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FCO FOI response (Read 15,504 times)
idb
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FCO FOI response
Mar 9th, 2005 at 6:01pm
 
Below is the reply from the FCO in response to my FOI request. Whilst it has answered most of my questions, it has failed to provide the geographic equivalent numbers. I will, therefore, have to make a second request.

>>>

Thank you for your e-mail of 16 February, asking about the 0870 telephone number that we have for Travel Advice enquirers to access our call centre.

The COI actually manage the FCO contract with the call centre on our behalf and it was the COI who provided the FCO with the 0870 number in the first place.

In November 2004, COI issued an update to their guidance regarding 0870/0871 numbers, and this was revised again last week. The key statement in the guidance is:

'0870/0871 numbers are not recommended, particularly when targeting individuals as by dint of falling national call rates, these have become expensive to the caller relative to a geographic call, which can act as a barrier to communicating information that the citizen should have access to as a right. If 0870/0871 is being used then other alternatives - i.e. a standard geographical number (either in parallel with, or as an alternative to the 0870/0871 number), the web or postal mechanisms should be considered and made available.'   

The full guidance can be accessed on the COI website at www.coi.gov.uk/ccg .

The COI have confirmed that their recommendation not to use 0870/0871 is not a 'rule' but was issued as guidance only. It is important to note that this guidance is recent and Departments need time to react on established services. As the line to our call centre was set up before the new guidance was in place, and a large number of materials carry the 0870 number, the COI has recommended that the number is phased out over time rather than being immediately replaced with a 0845 number or 0800 number. In addition, as Travel Advice Section said in their e-mail to you of 23 November, our Travel Advice service is also available on our website at www.fco.gov.uk/travel; ; if this is difficult for you to access, you can contact our Embassy in Washington to have the advice read out to you.

Revenue and provider

The amount the caller is charged depends on the operator the caller is dialling from, the billing option the bill payer has on their line and or/whether they are calling from a mobile. Last calendar year, the FCO received £234.80 in revenue from the 0870 number. However, in January 2005 it was £624.78, which is likely to be due to the large number of tsunami call volumes.

The provider, British Telecom, will receive the difference between what the caller is charged and the FCO receives in revenue. Typically this is between 1.12p per minute and 6.73p per minute depending of time of day of call. BT also charge FCO line rental which on average is £3.30 a month per number.
FCO Services provide two 0870 numbers, also through BT, but the FCO receives no revenue from these numbers and these calls are charged at the national rate.

I hope this helps to clarify the situation for you.

If you are unhappy with the decisions made in relation to your request you may ask for an internal review. You should write to me at the above address if you wish to complain.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:


Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Winslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

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kk
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #1 - Mar 9th, 2005 at 9:07pm
 
Hi ibd

You obtained some useful information, keep digging.

I have listed some questions under the topic “Questions to be asked?  FOI Act”
Any suggestions welcome.

It would be nice to know the per minute income during the Day  (also Evening and Weekend).  I suspect their own telecom provider is also ripping them off.

UK Passport receives 1.5p/min (day-rate) from its 0870 number, which cost us 7p to 10p/min to use.  The telecom providers are skimming at least 5.5p/min.

You can see the UK Passport reply under the topic: “UK Passport – 0870 – FOI Act”
(this topic is about 4 pages back)


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« Last Edit: Mar 9th, 2005 at 9:08pm by kk »  

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jrawle
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #2 - Mar 9th, 2005 at 11:38pm
 
Quote:
Last calendar year, the FCO received £234.80 in revenue from the 0870 number. However, in January 2005 it was £624.78, which is likely to be due to the large number of tsunami call volumes.

The provider, British Telecom, will receive the difference between what the caller is charged and the FCO receives in revenue. Typically this is between 1.12p per minute and 6.73p per minute depending of time of day of call. BT also charge FCO line rental which on average is £3.30 a month per number.
FCO Services provide two 0870 numbers, also through BT, but the FCO receives no revenue from these numbers and these calls are charged at the national rate.


£234 a year is a tiny amount for an organisation the size of the FCO. With all the bad press 0870 numbers are getting now, it can't be worth them continuing to use them.

Also, as they point out, it's actually BT that's profiting nicely from this arrangement.

Did you ask for the geographical number in your request?
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idb
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #3 - Mar 9th, 2005 at 11:51pm
 
Quote:
£234 a year is a tiny amount for an organisation the size of the FCO. With all the bad press 0870 numbers are getting now, it can't be worth them continuing to use them. [...]

Did you ask for the geographical number in your request?
Exactly - for such a trivial amount, is it really worth annoying people by using rip-off numbers?

I did ask the FCO for the underlying geographic number - it failed to answer this point, so I'll be in touch again with its FOI department.
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kk
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #4 - Mar 10th, 2005 at 10:17am
 
As you say, for such a small gain to the organisation, 0870 (and indeed 0845) numbers should be removed.  Only the telecom providers, who push this “numbers racket”, gain to any significant extent. 

One government Quango that has replied to my FOI Act questions gains nothing from its 0870 number. (I asked the question twice to make sure).

Some Quangos and government departments are actually paying (Globe Communications) a per minute usage charge of 2.62p/min (exc vat)  to use 0845 numbers.
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idb
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #5 - Apr 5th, 2005 at 2:47pm
 
Below is the supplementary response, after I requested a review of a
previous response, from the FCO to my FOI request to reveal the underlying
geographic number for its rip-off advice line. I suspect contacting BT is
pointless - assuming the FCO is not lying, and it genuinely does not know the
geographic number (or "codes" in FCO terminology), is there likely to be any merit in pursuing this with
either BT or the Info Commissioner?

>>>>>

I am writing regarding your request to reveal the geographic numbers that
underlie the 0870 numbers used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel
Advice line.

I have consulted the relevant sections within the office, and the Foreign
Office does not hold the information you are looking for. But I have been
advised that British Telecom may hold the relevant codes, as they are our
service provider. I therefore suggest you address your query to them. Their
website is: www.bt.com .

If you are unhappy with this response,  you may make a complaint to the
Information Commissioner at: Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire
SK9 5AF.
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dorf
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #6 - Apr 5th, 2005 at 11:25pm
 
I do not believe that what they state is actually true. They are just trying to fob you off and avoid giving you the number. They would clearly know the GN, since they will use it themselves.
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Ofcom are completely ineffectual
 
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #7 - Apr 6th, 2005 at 10:10am
 
Quote:
I am writing regarding your request to reveal the geographic numbers that
underlie the 0870 numbers used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel
Advice line.

I have consulted the relevant sections within the office, and the Foreign
Office does not hold the information you are looking for. But I have been
advised that British Telecom may hold the relevant codes, as they are our
service provider. I therefore suggest you address your query to them. Their
website is: www.bt.com .

If you are unhappy with this response,  you may make a complaint to the
Information Commissioner at: Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire
SK9 5AF.

Their response is utter nonsense since BT will not provide you with this information since they are a commercial organisation who will be under a duty of commericla confidentiality to their client - in this case the FCO.  BT would quite rightly respond that they would be in breach of the data protection act to disclose this information.

However the people who do have the power to request this information from BT are the FCO so I would go back to the FCO and make exactly that request and threaten that you will go to the Information Commissioner if they do not comply.

Since they make so little money from the number what do they hope to gain by trying to withhold the underlying NGN?
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #8 - Apr 6th, 2005 at 1:18pm
 
I am a bit new to this game but would the old "I need to ring you from abroad" angle. I used this with BUPA and it worked a treat.

My brother has a second home in Cyprus and he continues to work whilst he is out there. Most of his work is on the phone ore internet so he can do this and all of his contacts at banks and insurance companies have had to give him thier geograpic numbers!

Mike
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #9 - Apr 6th, 2005 at 1:29pm
 
Quote:
My brother has a second home in Cyprus and he continues to work whilst he is out there. Most of his work is on the phone ore internet so he can do this and all of his contacts at banks and insurance companies have had to give him thier geograpic numbers!


People like the DVLA, the Inland Revenue and worst of all certain doctors surgeries have been notable for absolutely refusing to provide a geographic number, even if you say you need to contact them from overseas.

Since 0870 is often barred by many overseas call carriers the refusal of the doctor's surgeries to give out the 0870 number is potentially endangering the lives of these patients.

That is why I am still gobsmacked that Dr Howard Stoate MP can claim that the move of the NEG doctors surgeries to an 0844 number satisfactorily resolves the situation.
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idb
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #10 - Apr 6th, 2005 at 1:49pm
 
The excuses public bodies are giving me at the moment in response to FOI
requests are just pathetic. My FOI request to the IND was submitted on
Feb 1, with another one to the MOD on Feb 22. The respective excuses are
as follows:

IND:
I am currently compiling the response to your request. Your request has not
been as easy to collate as you might think. I do apologise for the delay and
hope to get a response to you next week.

MOD:
Further to your telephone conversation with the Public Records Office on
05/04/05. Your request was passed to us three working days ago to answer.
By this time the deadline for reply had already expired and I apologise for
this. However, we are working very hard to gather information to enable us
to respond to your request.  We hope to be able to furnish you with a reply
very shortly.

I suspect some high level political maneuvering designed to suppress this
information. The whole pervasive nature of rip-off numbers is staggering,
and government, BT and Ofcom are all complicit in this legalized extortion.
If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable. What has Ofcom done about
the NEG rip-off? NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. It is supposed to protect the
consumer yet it simply panders to the likes of NEG. It's a disgrace.
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #11 - Apr 6th, 2005 at 2:14pm
 
Quote:
What has Ofcom done aboutthe NEG rip-off? NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. It is supposed to protect the consumer yet it simply panders to the likes of NEG. It's a disgrace.


In my experience Ofcom only in fact only protects the interests of its own very overpaid staff.

That in turn very often involves protecting the interests of its various longstanding cronies in the telecoms industry.
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: FCO FOI response
Reply #12 - Apr 6th, 2005 at 2:25pm
 
Quote:
If you are unhappy with this response,  you may make a complaint to the Information Commissioner at: Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

It seems a little odd that they are so keen to bring the attention of the Information Commissioner onto the matter.

But I would ignore this and write/email directly the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office indicating your unhappiness with the response of his minions and also your intention of raising this matter with your MP if it is not satisfactorily resolved.
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