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Swansea University - 0870 access - considering FOI (Read 26,056 times)
Smasher
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Swansea University - 0870 access - considering FOI
Jun 5th, 2005 at 1:03pm
 
This thread is being continued here from the post in the Geographical Requests board.

Click Here to see the last post of the original thread.
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« Last Edit: Sep 22nd, 2005 at 10:42am by Smasher »  
 
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Smasher
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #1 - Jun 5th, 2005 at 6:18pm
 
I need some help drafting a reply for this email from Head of Business Services at Swansea University.

I know that any action taken will not benefit me personally as I am moving out of accommodation in one week, but I feel that if I can help subsequent years' students and of course publicise this scam, it will be worth it.

This is the email I have received:

[...]

I have had a response from ntl which I have pasted below.

Ntl's connect.ed service is a specific agreement between ntl and University establishments, for the provision of Telephony, TV and Internet Services to on-campus Students within those Universities who have taken this service from ntl, including Swansea University

Part of this agreement allows for all Students to be provided with an 0870 Number to receive incoming calls, and calls to this 0870 Number will be routed by ntl to their personal DDI within their rooms. If the Student in question is not receiving ANY incoming calls on his Room telephone, he should report a fault in the normal manner. If, however, he is able to receive calls, which are being routed via his allocated 0870 Number, this would indicate that the system is operationally OK

The band descriptions here 'National call charges', are perfectly acceptable according to OFCOM.  These are not Premium rate calls, as they don't fall into the criteria as set by OFCOM - This apparently can be seen from the OFCOM web site.

I am currently looking into the comment that Students on the connect.ed service should be able to direct dial their 01792 number and I will respond to you as soon as I can.


I hope the above is of help!
I have to say I am not aware that students are complaining that calls into the connect-ed system are more expensive than normal national rate calls BUT if you can produce evidence otherwise then it would be most welcome.


As regards the revenue from these calls - UWS receives a small commission "The balance of the revenue is retained by ntl to off-set our costs in implementing the Service" quote NTL

Regards


[...]

The reply from ntl is highlighted in green. 

When I email a reply for his attention on Monday morning, I will include a link to the BT site where they describe 0870 as premium number. 

I have just looked at Ofcom's website and found the page with the details of their upcoming review. See here. I think this is clear enough to provide NTL and the Business Manager here at Swansea with the 'evidence' that they wish to see (above in red).  There is a full table describing the call charges on the linked page - what more does he need? Grin

Any helpful url links or points for my reply would be much appreciated. Grin

Smasher Grin
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bbb_uk
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #2 - Jun 5th, 2005 at 7:16pm
 
I don't think you could get away with saying that 0870 numbers are premium (regardless to what BT say) as they'll go by what OfCOM say.

What they mention about band descriptions of 'national rate' and 'local rate' etc then point them paragraph 3 of that webpage you provided a link to.  Specifically:- Quote:
Removal of links between BT 0870 / 0845 tariffs and BT national/ local call rates;

And also, this OfCOM site where you can highlight the following:-
Quote:
-> Removal of links between BT 0845 / 0870 tariffs and BT local / national call rates;
-> New BT price ceilings: 0845 (4 pence per minute) and 0870 (8 pence per minute);
-> New guidance to prevent misleading advertising of 0845 and 0870 services;
Specifically the third point above.

Also, have a look at the first post (and specifically the two links) here.  The first link is proof that the ASA found a company guilty of advertising 0870 as 'national' rate and the other is ASA's little piece about 0845/0870 descriptions and specifically that not just advertising them as 'national' rate is misleading but also they can't be silent on call costs.  In other words, companies will have to specifically mention that calls to 0870 will cost upto 8ppm..., etc..

I do believe you can get them on the 'national' misleading scam but as for calling them premium rate they'll just go by what OfCOM rules.

You could also point out that calls to geographical national rate (calling from say Scotland to London) will only cost 3ppm daytime and 5.5p for an hour of an evening and weekend from a BT landline and cheaper on other networks.

Good luck.
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Dave
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #3 - Jun 5th, 2005 at 8:10pm
 
I agree with bbb_uk, that even though BT refer to 'premium rate', they're not really going to accept that as 'proof' that they are.

However, I think that the main points to hammer home are that they are only linked to the rate of a national call on BT's non-discounted tariffs. Include information on what BT non-discounted/discount is, including the removal of BT Standard.

Also, in addition to your link, you may wish to consider a link to the consultation document NTS Options for the future. The main version is really long, so it might be worth highlighting the summary version. In particular, the introduction pages.
Quote:
From time to time, BT changes its local and national retail call prices to stay competitive with other phone companies. When BT changes these retail call prices, it must also change its prices for 0845 and 0870 calls. This is because, under our current rules, 0845 calls must be priced (before call packages and discounts) at BT’s standard local retail price for BT customers. The price of 0870 calls is linked in a similar way to the price of a national call for BT customers. ...

Of course BT have worked a flanker. By removing Standard, the above is complete nonsense. BT has no real reason to ever change its non-discounted local and national rate.

Point out that other operators cannot really undercut BT because they would be making a loss due to the way the numbers operate.

TalkTalk price list is here. Maybe you can find other providers' tariff sheets.
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #4 - Jun 5th, 2005 at 9:03pm
 
Quote:
...However, I think that the main points to hammer home are that they are only linked to the rate of a national call on BT's non-discounted tariffs. Include information on what BT non-discounted/discount is, including the removal of BT Standard.

I don't know if that should be mentioned as then they'll have more of an argument (not much more though) as to why they can still advertise it as national rate.  The reason being is they can then say that 0870 is the same cost as geographical national rate calls even if its only on BT non-discounted price plan.

If you don't mention about the fact the some people are still on the non-discount price plan like Low User Scheme etc, I believe you stand more of a chance of getting them to change their minds or at least take note.

If you mention that majority of BT customers are on BTs Together Option 1 and then point them to this link and quote from it:-
Quote:
Now your National and Local calls are at the same rates, you can call anywhere in the UK† at evenings and weekends for just 5.5p for up to an hour per call.

=> 5.5p for evening and weekends calls you make in the UK† - for up to an hour each call
=> 3p a minute for daytime calls anywhere in the UK†
=> Just £10.50* per month if paying by Monthly Payment Plan or Direct Debit, includes rental of your first line

It clearly says that local and national are the same price and exactly how much they cost.

Not telling them some customers may still be on Light User scheme, etc where national geographical calls are still around 7ppm is not technically telling porkies as such - your just omiting it because majority of customers are on BT together option 1 or higher.  That is why above I was careful to say 'majority' as in:-
Quote:
If you mention that majority of BT customers are on BTs Together Option 1...., etc...


PS:  I've worked in enough firms to learn how they twist & turn things to their advantage by omiting certain things (so long as its not obvious) because then it's not classed as telling lies.
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« Last Edit: Jun 5th, 2005 at 9:09pm by bbb_uk »  
 
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Dave
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #5 - Jun 5th, 2005 at 9:51pm
 
Quote:
Quote:
...However, I think that the main points to hammer home are that they are only linked to the rate of a national call on BT's non-discounted tariffs. Include information on what BT non-discounted/discount is, including the removal of BT Standard.

I don't know if that should be mentioned as then they'll have more of an argument (not much more though) as to why they can still advertise it as national rate.  The reason being is they can then say that 0870 is the same cost as geographical national rate calls even if its only on BT non-discounted price plan.

See what you mean, but I think that they could argue that any way it's put. 'National rate' is a half truth/lie, take your pick on what you call it. The thing is, we're not trying to 'trick' this person, but educate them as to what 'national rate' is, and why it is not what it appears to be. Thus if we (sort of agree) that it is national rate I think we have the best chance that they will believe what is being put to them.

Of course, for those who are fully aware, they will just hide behind Ofcom and spout the usual clap-trap about 'national rate'.
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #6 - Jun 5th, 2005 at 10:13pm
 
Quote:
....I think that they could argue that any way it's put...
You are right but thats assuming they know that some people are still on the old (little) used plans where such national geographical calls are around 8ppm.  I believe it would be giving them more ammunition to stay with 0870 calls if they knew that some customers still paying around 8ppm for national geographical calls.

To be honest, I don't think they (or most other companies for that matter) will do much apart from change their description to "calls cost upto 8ppm" instead of "national rate".  They would lose out on all that revenue you then!

This may sound like i'm being negative but I like to think of it as being realistic.

The only way all this is going to stop and that is for OfCOM to get up of their a**** and do something like ban keeping people on hold, etc.  OfCOM will never ban the use of 0845/0870 as our own government couldn't profit from us calling them.

The above is just my opinion but you'll be glad to hear i've calmed down now.  lol  Grin.
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« Last Edit: Jun 5th, 2005 at 10:26pm by bbb_uk »  
 
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bill
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #7 - Jun 6th, 2005 at 9:47am
 
The 'argument'

Point 1 - Ask the writer to agree that a call from his/her home to (say) a Glasgow or London or Manchester '01' or '02' number would, being a national (not local) call, be charged at 'national rate'.

Point 2 - Ask the writer how much per minute such a call from his/her BT residential line to such a Glasgow or London or Manchester '01' or '02' number would cost at 11am on a Wednesday morning (they should know it's 3p per minute but, if not, remind them of the BT Together Option 1 rate).

Point 3 - Ask the writer how much per minute a call from his/her BT residential line to any 0870 number would cost at 11am on a Wednesday morning (if necessary, remind them it's 7.51p per minute).

The conclusion

The three points above prove that a national rate call to (say) a Glasgow or London or Manchester '01' or '02' number at 11am on a Wednesday morning costs 3p per minute whereas a call to an 0870 number at that same time costs 7.51p per minute.

Therefore, calls to 0870 numbers are not national rate calls but cost more than two and a half times as much.  

In fact, any reasonable person would say that amounts to them having to pay a premium of 150% to call the 0870 number.

Wouldn't those same reasonable people be justified in saying that being charged a premium of 150% makes the latter a premium rate call?
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« Last Edit: Jun 6th, 2005 at 10:44am by bill »  
 
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #8 - Jun 6th, 2005 at 10:31am
 
Quote:
...Wouldn't those same reasonable people be justified in saying that being charged a premium of 150% makes the latter a premium rate call?
I agree but unfortunately OfCOM don't class them as such therefore 0870 are here to stay.  I believe the use of 0870 (specifically 0870 more than 0845) would decline if OfCOM classed them as premium rate numbers and they weren't allowed to keep us on hold in a queue.
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bill
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #9 - Jun 6th, 2005 at 10:43am
 
Quote:
I agree but unfortunately OfCOM don't class them as such therefore 0870 are here to stay.  I believe the use of 0870 (specifically 0870 more than 0845) would decline if OfCOM classed them as premium rate numbers and they weren't allowed to keep us on hold in a queue.
Perhaps it's just the use of capitalisation that is causing the 'confusion'.

Premium Rate numbers are the 09x numbers regulated by ICTIS.

Hence, 09x numbers are Premium Rate whereas 087x numbers are not Premium Rate - they just cost us plebs premium rates to call.

That's clear then.
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« Last Edit: Jun 6th, 2005 at 10:46am by bill »  
 
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #10 - Jun 6th, 2005 at 11:29am
 
Quote:
...Hence, 09x numbers are Premium Rate whereas 087x numbers are not Premium Rate - they just cost us plebs premium rates to call...
I like that!
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bill
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #11 - Jun 6th, 2005 at 12:16pm
 
A brief perusal of the OED defintion of the word premium reveals:

premium

• noun (pl. premiums)
(1) an amount paid for a contract of insurance.

(2) a sum added to an ordinary price or other payment.
(3) before another noun (of a commodity) superior and more expensive.

I wonder if Ofcom could explain how definitions (2) and (3) do not apply to the cost of 087x calls then?
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« Last Edit: Jun 6th, 2005 at 12:19pm by bill »  
 
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Smasher
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #12 - Jun 10th, 2005 at 4:02pm
 
bill, I emailed OFCOM with that point.  Here is their reply:

[...]


Thank you for submitting your concerns and comments via the Ofcom Internet site about the use that is made of 0870 numbers in the UK.

I have no disagreement over the dictionary definitions of what the word ‘Premium’ means.  However, I would correct your misconception about 0870.  0870 numbers may be charged at a premium according to your number 2 dictionary definition but they are not Premium Rate numbers. Premium Rate numbers start with 09.

What are Premium Rate Services (PRS)?
PRS offer some form of content, product or service via fixed and mobile telecoms lines. These services vary in cost, but are typically charged between 10 pence per minute (or call) up to £1.50 per minute (or call) from the BT network. Services typically include TV vote lines, competitions, adult services, chat lines, mobile phone ringtone downloads and interactive TV games.  They are in keeping with your dictionary definition 3.

For further information about Premium Rate numbers please go to the ICSTIS web site: www.icstis.org.uk. ICSTIS is the regulatory body for the use and content of Premium Rate numbers.

You may also like to view the FAQs on the following Ofcom web site link about Premium Rate numbers: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/mofaq/telecoms/premium_services/?a=87101

Non geographic 0845 and 0870 numbers are known as Number Translation Services (NTS), i.e. the non-geographic number sits on top of a geographic number. The 0845/0870 range is intended for ‘value-added’ services, where the caller gains value beyond the conveyance of the call. Value-added services include information and contact services. 

087* is a Higher rate and has its own specific price identity. Calls are priced at up to 10p per minute on the BT network.

The NTS regime was created to encourage development of reasonably priced, nationwide single contact numbers for businesses and organisations to provide information and contact services to consumers.  Without the regulatory arrangements that support 0870 calls, many of today’s common and popular services that benefit consumers seeking information might not have evolved.

It will continue to remain the commercial decision of service providers as to what type of number they wish to use to offer their services.

Ofcom is aware of growing consumer dissatisfaction with the increasing use of 0870 numbers for information and access services and of consumer concern in relation to the different charging rates for calls to non-geographic (084/087) numbers.  Over the last 12 months, Ofcom has released a number of documents covering our work in this area. The last of these documents was a consultation entitled ‘Options for the Future’. If you would like to view this document please access our website through the following link:

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/mofaq/telecoms/0870faq/?a=87101
Ofcom has proposed measures which aim to provide certainty for businesses offering these services and clarity for consumers calling 0870 and 0845 numbers. 

Businesses like call centres, that use 0870 numbers, may be able to obtain some revenues for receiving inbound calls from the telephone companies providing their service. That is a commercial agreement reached between the parties concerned.

Ofcom recognises that consumers have become concerned that this revenue sharing may provide an incentive for some companies to prolong calls.  This is just one of the aspects we are looking at and Ofcom is still reviewing all responses to the consultation exercise. The intention is to publish our analysis some time during this summer.

Yours sincerely


Ofcom Contact Centre


[...]
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #13 - Jun 10th, 2005 at 4:19pm
 
Quote:
Non geographic 0845 and 0870 numbers are known as Number Translation Services (NTS), i.e. the non-geographic number sits on top of a geographic number. The 0845/0870 range is intended for ‘value-added’ services, where the caller gains value beyond the conveyance of the call. Value-added services include information and contact services.

What about non-'value-added' services then?

Quote:
The NTS regime was created to encourage development of reasonably priced, nationwide single contact numbers for businesses and organisations to provide information and contact services to consumers.  Without the regulatory arrangements that support 0870 calls, many of today’s common and popular services that benefit consumers seeking information might not have evolved.

Rubbish for most 'customer service' lines, but for those true 'value-added' services the "regulatory arrangements" should be implemented on a 09 premium rate number.

Quote:
It will continue to remain the commercial decision of service providers as to what type of number they wish to use to offer their services.

And when they can't think of anything else to say, they throw in a "commercial decision/discretion".

Quote:
Businesses like call centres, that use 0870 numbers, may be able to obtain some revenues for receiving inbound calls from the telephone companies providing their service. That is a commercial agreement reached between the parties concerned.

The "parties concerned" which doesn't include the end customer. They don't matter and when they rightfully question how much the company is making from them, it seems companies don't want to say.
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Re: Swansea University - 0870 access
Reply #14 - Jun 10th, 2005 at 7:22pm
 
It looks like OfCOM are sweeping this under the carpet as well!   Angry
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