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Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr (Read 27,564 times)
NGMsGhost
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Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr
Aug 26th, 2008 at 10:51pm
 
This is the email I sent to the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman on 17th June 2008:-

Quote:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject:      Inappropriate Use of 0845 Number by Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Date:      Tue, 17 Jun 2008 10:48:21 +0100
To:      complaintsaboutphso@ombudsman.org.uk, trish.longdon@ombudsman.org.uk
CC:      ann.abraham@ombudsman.org.uk, bill.richardson@ombudsman.org.uk, philip.aylett@ombudsman.org.uk


Dear Ms Longdon,

Inappropriate Continued Use of 0845 Contact Telephone Number by Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Contrary to the Recommendations of Ofcom, Sir David Varney and The Central Office of Information's Better Practice Guide for Government Contact Centres


I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's continued use of an 0845 telephone number (0845 015 4033) for contacting it despite the advice and recommendations of the Central Office of Information's Better Practice Guide for Government Contact Centres (Third Edition) and Sir David Varney's report - Service Transformation - a better deal for citizens and businesses, a better deal for the taxpayer.  The Ombudsman is also ignoring repeated advice from Ofcom that it would be most appropriate for public sector contact centres to switch to using its new 03 phone number range, although in the case of the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman there appears no good reason why your office could not simply display its underlying 020 geographic phone numbers since you do not appear to operate across multiple regional call centres (a primary reason historically in the government sector for using an 0845 non geographic number).

The reason 0845 is objectionable is because these numbers are excluded from inclusive bundled call plans such as BT's Unlimited Anytime Plan or TalkTalk's Talk 3 plan and are also not included in bundled mobile phone packages taken up by many mobile phone users who can make unlimited calls to numbers starting 01, 02 or 03 out of their bundled minutes allowance.  However numbers commencing 080, 084 and 087 are not included in these packages and are always charged per minute in addition to their monthly mobile phone subscription.  The most expensive mobile phone tariffs charge up to 40p per minute to call 0845 when in the UK.  Also under Vodafone's Passport tariff deal one can call a normal UK number starting 01 or 02 out of bundled minutes plus a 75p service fee when roaming in many EU countries but a call to the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman's 0845 number will cost 75p per minute + connection or a staggering £45.75 per hour to call while roaming in those same countries with the same phone.  It is obviously possible to envisage some circumstances in which UK citizens might need to contact the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman whilst overseas.

The recommendations in Sir David Varney's report can be found in Chapter 7 of his report at www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/4/F/pbr06_varney_review.pdf ; The chapter starts on P.53 of the report (P58 of the pdf file) and the most relevant recommendations about government contact centres are in paragraphs 7.24 and 7.30 of his report.

You can obtain a copy of the Central Office of Information's Better Practice Guide for Government Contact Centres (Third Edition) at www.coi.gov.uk/documents/gcc-third-edition.pdf ; If you refer to paragraph 3.51 on p35 of the guide (p36 of the PDF file) onwards you will see that there is a large amount of material there that is relevant with respect to the use of the 0845 number by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and why your use of 0845 is likely to impose arbitrary and excessive costs on many callers, including the poorest members of society who often do not have access to a landline phone and instead use Pay As You Go mobile phones.  As discussed these Pay As You Go mobile phones can charge up to 40p per minute to call 0845 on some tariffs.  Yet a normal number starting 01, 02 or 03 can be called on the same Pay As You Go phones for as little as 15p for a call of up to 60 minutes at some times of day.  This is not possible for 0845 numbers.

The other following references showing concerns about inappropriate use and misuse of 084 and 087 prefixed phone numbers may also be of assistance to you in your investigation:-

The view of a county council trading standards department about price misdescriptions of these numbers:-

See para 1.3 on page 1 of www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/oftel_0845/responses/leicester_cc.pdf

and

the view of the then CEO of BT Retail (now the new CEO designate of the whole of BT), Ian Livingston, regarding inappropriate use of 084 and 087 numbers:-

http://business.scotsman.com/business/BT-calls-on-Ofcom-to.2642029.jp

and

two guidances from the Advertising Standards Authority

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

www.asa.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/Stop+the+call+confusion.htm

                                                      
                                                                                                                                                                Cont/............
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« Last Edit: Aug 27th, 2008 at 2:01am by NGMsGhost »  

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Re: Parliamentary Ombudsman Sees The Light on 0845
Reply #1 - Aug 26th, 2008 at 10:54pm
 
Continued

Quote:
and

the Current Parliamentary Early Day Motion signed by 86 MPs expressing concern about the substantial additional cost of calling benefit helplines using 0845 numbers, especially from mobile phones.

http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=35520&SESSION=891

an earlier Parliamentary Early Day motion deploring the use of 0870 telephone numbers by government departments

http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=28872%09%09%09%09%09%09%09&...

and

Two other guidances from the Committee of Advertising Practice of the Advertising Standards Authority

www.cap.org.uk/cap/news_events/news/2005/CAP+rings+the+changes+for+telecoms+prov...


www.asa.org.uk/cap/advice_online/ad_alerts/Advertising+0845+and+087+numbers.htm

and finally Pages 5 and 6 of the below minutes from my own district council - Mole Valley District Council where in 2005 it agreed to adopt policy to stop any further or future use of 0845 and 0870 numbers.  See Minute 141 (Motion 2/2005 on P.5 of the PDF) at :-

www.molevalley.gov.uk/media/pdf/1/s/Council_Minutes_190705.pdf

I hope you will investigate this matter thoroughly as I am very disappointed indeed to see the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, of all bodies, still using one of these covert premium rate non geographic numbers as its main point of telephone contact.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter.

Yours faithfully,
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« Last Edit: Aug 27th, 2008 at 1:39pm by NGMsGhost »  

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Re: Parliamentary Ombudsman Sees The Light on 0845
Reply #2 - Aug 26th, 2008 at 11:02pm
 
And after two months and a little prompting about where my complaint had gone this was their reply:-

Quote:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject:      Re: your complaint about our public inquiry telephone line
Date:      Wed, 20 Aug 2008 13:38:59 +0100
From:      Smith Nicki <Nicki.Smith@ombudsman.org.uk>

Please see the attached response to your complaint about our use of an 0845 telephone number.

Yours sincerely

Nicki Smith
Executive Assistant to the Casework Management Team
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Email: nicki.smith@ombudsman.org.uk
Tel: 020 7217 4241


Download the Letter Here:- www.myimagehosting.com/show-10763lQmtx-84847.html

Looks like good news "in principle" but I'm still concerned about what she means by moving to an 0300 number in a "managed way" Roll Eyes

But if the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman doesn't even consider the need to get an 0300 number until they get a letter of complaint from a campaigner like me it would appear that The Central Office Of Information, The Contact Council and most of all Ofcom still cannot be doing their jobs properly. Shocked Angry  Smiley
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« Last Edit: Aug 27th, 2008 at 10:13am by NGMsGhost »  

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Re: Parliamentary Ombudsman Sees The Light on 0845
Reply #3 - Aug 26th, 2008 at 11:45pm
 
.... and?  the attachment said..?

Very good letter of complaint, by the way!
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Re: Parliamentary Ombudsman Sees The Light on 0845
Reply #4 - Aug 27th, 2008 at 2:03am
 
irrelevant wrote on Aug 26th, 2008 at 11:45pm:
.... and?  the attachment said..?


Now posted.  I think it would have been easier to type it all out by hand given the trouble I have had with printing, scanning and uploading the old style non content copyable PDF file they sent me containing their their reply.

I suppose at some point I will have to find the strength to post the five pages of total obfuscation I have just received from the Financial Services Authority alleging that the main priorities of a regulatory body set up by an Act of Parliament should be to run itself as though it was a commercial business (and clearly one of the Micheal O'Leary school of ethics at that!)
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« Last Edit: Aug 27th, 2008 at 2:07am by NGMsGhost »  

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Re: Parliamentary Ombudsman Sees The Light on 0845
Reply #5 - Aug 27th, 2008 at 2:26am
 
NGMsGhost wrote on Aug 27th, 2008 at 2:03am:
Now posted.  I think it would have been easier to type it all out by hand given the trouble I have had with printing, scanning and uploading the old style non content copyable PDF file they sent me containing their their reply.

Why do some companies insist on using PDFs for the most stupid reasons..  If it's a scan of a document, a TIFF file is quite good enough for most users.  I've had 30K word documents sent me in the past, with a three line message in them (typed all in CAPS no less!)  Or worse... I had to go find someone with powerpoint, once, to open an atachment for a job interview, that turned out to be nothing but a location map!   I suppose PDFs are at least more portable than those...



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Parlm'ntary Ombudsman Now Using 03 Nmbrs
Reply #6 - Mar 24th, 2009 at 3:28pm
 
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has now switched to using an 0345 number for contacting it as it promised it would do some months ago after my emails to the Ombudsman on the matter. Smiley Smiley

Their fax number has also been changed to an 0300 number.

See www.ombudsman.org.uk/contact_us/index.html

Quote:
Contact Us

If you need to make a complaint about a UK government department, or one of its agencies or the NHS in England

Ring our complaints Helpline 0345 015 4033

Or email phso.enquiries@ombudsman.org.uk
Or fax us on 0300 061 4000

The Helpline is open 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday.

Or write to us at:

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower
Millbank
London
SW1P 4QP
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« Last Edit: Mar 24th, 2009 at 3:29pm by NGMsGhost »  

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Re: Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr
Reply #7 - Mar 24th, 2009 at 3:48pm
 
Hearty congratulations on a campaigning success.

One never knows to what extent one may take credit and claim responsibility in this type of situation, but that need not matter.

Very well done.
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Re: Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr
Reply #8 - Mar 24th, 2009 at 4:11pm
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Mar 24th, 2009 at 3:48pm:
One never knows to what extent one may take credit and claim responsibility in this type of situation, but that need not matter.


In this particular case I am pretty much certain the PHSO would not have made the change to 03 at the time they did without my own correspondence and I am also absolutely certain that no other member of this campaign ever previously carried out any lobbying activity of the PHSO on their choice of phone number (as the lack of contributions from other forum members to the thread I started tends to corroborate).

I suspect that when they also saw the previous Parliamentary Early Day Motions on the matter and considered their own position as an Ombudsman that this no doubt further tipped the balance but I do not believe the process would have started without my initiation and I do not believe any MP was actively lobbying the PHSO at this time to change to 03 numbers.  Had that been the case then I am sure the Ombudsman would have told me that they were already considering an 03 switch due to a variety of other preceding input.

I do not know whether they Googled my own surname and saw the link with a longstanding former member of the House of Commons but if they did so then no doubt it cannot but have helped in persuading them that this was a matter that needed to be taken seriously.
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Re: Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr
Reply #9 - Mar 24th, 2009 at 5:05pm
 
NGMsGhost wrote on Mar 24th, 2009 at 4:11pm:
In this particular case ....

Some very good points are made and fully accepted.

I did however make the point that ..

SilentCallsVictim wrote on Mar 24th, 2009 at 3:48pm:
... , but that need not matter.


By this I mean that we can all feel happy and proud about any similar development, even when we cannot assemble such an overwhelming body of evidence as a basis for taking personal credit.
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Re: Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr
Reply #10 - Mar 24th, 2009 at 5:17pm
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Mar 24th, 2009 at 5:05pm:
By this I mean that we can all feel happy and proud about any similar development, even when we cannot assemble such an overwhelming body of evidence as a basis for taking personal credit.

Indeed I have frequently noticed that some more recent members of this forum are not at all shy of taking almost every single opportunity they can to receive radio and television coverage as the public spokesperson of this campaign group on campaigning issues, even when they were not personally the original moving force behind the issue in question. Wink Lips Sealed

Those newer forum members also do not seem to advise other longstanding forum members living in the same local area as them of campaigning events that those other forum members might attend (especially when they know the members in question do have the time to attend such weekday daytime events in London), again perhaps fearful that the media spotlight would not then fall solely upon themselves. Roll Eyes
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Re: Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr
Reply #11 - Mar 24th, 2009 at 8:07pm
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Mar 24th, 2009 at 5:05pm:
By this I mean that we can all feel happy and proud about any similar development, even when we cannot assemble such an overwhelming body of evidence as a basis for taking personal credit.

Perhaps I should add that seniority should not be an issue. Newbies must share delight and credit in the same way as Supreme Members.

NGMsGhost wrote on Mar 24th, 2009 at 5:17pm:
... members of this forum are not at all shy of taking almost every single opportunity they can to receive radio and television coverage as the public spokesperson of this campaign group ...

I have to disagree. It is a matter of much regret that there is no public spokesman in the name of a “SayNoTo0870 campaign group” that has achieved significant broadcast media coverage (I am aware of only a handful of fairly modest examples). Strictly speaking there is no such formally constituted group able to speak with a single voice.
There are many people who take every opportunity they can to advance some of the causes shared by members of this forum. Some of this work is through the media, the majority is undertaken quietly, behind the scenes. Some chose to bring the latter into the public domain, for reasons that I cannot always understand.

I hold the view that there is little purpose to be achieved in taking personal credit for campaigning achievements. I am however happy to acknowledge any just claim that may be made by those who feel differently and seek public credit for their efforts.

I must add that publicly acknowledged engagement in one campaigning success or activity may assist one’s efforts in pursuing that campaign, or indeed others. To have this effect, however, that acknowledgement must be achieved in a much wider area than a public internet discussion forum.

NGMsGhost wrote on Mar 24th, 2009 at 5:17pm:
... forum members also do not seem to advise ... of campaigning events that ... other forum members might attend ... perhaps fearful that the media spotlight would not then fall solely upon themselves.

I would recommend anyone seeking to keep the media spotlight on themselves not to make postings in a public forum to draw attention to public notification of public events that may be of interest to those who they see as being their competitors. I would also suggest that those who may organise “campaigning events” should involve only those who share their campaigning objectives and aim to exclude those known to be seeking the media spotlight.
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Re: Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr
Reply #12 - Mar 25th, 2009 at 8:57am
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Mar 24th, 2009 at 8:07pm:
Perhaps I should add that seniority should not be an issue. Newbies must share delight and credit in the same way as Supreme Members.


But I note that you are now a Supreme Member of the forum. Wink Grin

Quote:
I have to disagree. It is a matter of much regret that there is no public spokesman in the name of a “SayNoTo0870 campaign group” that has achieved significant broadcast media coverage (I am aware of only a handful of fairly modest examples). Strictly speaking there is no such formally constituted group able to speak with a single voice.


So you do not regard the media coverage you have achieved so far as being significant then?  I assume that means we can look forward to a great deal more of it in your name going fowards then?

Regarding the media I have made considerable efforts in the past and was disillusioned with the extent to which most of them did not seem to understand the issue or its significance or even the extent of the alllied dereliction of regulatory duty by Ofcom.  I only ever found one journalist who bothered to contact me again (rather than vica versa) as a result of material I had sent them and the underlying impression given was usually that this was all rather small beer from their point of view.  I have had the same repeated brush offs from people such as the senior staff of the OFT and the Competition Commission (who I have not been slow in trying to make aware of the issue).

The current move by BT and the other telcos to sanitise 0845 and 0870 by making us pay extra in line rental and/or increasingly exorbitant call connection fees (when making calls outside call packages) in order for calls to the numbers to be included in call packages unfortunately tends to make me believe the telcos and call centres will never give up the revenue share they have become used to (especially since Ofcom quite clearly actively supports their right to receive it at almost every turn) and instead will now try to hide it by building in to call package prices.

I am quite sure the recent move to include 0845 and 0870 call costs in call packages took place at the suggestion of and with the complicit support of the dark and shadowy Office of Government Commerce (OGC) who is at the back of the continued use of 0845 and 0870 by the DVLA, DWP, HMRC and numerous other departments and government agencies with large call centres (it is they who have been actively advising against a switch from 0845 and 0870 to 03 ever since the number range was introduced).  Let us be left in no doubt that the inclusion of 0845 and 0870 calls in call packages by first BT and now other telcos is quite clearly designed to scupper the successful rollout of 03 as a replacement for 0845 and 0870 numbers by government call centres.
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Re: Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr
Reply #13 - Mar 25th, 2009 at 12:30pm
 
NGMsGhost wrote on Mar 25th, 2009 at 8:57am:
But I note that you are now a Supreme Member of the forum.

Why the “but”? My point was that it makes no difference.

NGMsGhost wrote on Mar 25th, 2009 at 8:57am:
So you do not regard the media coverage you have achieved so far as being significant then?

I was referring only to media coverage of a “public spokesman in the name of a 'SayNoTo0870 campaign group'”, in response to a point made.

I am happy to discuss issues raised in the media, the way they are presented and ways of engaging the media further. As I have said, I see no purpose in discussing who did what or what effect it had, although I am happy to offer deserved congratulations to those who seek acknowledgement of their achievements.

NGMsGhost wrote on Mar 25th, 2009 at 8:57am:
Let us be left in no doubt that the inclusion of 0845 and 0870 calls in call packages by first BT and now other telcos is quite clearly designed to scupper the successful rollout of 03 as a replacement for 0845 and 0870 numbers by government call centres.


Allegations of conspiracy are very hard to disprove. Those who make them will commonly offer the fact that it is difficult to obtain proof to sustain the allegation as being proof that a conspiracy must exist.

Whatever circumstantial evidence there may be to support the case that is made, I must declare that I retain doubts; I am not convinced that such a conspiracy exists. Furthermore, if I were so convinced, I would cease campaigning efforts immediately. Whilst the campaigning cause would remain just and noble, it would be better for me to seek out one of the myriad other injustices in the world where I could hope that use of my time and energies would make a difference.


Other members may wish to comment on whether they find exchanges such as this entertaining. Whilst I DO NOT invite anyone to take sides in what appears to be a personal battle, it would be useful to know if other members would prefer myself and NGMsG to conduct it in private.

Perhaps someone would like to come forward with a proposal for how the members of this presently open public forum could organise themselves into a formal campaign group with agreed common positions on certain issues, which could be expressed by an official spokesperson. I dispute the suggestion that we have already reached this point. I also have severe doubts about whether it could be achieved, or even should be sought. If someone wishes to open a thread dedicated to discussion of this topic, I would be happy to consider the points made and add my contribution. I feel that this would however only be likely to be constructive if we could begin with a fairly well-formed set of proposals.
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Re: Prlm'ntary Ombudsman Accepts Case For 03 Nmbr
Reply #14 - Mar 25th, 2009 at 1:14pm
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Mar 25th, 2009 at 12:30pm:
I must declare that I retain doubts; I am not convinced that such a conspiracy exists. Furthermore, if I were so convinced, I would cease campaigning efforts immediately. Whilst the campaigning cause would remain just and noble, it would be better for me to seek out one of the myriad other injustices in the world where I could hope that use of my time and energies would make a difference.


Campaigning is always worthwhile because each company and government department retains the freedom to select their own telephony arrangements.  The conspiracy takes the form of the action of bodies such as Ofcom and the Office of Government Commerce who hold the master puppet strings that could have caused everyone to move away from hidden 084/7 revenue share to an explicit system of 09 (which should probably still be allowed for those parts of the private sector that wanted it) or 03 numbers so that people knew where they were paying for the cost of service through a phone call.  Those bodies have persistently refused to use their master puppet strings and in all their advisory papers and consultation documents have shown themselves as thoroughly content with the system of hidden charging they have allowed to grow up.

It is to the credit of those organisations initially conned in to using 084/7 who have moved to using 03 numbers that they have had the independent mindedness to ignore the covert signals they were getting from Ofcom, the Contact Council and the OGC that there was no need as yet to give up rooking the public by going on using 084/7 numbers.  However now I fear that the 03 users will find it is costing them more money to run these 03 numbers whilst the 084/7 merchants will continue to get their switchboard equipment and call charges at subsidised rates on the back of callers who will now be paying for them via more expensive call packages rather than directly and more perceptibly through higher charges for each 084/7 call they make to those organisations who use 084/7 numbers.

I would say it is a conspiracy since just pointing out the moral objectionableness of what is going on to the leading perpetrators like NHS Direct does not cause most of them to hold up their hands and change their ways but instead causes them to reel out an established pattern of untruths to justify 084/7 use that they have been fed by the their telecoms suppliers, Ofcom (read some of their consultations and how they have extolled the merits of 084/7 and 070 NTS numbers) and the Office of Government Commerce.

I do not feel I have made any point in this forum that I do not wish to be open to full public scrutiny.  It says much about your own mindset that you seem to prefer to conduct discussions behind closed doors in smoke filled rooms in the manner more frequently favoured by our opponents.
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