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NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investigation (Read 386,138 times)
NonGeographicalMan
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NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investigation
Jul 25th, 2005 at 12:20pm
 
I thought some of you might be quite interested in this little own initiative investigation into NHS Patientline which Ofcom has just announced.

Perhaps some of you may even wish to submit comments on this abuse of sick patients to Robert.MacDougall@ofcom.org.uk

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All Open Cases
Ofcom own-initiative investigation into the price of making telephone calls to hospital patients

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Investigation against: Patientline Limited ("Patientline"), Premier Managed Payphones Ltd ("Premier"), certain NHS Trusts
Case opened: 21 July 2005
Issues: (i) Whether the agreements that are in place between certain NHS Trusts and both Patientline and Premier each infringe the Chapter I prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 ("the Act") and/or Article 81 of the EC Treaty; and

(ii) Whether the prices that Patientline and Premier each charge consumers for making calls to hospital patients each infringe the Chapter II prohibition of the Act and/or Article 82 of the EC Treaty.
Relevant instrument: Chapter I of the Act and Article 81 of the EC Treaty (anti-competitive agreements) and Chapter II of the Act and Article 82 of the EC Treaty (abuse of a dominant position)

Ofcom has opened this investigation to consider whether the prices that Patientline and Premier charge consumers for making calls to hospital patients are excessive; the use of the recorded message at the start of each call raises the costs of making calls to hospital patients to excessive levels; and the agreements that Patientline and Premier have with NHS Trusts are anti-competitive because of, amongst other things, their exclusivity and length.

In the light of these concerns, Ofcom is investigating the above mentioned issues under the Act and the EC Treaty.

Ofcom's investigation will consider:

whether or not Patientline and certain NHS Trusts and/or Premier and certain NHS Trusts have each infringed Chapter I of the Act and/or Article 81 of the EC Treaty; and whether or not Patientline and/or Premier have each infringed Chapter II of the Act and/or Article 82 of the EC Treaty.

Case Leader: Robert MacDougall (020 7783 4338 e-mail: Robert.MacDougall@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/00844/06/05
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idb
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #1 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 1:43pm
 
I wrote to Patientline last March to complain about the inability to call from overseas and its reply is shown below. This company seems to be another NEG type - exploiting those that are ill plus their concerned friends and relatives.

<<

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to highlight to us your concerns about our service. Patientline is committed to providing first class customer care and welcome the chance to answer any queries our customers may have.

As our telephone service uses phone numbers that are prefixed by '070' it is sometimes difficult for an overseas operator to recognise these as a range of active numbers.   There are cases where some customers have '07' numbers ranges barred from use but more often than not the problem lies with the fact that International operators are not obliged to enable the number range we have circulated and some do not have agreements with British Telecom, in these instances calls will not be connected.

Our only recommendation to bypass this situation which we accept is not ideal, is that the International caller phones 0044 208 235 0918, and pays for telephone time by credit card on behalf of the patient, we can then ask the patient to call out to the International numbers which we do enable on our system.  You can also l contact the nurses station via the hospital switchboard as has always been the case.

I fully appreciate the frustration this may cause and as a company we continue to encourage all telephone companies to enable calls to our 07 number range.   

Thank you for raising this matter with us and I hope that this has answered your queries.


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omy
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #2 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 1:44pm
 
'Ofcom' and 'own-initiative', are surely mutually exclusive terms (as mathematicians would say).
Are congratulations due, or is this going to be yet another Ofcom whitewash?  Is Patientline small enough to be 'hit' so that we do not notice the 'big friends' of Ofcom getting away with murder??
Certainly interesting, though.
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« Last Edit: Jul 25th, 2005 at 1:47pm by omy »  
 
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idb
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #3 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 1:56pm
 
Quote:
I thought some of you might be quite interested in this little own initiative investigation into NHS Patientline which Ofcom has just announced.
And more from http://www.sharecast.com/cgi-bin/sharecast/story.cgi?story_id=514644

<<

LONDON (SHARECAST) - Shares in Patientline slumped by a third as it revealed regulator Ofcom plans to investigate its charging structure while revenues had fallen year-on-year.

Patientline provides hospital patients with bedside phones and televisions and said Ofcom, which will announce the investigation tomorrow, wanted to look into look into the prices charged for incoming calls by all the Patient Power licensees.

The company added that it was confident about the outcome of the investigation but would not add new terminals until its position had been clarified.

Patientline added that that while business had picked up in April and May, revenues per terminal had since slowed and were now down 5% year-on-year.

"If revenue per terminal were to decline further during the balance of the year, the adverse affect on EBITDA and the net loss could be up to £4m compared with market expectations for the year to March 2006," the statement said.
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omy
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #4 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 2:23pm
 
Should we all be selling our telecom shares, in case Ofcom is developing teeth at last??  Hardly think so, but  'from little acorns....'
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #5 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 2:39pm
 
Quote:
Should we all be selling our telecom shares, in case Ofcom is developing teeth at last??  Hardly think so, but  'from little acorns....'


Me thinks the delay in any announcemnt on Ofcom's plans for dealing with NTS is precisely because recent events (including the shameful Police London bombings 0870 number) are putting heavy pressure on Ofcom to consider the nuclear option for existing 0845 and 0870 revenue share.

This would I am sure require a lot of investigation of the potential for nts profiteering firms then suing Ofcom or the governement for loss of livelihood.
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #6 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 2:42pm
 
Quote:
Is Patientline small enough to be 'hit' so that we do not notice the 'big friends' of Ofcom getting away with murder??


Patientline will be hit hard by the regulator because the level of exploitation and the group they are exploiting makes it more unacceptable still than the regular 084/7 NTS scam.

Patientline can also be crucified without it hitting the business of the big NTS players.  Also the whole 07 Personal Number NTS scam is built on a ripoff of even more outrageous proprotions than the 084/7x one.
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #7 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 3:00pm
 
Couldn't agree more NGM.
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Dave
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #8 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 3:21pm
 
Not been into hospital recently, so don't know what Patientline is.

Quote:
From Patientline website:
Patientline continues to be the market leader in offering bedside communication and entertainment services.

So this is a 'market' now where the NHS can make money out of the sick?

The thing is, people must need this service so desparately for Patientline to make it's profits. So do I have to pay (per minute/hour) to watch TV now?
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #9 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 3:40pm
 
Quote:
So do I have to pay (per minute/hour) to watch TV now?


But of course.

Just you watch what happens as IP based broadband television is rolled out nationwide in the next couple of years.

Perhaps you meant to ask though if you now had to pay for the length of your conversation with the landlord at the local pub? ??? Grin
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #10 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 4:37pm
 
Quote:
So do I have to pay (per minute/hour) to watch TV now?
Not per min/hour.  The current rate is £3.50 per day and (going by memory) the channels are:-

BBC1/2, ITV1/2/3, Ch4/5, Bravo*, Living TV*, TCM*, UK Gold* and some other hardly watched channels that I can't remember.

* I believe they are actually chargable channels and not free-to-air (FTA/FTV) channels.
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idb
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #11 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 4:40pm
 
Another article:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/25/ofcom_hospital_probe/

<<

'Rip-off' calls to hospitals under the microscope

Ofcom is to probe whether people are ripped off for telephoning patients in hospital.

The comms regulator launched its own investigation today after receiving complaints from punters about having to pay up to 50p a minute to call patients.

Two companies - Patientline Ltd and Premier Managed Payphones Ltd - operate bedside phone systems that enable patients in hospital to make and receive calls. While making a call from hospital costs around 10p a minute, phoning a patient can cost 39p off peak and 49p for a peak rate call.

[...]

"Ofcom has received a number of complaints from consumers about the prices charged for making calls to hospital patients," said Ofcom today.

"Consumers have also complained about the duration of the recorded message that callers are required to listen to at the start of each call, which also attracts these charges."

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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #12 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 4:44pm
 
Quote:
Not per min/hour.  The current rate is £3.50 per day

That would be £106.46 per month and not even Sky charges that for their very top package.  Of course no doubt if you bought a few pay as you go movies per month you might get up this figure.

How exactly are you doing your sums?
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« Last Edit: Jul 25th, 2005 at 4:49pm by N/A »  
 
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #13 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 5:13pm
 
I thought revenue sharing was supposed to be banned on 070 numbers!!

If I wanted an 070 number I'd approach a telecoms company, and they would give me one, and not pay me any call revenue.

However Patientline approaches a telecoms company, and they are able to give them one, and then pay call revenue.

I can see their tactics of getting new business.  Someone phones a friend or family member during a 1 month stay in hospital.  They rack up a huge phone bill, which is delivered soon after their friend leaves hospital.  The amount of the bill, gives the caller a heart attack, so he is admitted to hospital, and then gets calls from his friends, and so on!!
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: NHS Patientline 49p per minute Ofcom Investiga
Reply #14 - Jul 25th, 2005 at 5:20pm
 
Quote:
I can see their tactics of getting new business.  Someone phones a friend or family member during a 1 month stay in hospital.  They rack up a huge phone bill, which is delivered soon after their friend leaves hospital.  The amount of the bill, gives the caller a heart attack, so he is admitted to hospital, and then gets calls from his friends, and so on!!


Of course presumably with the growth of cheaper and cheaper mobile packages, with lots of cross network minutes, from people like Three the ultimate demise of Patientline is more or less guaranteed, especially at these kind of fixed line calling prices.

There are lots of regulatory anomalies out there.  I have just got to refer a deadlocked complaint to Ofcom about BT only allowing calls on their Call Diversion service on a BT line to be carried with BT.  If one inserts the prefix for call18866 or 1899 BT *21* simply refuses to set up the Diversion.
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« Last Edit: Jul 25th, 2005 at 5:21pm by N/A »  
 
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