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Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld (Read 20,529 times)
NonGeographicalMan
Ex Member


Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Sep 2nd, 2005 at 2:04pm
 
I have just received the following letter from the FSA iin response to my complaint to them of July 21st about claims on their website that their consumer 0845 number was charged at Local Call Rates.

They admit they are wrong but the remedy they proposed is utterly unsatisfactory as my reply further below illustrates:-

Financial Services Authority
Direct line: 020 7066 9870 Local fax: 02070661015 Email:complaints@fsa.gov.uk

-------------------------------------------------------------

Private & Confidential

August 31st 2005

Complaints against the FSA


Dear Sir,

We refer to the complaint you raised with the FSA Complaints Scheme (the "Scheme") on 21 July 2005 concerning the descriptive term displayed against the 0845 prefixed telephone numbers on the 'Contact Us' page on the FSA Website.

In our discussion on 21 July 2005 about your complaint, you brought to our notice statements released by the Advertising Standards Authority and Leicester City Council Trading Standards Department on the matter of 'local call rates' descriptive terms used against 0845 numbers. Thank you for your subsequent e-mail sent later in the day on 21 July 2005 providing further background to your complaint.

Complaint Conclusion

We have found that the descriptive terms against the two 0845 numbers on the 'Contact Us' page on the FSA website have not been changed to reflect new descriptive wording that had been applied elsewhere on the FSA website and in FSA publications. This complaint is upheld and we thank you bringing this matter to our attention.

Complaint Investigation and Findings

The FSA uses a number of 0845 prefixed numbers but predominately, the two most visibly displayed numbers are the two listed on the 'Contact Us' page on the FSA website for contacting the FSA's Consumer Helpline and Firms Contact Centre. These two numbers are described as attracting 'local call rates'.

For further background to this complaint investigation, we reviewed information provided by Ofcom on their website including '0870 and 0845 Numbers: FAQs http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/mofaq/telecoms/0870faq/tfcontent and the consultations undertaken by Ofcom, the latest of which can be viewed at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/ntsoptions/. This was for information only; we cannot provide any comment on the Ofcom proposals through this complaint investigation.

As quoted from the Ofcom 0845 Numbers: FAQs "NTS numbers are a type of non-geographic number. This means that unlike ordinary (geographic) telephone numbers (beginning 01 and 02) these number ranges are not associated with a particular geographic location".

The FSA does not use any other form of Number Translation Service numbers such as those prefixed with 0870.

The FSA's offices are located in London; its use of a number of 0845 telephone numbers in its provision of services to consumers, and regulated firms and individuals, reflects the need to offer a service that does not discriminate against individuals wishing to contact the FSA by telephone by reference to the cost of the call to London as a consequence of the caller's geographical location.

The descriptive term 'local call rates' had been reviewed at an earlier date by relevant departments within the FSA. As a result, following appropriate legal advice, the descriptive term used against 0845 numbers on the FSA website and in FSA Publications was altered to 'call rates may vary'.

This change was made to ensure the FSA fully complied with the requirements set out in the Consumer Protection Act 1987. The course of action taken was to amend all references on FSA material relating to the rates charged in relation to calls made to FSA telephone numbers starting with "0845" at the earliest opportunity. This included updating the relevant pages of the FSA website as well as to carry out a gradual phased update to all FSA printed literature.
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« Last Edit: Sep 2nd, 2005 at 8:35pm by N/A »  
 
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #1 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 2:09pm
 
Your complaint has highlighted that the amendment to the 'Contact Us' on the primary contacts page on the FSA website had not been updated.

As a result of your complaint and through our wider research into NTS numbers, we became aware of the concerns that are expressed that some firms operating call centres and help lines use 0845 numbers to generate a profit at the expense of the caller. This is not the case with the FSA which is a non-profit making organisation.

Recommendations

We are changing the descriptive term for the 0845 numbers on the 'Contact Us' webpage to 'call rates may vary' to match the descriptive term already in use on other pages on the FSA website and in FSA publications.
FSA staff will be reminded to avoid using the misleading term 'local call rates' in relation to 0845 numbers.

The FSA does assess the service it provides through its telephone help-lines and will monitor the manner in which these services are provided.
If there are any matters within this letter on which you may require further information or wish to question, we will be happy to consider your enquiries.

Complaints Commissioner

Under the guidance for the Scheme, if you are not satisfied with the manner with which we have handled your complaint or you disagree with our conclusions, you have the right to refer your complaint to the Complaints Commissioner who is independent of the FSA. Further details on the role of the Complaints Commissioner can be found on pages 10 and 11 of the Scheme leaflet we sent you with our letter of 26 July 2005.

The contact details for the Office of the Complaints Commissioner are:
The Office of the Complaints Commissioner
8th Floor
City Tower
40 Basinghall Street
London

EC2V 5DE
Telephone: 020 7562 5530
E-mail: complaintscommissioner@fscc.gov.uk Website: www.fscc.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

Paul Morris
Complaints Officer
Company Secretariat

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« Last Edit: Sep 2nd, 2005 at 8:36pm by N/A »  
 
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #2 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 2:11pm
 
This was my original email that led to the writing of the above letter in response:-

-----Original Message-----
From:  NonGeographicalMan
Sent: 21 July 2005 15:13
To: complaints@fsa.gov.uk
Cc: paul.morris@fsa.gov.uk; john.tiner@fsa.gov.uk; ann.foster@fs-cp.org.uk; enquiries@fs-cp.org.uk; matt.peacock@ofcom.org.uk; stephen.carter@ofcom.org.uk; geoff.brighton@ofcom.org.uk
Subject: Misleading Local Rate Call Cost Claims re FSA 0845 Consumer Helpline Number
Dear FSA Complaints Department,

As discussed I wanted to register my complaint against the inappropriate claims made on the Contact Us sections of the FSA website that calls to the helpline are at "Local Call Rates" -   www.fsa.gov.uk/Pages/Contact/index.shtml .   I find it incredible that a regulator can use this number in a way that flies in the face of guidance on such matters from the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, from the Advertising Standards Authority and from Trading Standards Officers.

It is totally inappropriate firstly to claim that these calls are "local call rate" when they are charged at premium calling rates of up to 50p per minute by many Pay As You Go mobile phone operators.  It is also inappropriate to show the 0845 number as the main method to call when you are not a profit making business and 0845 numbers are far more expensive for many telecoms consumers to call.  Although a geographic number is shown it is misleadingly only shown as being suitable for callers from overseas when callers from the UK can also use this number at frequently cheaper call rates.

I would refer you to the following relevant documents on the matter:-

The recent Advertising Standard Authority's guidance

www.asa.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/Hanging+on+the+telephone+on+and+on+and+...

and an opinion expressed by Leicester City Council's Trading Standards department in Paragraph 1.3 of their submission on an Ofcom consultation on this matter:-

www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/213630/responses/leicester_cc.pdf

There was also widespread condemnation of the Police's use of an 0870 number for its casualty bureau for the recent London bombings.  Many of the issues connected with call overcharging to these numbers are the same for both 0845 and 0870.  See the following references for more information:-

www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=402137&in_page_id=2 and www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages/live/articles/health/healthmain.html?in_article_id=... and

I hope this will lead to the removal of the inaccurate claims that the 0845 number is charged at Local Call Rates.

Regards

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« Last Edit: Sep 2nd, 2005 at 8:37pm by N/A »  
 
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #3 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 2:17pm
 
Here is my reply of today to Paul Morris's letter asking if I should now take the matter to the Complaints Commissioner:-

------------------------------------------------------------------

From: NonGeographicalMan
Sent: 02 September 2005 13:16
To: paul.morris@fsa.gov.uk; complaints@fsa.gov.uk
Cc: john.tiner@fsa.gov.uk; deirdre.hutton@fsa.gov.uk; callum.mccarthy@fsa.gov.uk; clive.briault@fsa.gov.uk; david.kenmir@fsa.gov.uk; enquiries@fs-cp.org.uk; ann.foster@fs-cp.org.uk; elisabeth.bertalanffy@fsa.gov.uk; chris.cherlin@fsa.gov.uk; complaintscommissioner@fscc.gov.uk; john.gieve@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk; peter.buchanan@coi.gsi.gov.uk; Robert Irons; Marc Michaels; alan.bishop@coi.gov.uk; christopherg@asa.org.uk; guyp@asa.org.uk; rogerw@asa.org.uk; geoff.brighton@ofcom.org.uk; stephen.carter@ofcom.org.uk; matt.peacock@ofcom.org.uk; kip.meek@ofcom.org.uk; clive.hiller@ofcom.org.uk; gareth.davies@ofcom.org.uk
Subject: Upheld Complaint Against FSA re 0845 Contact Numbers - Additional Complaint Items


Dear Mr Morris,

Thank you for your letter of 31st August upholding my complaint about the Financial Services Authority's misleading use of the terms "local call rates" and "locals call rates" for the Consumer Helpline and Firms Contact Centre Numbers on its website.  I do also find it a little disappointing that the FSA was not able to stick to its own deadlines for dealing with the complaint and took over 6 weeks to uphold the complaint when about 20 minutes investigation of the matter on the internet would have proved the points I was making to be accurate.

I must however write to make the following points in respect of your letter. It would also incidentally have been far more helpful if you had emailed me your reply to my emailed complaint as I would have found it much easier to circulate it to others.  I find it odd that when almost uniquely in business the FSA will only accept job applications via its website it should still be wedded to the use of paper for a complaint that it received as an email.  I do not feel that the use of paper in any way conveys greater gravitas or seriousness in the handling of a complaint to the FSA.

Coming back to your letter I must make the following points:-

1. I have visited your website today at www.fsa.gov.uk/Pages/Contact/index.shtml and find the terms "local call rates" and "locals call rates still used and although geographic phone number alternatives are quoted they are misleadingly shown as only being suitable for overseas callers and thus prefixed +44 20.  Can you tell me when you will be using the term "call rates may vary" that you refer to in your letter?  It is the work of a few minutes to change the text content of a website and I cannot think why this was not done before your letter was sent.
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« Last Edit: Sep 2nd, 2005 at 2:19pm by N/A »  
 
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #4 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 2:18pm
 

2. Can you explain why you are not yet following best practice suggested by Ofcom and its Communications Director, Matt Peacock, where it has been suggested that a geographic phone number commencing 01 or 02 is always shown as a direct alternative to an 0845 or 0870 number so that those who are on BT Option 3 or need to call from pay as you go mobile phones are not unfairly disadvantaged on call cost.

On Ofcom's contact page for the general public - www.ofcom.org.uk/advice/contact/tel_issues/ - they show their contact phone numbers in the format:-

"020 7981 3334 (this number will be the cheapest option for most callers)

or

0845 456 3333 (this number may be cheaper for callers on the BT Light User Scheme calling from outside the London area)"

I believe that this example should be followed by the FSA as another leading uk regulatory organisation who would clearly wish to follow best practice as defined by the uk telecoms regulator.

3. In your letter you claim that the FSA uses the 0845 numbers because of its "need to offer a service that does not discriminate against individuals wishing to contact the FSA by telephone by reference to the cost of the call".  If that is so can you therefore explain to me why you do not now use only an 020 geographic number since 99.9% of BT customers are on BT Options 1, 2 and 3 and since 1st July 2004 BT has charged the same rate to all these customers for all uk geographic calls commencing 01 and 02.  By contrast use of 0845 does discriminate against callers on BT Option 3, by charging them 3p a minute for the call in the weekday daytime when an 01 or 02 call would have been free and included in their monthly all inclusive (for 01 and 02 calls) calling plan.  It also discriminates against callers with discount telecoms providers on BT lines.  The cheapest of these is currently www.call18866.co.uk and will let you call any uk 01 or 02 number 7 days a week for a fixed cost of 2p per call no matter how long the duration of the call or its location in the uk.  But this firm charges 0845 calls at 4p per minute, higher than the BT rate.  0845 numbers these days mean a nice revenue stream for the company with which the FSA has been unwise enough to enter into a contract to terminate these calls but higher calling costs for the general public.  Thus by using this number and promoting it you are in fact unfairly disadvantaging most of your callers.  I would therefore urge you to revert to using the 020 numbers currently misleadingly shown as only being appropriate for overseas callers.

4. I would draw your attention to the latest guidance issued by the Advertising Standards Authority on 4th August - www.asa.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/Stop+the+call+confusion.htm - in which they have told advertisers that in non broadcast advertisements they must:-

not describe calls to those numbers as being charged at ‘local’ or ‘national’ rate.

state the maximum cost of calls to BT customers and indicate that call costs using non-BT phone lines may vary.

It also seems a little odd that Ofcom is not yet telling callers that an 0845 number may cost a BT customer up to 3p per minute on their website but I would assume this is an oversight that they are about to remedy.

In summary I am very disappointed that the remedy suggested in my upheld complaint has not yet been instituted on your website and I do not feel that to state "call rates may vary" while still promoting the 0845 number is an adequate response by the FSA.  Instead the FSA should show the geographic 01 or 02 prefixed numbers on an equal basis to the 0845 number and state that the BT charge for calling 0845 is up to 3p per minute and that for most callers the use of the geographic number commencing 020 may be cheaper.

Perhaps you would be good enough to indicate whether you can investigate these issues as a Stage Two complaint or whether I now need to refer my issues directly to the Complaints Commissioner.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,
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Dave
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #5 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 2:45pm
 
So what are the geographical numbers for the FSA's 0845s? Perhaps you could request this information. Maybe a FOI request if they won't tell you.

I notice the website gives the switchboard number for international callers and which is also listed in the database.
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #6 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 3:03pm
 
Quote:
So what are the geographical numbers for the FSA's 0845s? Perhaps you could request this information. Maybe a FOI request if they won't tell you.

I notice the website gives the switchboard number for international callers and which is also listed in the database.


The FSA lists the geographical numbers as numbers to call from overseas and starting +44 20 here:-

www.fsa.gov.uk/Pages/Contact/index.shtml

The point of the complaint was to stop the FSA pushing the 0845s as "Local Call Rate" and thus committing an offence under Part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 in the process.

It is especially unforgivable that a regulator supposedly knowledgeable in personal fianance issues should fall for the 0845 scam.  It seems these non geograpghic number sellers just tell the FSA they have to have 0845 numbers to provide equal call cost acess across the UK and the FSA believes them and signs up!  What hope then that the FSA will stop salesmen stealing your granny's entire pension rights.

I think the COI needs to further revise its guidance to state that if 0845 numbers are used that they cannot be called "Local Call Rate" and that the maximum pence per minute rate charged by BT for 0845 ((that is 4p per minute) should be quoted against the number.
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #7 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 3:26pm
 
It is quite ironic that by calling the FSA because you've been ripped off with financial advice, you get ripped off again by the telephone.

I can understand big businesses wanting to use 0845 and 0870 numbers, and fall foul of regulations, but the FSA is an organisation that is there to regulate and pass judgement on others that have ripped customers off, for profit mainly through bad investment advice.

If they themselves don't follow the rules, then it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
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I realy hait itt wen peeple canot spel proply. Itt getts onn mye nervs sew mutch annd streses mee owt. Knot onley iz itt vary bade speling butt allso bade gramer.
 
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #8 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 3:33pm
 
Or looked at another way if even Ofcom's regulatory chums just down the road at another big flashy regulatory office fall for this scam then what hope is that it will ever be eradicated in general unless legislation with big fines is passed to stop it.  In fact Ofcom itself also joined the 0845 scammers for many years so how it can expect anyone else to be led by its own example is quite beyond me.  It was left to the likes of John Lewis and Nationwide to set the example.

A mystery is that ICSTIS has powers to shut down scamming 0906 line within 24 hours yet a lower value version of the same scam takes 2 consultations and 2 years and then still isn't going to be made illegal.

Why is is that the words poacher and gamekeeper keep coming into my heads so far as Ofcom senior personnel are concerned.
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #9 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 3:39pm
 
Well done NGM. This relentless and detailed pursuit of abusers - esp NGO's and gov depts - will pay dividends in the end.

They do all meet and talk to one another, and an endless stream of FOI and pointing-out of their illegal activities will wear them down and make them wonder what is going on.

Eventually they will realise that they have been massively scammed by the telcos and hopefully turn on them.

It's just stunning that the FSA - part of who's remit is to ensure that consumers are told the TRUE cost of various financial products (loans etc..) - don't think they are morally obliged to tell the consumer the possible true cost of making a phone call to them!
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NonGeographicalMan
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #10 - Sep 2nd, 2005 at 4:01pm
 
Quote:
It's just stunning that the FSA - part of who's remit is to ensure that consumers are told the TRUE cost of various financial products (loans etc..) - don't think they are morally obliged to tell the consumer the possible true cost of making a phone call to them!


That's why I targeted the FSA and took the trouble to post their  response here.

In view of the new ASA guidance I would personally give up the FOI stuff with these gov depts and NGOs and instead just make a formal complaint asking them why they are currently committing an offence under Part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (by calling 0845 or 0870 Local Rate or National Rate) and why they are also ignoring new ASA guidelines requiring them to publish the maximum BT pence per minutes price.  Ignore the COI guidance with those who have 0845 call centres as it doesn't help in its current form.

Its much more satisfying surely to win a complaint against one of these outfits and so then get them to change what they are actually publishing, rather than to merely force them to give you some information.  Of course if a geographic alternative number actually isn't known then I agree that this can also be a useful route.

I did of course copy my email of response to Paul Morris to Stephen Carter and Matt Peacock at Ofcom.

But we shouldn't have to go through all these hand springs to get the right thing done.

If Ofcom wasn't basically in bed with the telcos it would long ago have gone to government ministers and insisted they were given the relevant powers to wipe out this kind of abuse.  That's what happens with those tasked with dealing with drugs or terrorism so why can't it happen with those waging war on the uk telecoms mafia?
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #11 - Nov 5th, 2012 at 1:31pm
 
Well seven years on and I see very little progress on this matter in that whatever bunch of profit grubbing cowboys (aka an outsourced call centre) the FSA uses to run its so called Consumer Helpline still uses 0845 606 1234 as their main number listed at http://www.fsa.gov.uk/pages/consumerinformation/consumer_contact/index.shtml&nbs...; and the only way to avoid this number is by having to call indirectly through the FSA's London switchboad on the listed alternative of "From abroad: +44 20 7066 1000 where you then have to ask to be transferred to their Consumer Helpline.  On occasions you can be asked why you have not called the direct 0845 number when you do this.

Whilst a geographic alternative to the ripoff 0845 number continues to exist the FSA still continues to try to con consumers by lieing to them that 020 7066 1000 is only a number that can be called "From abroad" (this is misleading since 020 7066 1000 is not blocked to UK callers even though the technology to block UK callers from ringing a geographic number exists and is deployed by some even more greedy organisations).  I find this totally unacceptable behaviour for a so called regulator even though the FSA all too often seems to behave as though it thinks it is a profit making business including in the way it remunerates its own staff.

All of this reminds me why I have generally tired of much further involvement in this campaign as after years and years and many thousands of wasted hours of campaigners time trying to take up the matter the result has been also a total lack of success in the majority of cases.  Their have been successes with some organisations (both government and private sector) who have switched to 03 numbers or more rarely reverted to geographic numbers but these successes remain the vast exception to the rule.

On that basis I do not feel the level of effort deployed in relation to so little success in stopping this scam can actually be justified.  I am also thinking in particular of one more recent forum member who now seems to devote much of his life to this cause but with in general a similar spectacular lack of success.
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NGMsGhost
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Re: Complaint Against FSA 0845 Number Upheld
Reply #12 - Nov 5th, 2012 at 2:39pm
 
Just to further update this I have now spoke to the Complaints About the FSA section of the FSA itself about the issue of the way I was treated by the call centre supervisor on their Consumer Helpline today and that they quite blatantly lied to me that the 020 alternative number was not described as a "From Abroad" number by the FSA on its website.

A couple of points have emerged from this:-

1. Complaints about the continued use of the 0845 number are clearly something the FSA is getting complaints about all the time as the About the FSA complaints person (an FSA employee unlike the Consumer Helpline people) was well aware of the issue and knew just why consumers so hated calling 0845 numbers.

2. Despite this he wrongly told me that the FSA "owned the 0845 number" (I have forgotten where you look this up but I am sure it will show it is owned or registered to Teleperformance).

3. The FSA is to be replaced next Spring by two new bodies - the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.  The FSA complaints person alleged that these two new bodies will have 03 numbers but that it had not been thought suitable to get an 03 number for the FSA Consumer Helpline with so little time left to go and when the 0845 number for their Consumer Helpline was so well known.  I did then ask him if that could been their view back in 2005 when I first began my correspondence and when there was no prospect of the FSA being abolished but he didn't seem to have an answer to that.

4. The current outsourced Consumer Helpline is run by Teleperformance, one of the nastiest and worst of the outsourced call centre companies who will always try and persuade their client to use an 0845 or 0844 numbers of that they can then offer their client the contract at a lower price than more ethcially minded competitors.  I actually discovered this not from the FSA Complaints About The FSA bloke but when I rang back the FSA Consumer Helpline to try and log a complaint about the Supervisor I had spoken to.  I asked who actually ran the call centre and if it was a company such as Capita or Teleperformance.  To which I got the answer it was Telepeformance.  Given the cynical way it is run I felt it almost certainly had to be one of those two organisations.

So in summary no doubt SCV will tell us that it is worth it and that as long as you have 5 to 10 years to wait your campaigning efforts will pay off in the end.

My only response to that would be that we all die sooner or later and that at this age 5 to 10 years is a jolly long time to waste part of one's valuable life in trying to get this kind of change.  Also that at this stage the change is much less significant than it would have been seven years ago since more and more of these organisations are moving to preventing telephone contact altogether and to covering off dealing with consumers via a series of FAQs and a web complaint form.  This means they have finally achieved what they long wanted to achieve. Namely stopping consumers calling them altogether and using stock letters to respond to every type of complaint.............

So far as the actual matter I wanted to call the FSA about originally today of an unsolicited call from a bunch of rare earth investment scammers called www.ec1consultants.com it seems the FSA cannot act against this themselves and that I must instead contact the Police on their Action Fraud telephone line. At least this number as listed at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ is an 0300 number.

But even then I still see most of our efforts as having failed since the telecoms industry has been allowed to make all out of bundled individual calls to 01,02, 03 numbers unaffordable by their introduction of and constant ramping up of the "connection fee" (started by BT but copied in cartel like lock step by all its so called competitors) and their increase in per minute charges to 01, 02, 03 numbers.  This then basically blackmails customers in to taking out a calls package that they may not originally have needed if they were a single person living alone.

The telecoms industry has just so many methods of disguised pricing that get ever worse and that Ofcom does nothing about that I fear the position is quite hopeless.  The latest scam by BT and TalkTalk and others is to claim to offer cheap broadband at £3 per months or whatever but subject to paying line rental at an exorbitant £14 per month compared to less than £7 per month for BT Standard only some 7 years ago...................

In short the telecoms industry still appears to hold most of the cards while we the consumers continue to have to dance to its tune.
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