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Main Forum >> Government and Public Sector >> Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
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Message started by kasg on Oct 11th, 2017 at 5:43pm

Title: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 11th, 2017 at 5:43pm
Oh dear, Jeremy Corbyn was spouting this at PMQs today and so it has been widely reported, sometimes without any qualification. It's an 0345 number. It transpires that the only people who might be charged 55p a minute are Vodafone pay-monthly customers who have used up their monthly allowance, in which case all calls to standard numbers are charged at 55p a minute. This is pretty outrageous in itself but the world now believes that the government is operating some premium rate scam, whereas they are just using an 03 number, the same as they do for most other purposes. There is an argument that there should be an 0800 number but the fact is that for the vast majority of people the cost of calling the number will be zero or rather less than 55p a minute.

Speaking of Vodafone, how come they (and EE and O2) get away with charging 30p a minute for pay-as-you-go calls whereas Three charges a tenth of that?

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by Ian01 on Oct 11th, 2017 at 6:36pm

This "premium rate call" claim has been around for several years. It started when someone saw the words "up to 45p per minute", panicked, and then incorrectly assumed "premium rate". Several newspaper headlines later and it has become an urban myth, perhaps worthy of an entry on Snopes.

The story is today once again repeated in most of the national press. Looking through the "readers comments" section it is clear that most people are not up to speed with how modern "inclusive" call plans work - despite this being the normal way most people have paid for calls since 2004.

Fair Telecons briefing note: http://www.fairtelecoms.org.uk/docs.html?uc55#

The Birmingham Mail is on the right track, but omitted mentioning pay-as-you-go bundles.
http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/news-opinion/jeremy-corbyn-right-say-universal-13747152

The Full Fact website is also on the right lines, but falls foul of quoting some out of date figures along the way. It also fails to mention that the 03 call charges are set entirely by the caller's landline or mobile provider and it is they who retain all of the revenue.
https://fullfact.org/economy/how-much-does-universal-credit-helpline-cost/

Comparison of calling 03 and 08 numbers.
https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/contacting-08-and-03-numbers

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 11th, 2017 at 10:18pm
It really is quite ridiculous. 55p a minute is being treated as fact almost everywhere and the government is making no attempt to refute it.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by Ian01 on Oct 12th, 2017 at 12:00am

Unfortunately, it seems they simply do not understand that the normal way to pay for calls is through having an inclusive allowance covering all calls (and texts) to UK landline numbers starting 01 and 02, non-geographic numbers starting 03, and UK mobile numbers starting 071 to 075 and 077 to 079 - even though this is likely exactly what they themselves have been doing since 2004. These deals are available and commonplace on landlines and on mobiles, both on contract and on pay-as-you-go.

Paying a per-minute rate for calls to landline numbers, 03 numbers and mobile numbers is almost unheard of these days. Those are the sort of tariffs that were the norm in the 1990s. Anyone still paying for calls this way is likely on a highly unsuitable call plan for their needs.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by allegro on Oct 12th, 2017 at 8:05am
The people most likely to need to ring these numbers are also likely to be those least aware of phone charges and least able to get themselves on the right phone tariff. A number of them wion't be able to get monthly contracts as they will fail the credit checks. There are plenty of low cost PAYG tariffs available but you need to be aware of what's right for your needs.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by Ian01 on Oct 12th, 2017 at 11:21am

This is where Ofcom and others need to step in and publish clear advice on this topic, including the importance of inclusive call plans and what they cover.


Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by Dave on Oct 12th, 2017 at 6:20pm
I concur with kasg here.

It's a good while since I looked at this, but I would summarise the situation as the big-name operators having high per-minute rates on pay as you go. They do this so as to incentivise purchase of a bundle. The exception is Three with its 3p per minute pay as you go plan.

There are a lot of other operators that offer low per-minute rates, so if enough people are paying high rates to warrant such a headline (although not necessarily as high as 55p a minute) then a significant number of consumers are paying more than they need for telecommunications services.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by Ian01 on Oct 13th, 2017 at 12:00am

After some farcical events on LBC radio earlier today, finally some serious reporting from The Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/12/pressure-grows-to-make-universal-credit-helpline-free-of-charge


Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 13th, 2017 at 9:42am
I have tried to engage with people on social media about this and received mostly abuse, people just do not understand and, usually for political reasons, do not want to. There has been lots of news over the last couple of days about an energy price cap. Perhaps what is needed is a call charges price cap, since there is absolutely no justification for the blatant profiteering that some mobile phone companies are indulging in. It seems that, at the moment, if a company wanted to charge £1 a minute for calls to standard numbers there would be nothing to stop it. In fact one of the people I tried to engage with swore blind that her friend had been charged £7 for a 7 minute call to the helpline. Telling her that this was not possible cut no ice, of course.

Incidentally, the government does itself no favours on its call charges page https://www.gov.uk/call-charges that it links to wherever phone numbers are listed, showing a cost per minute from mobiles for 03 numbers of 3p to 55p and a vague statement "You may get free calls to some numbers as part of your call package. Check with your phone provider." They are under absolutely no obligation to publish this information, except for calls to 084/087 numbers, etc., and this is clearly where Corbyn's advisers have got the 55p from.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by Ian01 on Oct 13th, 2017 at 11:15am

The various published "per-minute" rates for calls to UK landline numbers, non-geographic 03 numbers and UK mobile numbers should be utterly irrelevant for most callers. The normal way we pay for calls to these numbers is through purchasing an inclusive calls allowance covering all such calls made. This applies on landlines and on mobiles, including on pay-as-you-go.

The only time that the "per-minute" rates become relevant is when the caller exceeds the limit of their inclusive allowance, such as when making a call from a landline that exceeds 60 minutes in duration or making a call from a mobile after having already used up all of the allowance allocated for that month.

The 55p per minute figure is what Vodafone charges their mobile contract customers if they exceed their inclusive allowance. This charge is incurred in exceptional circumstances, and is avoidable by increasing the monthly payment by a few pounds for a larger allowance in future months.

More work needs to be done to make sure that people are selecting the correct call plan to suit their needs.†

My main concern in all the current wrangling is that it may be damaging the reputation of the 03 number range. It has taken a decade to convince people that 03 numbers are normal numbers, cheap to call - the same as calling ordinary landline numbers. Seeing headlines incorrectly inferring these numbers are premium rate is very worrying.

Yes, the GOV.UK call charges table is terrible. It fails to adequately explain the role of inclusive calls or which number ranges are normally included and many of the figures are incorrect. This chart seems to be correct, up-to-date, and far more clear - especially in explaining the role of inclusive calls: http://archive.is/r25zf

Finally, the inherent problem with any price cap is that the market reacts by almost all providers pricing at or just below the cap.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by SilentCallsVictim on Oct 13th, 2017 at 11:32am
The fair telecoms campaign attempts to calm the situation and explain the position:

A fuller briefing than that issued in the immediate wake of PMQs

An eloquent explanation of the situation


Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 13th, 2017 at 12:16pm

Ian01 wrote on Oct 13th, 2017 at 11:15am:
My main concern in all the current wrangling is that it may be damaging the reputation of the 03 number range. It has taken a decade to convince people that 03 numbers are normal numbers, cheap to call - the same as calling ordinary landline numbers. Seeing headlines incorrectly inferring these numbers are premium rate is very worrying.

My experience is that the vast majority of people still have absolutely no idea what an 03 number is or how it is charged.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by Ian01 on Oct 14th, 2017 at 12:59am

What's stated in this article will make your blood boil:
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/universal-credit-claimants-charged-more-for-helpline-than-tax-avoiders_uk_59df5888e4b00abf3646ac96

The article claims that 0300 numbers are included in allowances and 0345 numbers are not. The implication that 0345 is not included, is, of course, completely false. It also states the maximum charge for 0300 is 40p per minute and for 0345 is 55p per minute. The implication that 0300 is in any way charged at a lower rate than 0345 is also false.

All 03 numbers are included in allowances on the same basis as UK 01 and 02 numbers. This is required by Ofcom rules in place since 2007. Outside of allowances, landline providers charge up to 13p per minute and mobile providers charge up to 55p per minute. The charges vary by provider used to make the call, not by number called.


Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 14th, 2017 at 9:11am
I have emailed a correction to that article but I doubt it will do any good.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 14th, 2017 at 11:11am
Following my correction they have made a small amendment to the story but it's not enough.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 14th, 2017 at 4:39pm
Grrr. After several exchanges with George Bowden of Huffpost, I can see that he is getting his information from the very government call charges page I posted earlier.

https://www.gov.uk/call-charges


Quote:
03
0345      UK-wide numbers      † †† †† †† †† †† †† †† †† †† ††† †† † †† †up to 9p       3p to 55p
030       Not-for-profit organisations, charities and public bodies      up to 10p      3p to 40p


Needless to say, he will not be convinced that the government has got it wrong.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by Ian01 on Oct 14th, 2017 at 5:03pm

Point him to the BT landline "out of allowance" charges, shown as 12p per minute for all 01, 02 and 03 numbers.

Point him to the Vodafone contract mobile "out of allowance" charges, shown as 55p per minute for all 01, 02 and 03 numbers.

What is shown on a provider's price list trumps anything shown on an out of date government web page.



Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 14th, 2017 at 5:41pm
Oh dear, even Ofcom gets it wrong on this page, which he has just quoted back to me:

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/how-much-does-a-phone-call-really-cost

I give up!

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by CJT-80 on Oct 15th, 2017 at 12:54pm

kasg wrote on Oct 14th, 2017 at 5:41pm:
Oh dear, even Ofcom gets it wrong on this page, which he has just quoted back to me:

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/how-much-does-a-phone-call-really-cost

I give up!


They have 2 entries for 03 numbers... is that really needed!

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 15th, 2017 at 4:05pm

CJT-80 wrote on Oct 15th, 2017 at 12:54pm:
They have 2 entries for 03 numbers... is that really needed!

My point exactly, and with different rates! Unfortunately they don't make it easy to submit corrections to web pages.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 18th, 2017 at 10:51am
Universal Credit helpline charges scrapped - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41659504

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by Ian01 on Oct 18th, 2017 at 11:50am

Work must now begin in earnest to educate the masses that 03 numbers are not now, and never have been, premium rate and to look at what is included within inclusive call packages.

The break-even point between paying a per-minute rate and paying for unlimited calls can be as low as 15 to 20 minutes per week on a landline or 20 to 30 minutes per month on a mobile.

Inclusive calls are available on pay-as-you-go deals. This fact doesn't seem to be as widely known as it should be.
https://kenstechtips.com/index.php/cheapest-pay-as-you-go-bundles


Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by allegro on Oct 18th, 2017 at 1:23pm
[quote author=Ian01
Inclusive calls are available on pay-as-you-go deals. This fact doesn't seem to be as widely known as it should be.
https://kenstechtips.com/index.php/cheapest-pay-as-you-go-bundles

[/quote]

Indeed. Unfortuantely many of those most in need of a good deal are the least likely to be reading Ken's Tech Tips. Or saynoto0870 for that matter.

Those of us here are the clued up who know how to look for a good deal. I suspect we're more likely to have stable housing etc which allows us to get the best deals on utlilities, have a washing machine so we don't pay for launderettes etc etc. I'm very glad I'm not poor or marginalised.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 19th, 2017 at 10:30am
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/government-refund-universal-credit-helpline_uk_59e74cfbe4b08f9f9edbe29a


Quote:
While 0345 numbers are often treated the same as local calls by operators and on landlines, costs can be higher for some mobile customers.


They still don't get that there is nothing special about 0345 (or any other 03) numbers.


Quote:
And the figures mean any historic refund bill could reach as much as £14.5m a year - were all calls charged at a maximum rate.


And we know it would be a tiny fraction of that as very few will have been charged anywhere near 55p a minute.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by kasg on Oct 19th, 2017 at 10:35am

CJT-80 wrote on Oct 15th, 2017 at 12:54pm:

kasg wrote on Oct 14th, 2017 at 5:41pm:
Oh dear, even Ofcom gets it wrong on this page, which he has just quoted back to me:

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/how-much-does-a-phone-call-really-cost

I give up!


They have 2 entries for 03 numbers... is that really needed!

Aha, this page has now been corrected.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by SilentCallsVictim on Oct 19th, 2017 at 11:00am

kasg wrote on Oct 19th, 2017 at 10:35am:
Aha, this page has now been corrected.

The, now single, 03 / 030 entry has been fixed by removing any reference to call costs, other than referring back to the entry for 01/02 numbers. This was deemed essential and steps are being taken to get the authors of https://www.gov.uk/call-charges to follow suit.

Action is also in hand to review and revise the whole of the page. The fair telecoms campaign is supporting this work and will be pleased to receive suggestions of points to be considered. See contact details below.

Title: Re: Universal Credit helpline costs "55p a minute"
Post by CJT-80 on Oct 19th, 2017 at 12:29pm

SilentCallsVictim wrote on Oct 19th, 2017 at 11:00am:

kasg wrote on Oct 19th, 2017 at 10:35am:
Aha, this page has now been corrected.

The, now single, 03 / 030 entry has been fixed by removing any reference to call costs, other than referring back to the entry for 01/02 numbers. This was deemed essential and steps are being taken to get the authors of https://www.gov.uk/call-charges to follow suit.

Action is also in hand to review and revise the whole of the page. The fair telecoms campaign is supporting this work and will be pleased to receive suggestions of points to be considered. See contact details below.


One word: EXCELLENT  :) :)

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