparently been able to recognise that a call was made to an 01 number that is linked to an 0845 and charge it at the 0845 rate. Is this actually possible and, if so, permitted?

We have a household of four but everyone is well versed in my hatred of 084/087s et al and is appropriately schooled that these pernicious numbers are never to be called. I can't definitively rule out that someone did actually call the 0845 number, however, because they don't all always think too carefully before dialling: I can only say that it's highly unlikely. I also can't find an 0845 number in the outgoing log on any of the handsets.

Any reassuring thoughts?
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Dave
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #1 - Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:28pm
 
We had a report recently from someone who had incurred a premium charge for ringing an alternative from a O2 mobile. See my reply (#3) in which I made a suggestion as to how to proceed. I think others might have raised this but I've been unable to find other threads.

Basically, we haven't yet got any conclusive proof, other than vague postings for which the poster invariably doesn't come back and post more precise information.

Clearly, call retailers can charge what they like for any number.

If certain providers are billing 01/02 alternatives at a premium, then this suggests that they have fed data into their billing systems to indicate which numbers should be charged like that.

Other than this site, I'm not sure where they might get information from as to which 01/02 numbers are alternatives to 084 numbers.
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« Last Edit: Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:29pm by Dave »  
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farci
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #2 - Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:47pm
 
Dave wrote on Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:28pm:
We had a report recently from someone who had incurred a premium charge for ringing an alternative from a O2 mobile. See my reply (#3) in which I made a suggestion as to how to proceed. I think others might have raised this but I've been unable to find other threads.

Basically, we haven't yet got any conclusive proof, other than vague postings for which the poster invariably doesn't come back and post more precise information.

Clearly, call retailers can charge what they like for any number.

If certain providers are billing 01/02 alternatives at a premium, then this suggests that they have fed data into their billing systems to indicate which numbers should be charged like that.

Other than this site, I'm not sure where they might get information from as to which 01/02 numbers are alternatives to 084 numbers.

Should this be a question for Ofcom? I assume there is no restriction in law on calling numbers which are not published, otherwise attempts would have been made to close down this website some time ago
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SilentCallsVictim
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #3 - Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:47pm
 
rfctabs wrote on Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:13pm:
...
I now have my bill from Virgin and see that I have been charged for a call to 0845 677 9624 at a cost of 57p + VAT = 62p.

The date and time for the call should help you to determine whether this could possibly have been the call to the 0121 number that you mentioned.

The simple answer to your question is that you are only charged for the call that you dial and this must be in accordance with the published tariff.

Anything is possible ! but I would think it highly unlikely that a major telephone company would go to the lengths necessary to "reverse engineer" as you put it, without declaring it.

As you do not refer to the call to the 0121 appearing on your bill, perhaps it is free of charge. A simple test would be to have another chat with Tesco's using the alternative and see if that appears on your bill!
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #4 - Jul 17th, 2011 at 4:48pm
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Jul 17th, 2011 at 12:47pm:
...The simple answer to your question is that you are only charged for the call that you dial and this must be in accordance with the published tariff.

Anything is possible ! but I would think it highly unlikely that a major telephone company would go to the lengths necessary to "reverse engineer" as you put it, without declaring it.
I agree.  It's highly unlikely VM could legally charge you as if you had called the 0845 number even though you rung a geographical without first publishing exclusion to their inclusive geo calls that state calls to 0121 xxx xxxx are excluded from any inclusive geographical minutes.

Could it be something stupid like someone else rung Tesco's 0845 number?  Like SCV said, ring again but this time make note of the date/time and length of the call and wait until bill comes in and double check.

It has been known for a telephone company to exclude specific call from what would otherwise be inclusive as I've read that some mobile networks excluded calls to a geographical dial-through number used for bypassing the expensive freephone number charges.  The company supplying the bypass dial-through numbers got around this by changing the geographical number in question.
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rfctabs
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #5 - Jul 17th, 2011 at 6:16pm
 
Thanks for the replies, guys. I've just dialled again and spoken briefly to someone at the store - so time is around 18:14 on 17-Jul-11, duration no more than two or three minutes. I'll let you all know what happens when I get my next bill in August (I have to wait until then as VM don't show recent activity through their on-line account pages).

FWIW, my current bill shows it was an "Operator Connected Call" and has no duration listed.
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« Last Edit: Jul 17th, 2011 at 6:18pm by rfctabs »  
 
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #6 - Jul 17th, 2011 at 7:57pm
 
rfctabs wrote on Jul 17th, 2011 at 6:16pm:
FWIW, my current bill shows it was an "Operator Connected Call" and has no duration listed.

Pause a moment - that extra bit of information makes the case highly suspicious and worth questioning. Is it likely that someone would have called the operator to be connected to the 0845 number ??? I would be strongly inclined to speak with VM on the basis that you cannot think why anyone would chose to make such a call (other than as a deliberate prank) and see what explanation or further information they can offer.

There is no reason why you should not tell them which number you dialled (you could say you got it from someone in the store if they press you). If they treat any geo number differently, they have to declare this in their tariff - ask for the reference if they do say that the number you dialled is charged as an operator connected call to the 0845 number.
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #7 - Jul 18th, 2011 at 2:26pm
 
Hey, thanks for the advice.

I called VM and explained we didn't make the call listed and the very helpful lady waived the charge immediately (I guess because it was such a small amount). She couldn't say why dialling an 0121 might come out as an 0845 but said if it persisted they could look in to it.

I also noticed in passing that the VM web site now does show charges since the last bill so I'll keep an eye on that and report back.


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rfctabs
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #8 - Jul 21st, 2011 at 4:20pm
 
Well.

My call to Tesco on 0121 253 7500 has come up as:

17 Jul
18:12
Operator Connected
08456 77 9624
01:14
0.470

So VM are definitely converting these at the back end. I know with certainty that I dialled the 0121 number. Shocked This is scary stuff. Shocked I believe that VM are launching, or have launched, a service to include 0845/0870 numbers (i.e. the one's that can't be revenue shared) in service bundles. Maybe these events are connected?

I just called VM CS but the operative didn't appear to understand the problem. I argued a lot and he agreed to a credit in the end (at least I think he did - he might have just wanted to get me off the phone), but the facts seem to be:

Called 0121 - got charged for 0845
Says Operator Connected but was a direct dial
Says 01:14 (MM:SS) duration (roughly correct) but they said 4 mins.

The worst thing is that from their point of view there's no absolute proof which number I dialled and they are ultimately, of course, going to believe their own systems rather than me.
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« Last Edit: Jul 21st, 2011 at 4:22pm by rfctabs »  
 
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #9 - Jul 21st, 2011 at 6:33pm
 
This is indeed very serious, and there is something odd going on, which VM needs to explain properly.

[url=]This web page[/url] gives links to the currently published tariffs. (Those for "phone review" customers are the ones which offer inclusive 084 calls).

Under the standard direct dial tariff a 1:14 call to a 0845 number would cost 11.24p + (2 x 10.22p) = 0.320, not 0.470.

The charges for operator connected calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers are quite perversely much cheaper than for calls to Geographic numbers (BT does nothing similar) - rather than a connection charge of 3.57, it is only 0.51!!! With 2 x 16p to add for a 1:14 call, this would however give a charge of 0.83, not 0.470.

I believe that we have now seen fairly clear evidence that VM is behaving improperly, unless somewhere there is a justification for this most perverse activity. Apart from the unusually low charges there is a further indication that something odd is going on because the rates for operator connected calls in the document for operator connected call charges are under the high level heading - "Direct Dialled Call Charges". This term has no place in this document whatsoever ...... or does it!!

The direct question about whether it is permissible to charge operator rates for a 0845 call when a 0121 number has been dialled must be raised with someone able to give a coherent answer. Sadly the latter requirement probably precludes the VM customer enquiry service and the Ofcom help line. I will do whatever I can to raise the issue, but it will have to be a low priority item for me at present. I hope that others will wish to take this forward.
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #10 - Jul 29th, 2011 at 6:44am
 
Not a solution if the 01 call would have been inclusive, but calling an 0845 number via 18185's freephone gateway number (08081703703) costs 5p connection + 3p/minute at all times.
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« Last Edit: Jul 29th, 2011 at 6:46am by Heinz »  

ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL - When are you going to STOP ignoring government guidelines and RIPPING OFF Council Tax payers with your use of 0845 numbers?
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #11 - Jul 30th, 2011 at 9:26am
 
This looks like a good candidate for BBC Watchdog or that other TV series that looked into various rip-offs.
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #12 - Jul 30th, 2011 at 10:41am
 
catj wrote on Jul 30th, 2011 at 9:26am:
This looks like a good candidate for BBC Watchdog or that other TV series that looked into various rip-offs.

Can you or anyone suggest as to how this "reverse engineering" might be achieved in practice?
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« Last Edit: Jul 30th, 2011 at 11:01am by Dave »  
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #13 - Jul 30th, 2011 at 12:21pm
 
Presumably there is a database within the telecoms system that maps dialled non-geographic numbers to their geographic termination counterpart or other such routing information so that the call can be connected.

I guess that it's also not that difficult to query the database in reverse, in order to ask what NGN number(s) route to a specific normal landline or NDO number.
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Heinz
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Re: Can Phone Companies Reverse Engineer 01/02 Cal
Reply #14 - Aug 7th, 2011 at 10:48am
 
catj wrote on Jul 30th, 2011 at 12:21pm:
Presumably there is a database within the telecoms system that maps dialled non-geographic numbers to their geographic termination counterpart or other such routing information so that the call can be connected.

I guess that it's also not that difficult to query the database in reverse, in order to ask what NGN number(s) route to a specific normal landline or NDO number.

Even if that is the case, what is the justification for using that database to charge for a call to the corresponding 0845 number if the subscriber dials the geographical number?

Further, what is the justification (apart from the obvious - inflating the cost) for falsely claiming that the call was Operator connected when the call wasn't Operator connected?

3 weeks later, a thread on www.moneysavingexpert.com shows that Virgin Media are still doing it.

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?p=45867521
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« Last Edit: Aug 7th, 2011 at 10:57am by Heinz »  

ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL - When are you going to STOP ignoring government guidelines and RIPPING OFF Council Tax payers with your use of 0845 numbers?
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