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Some HMRC numbers released under FOI (Read 32,505 times)
confirmordeny
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Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Jan 23rd, 2010 at 3:07pm
 


HMRC has released 5 pages worth of geographic phone numbers for its offices in response to my FOI request.  I hope this is helpful.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/17980/response/66383/attach/3/0845%20Inter...
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Barbara
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Re: Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Reply #1 - Jan 23rd, 2010 at 3:31pm
 
That is good news, well done, just shows it is worth a try.  Hope they don't now withdraw them but maybe I'm being pessimistic.  Thanks for the good work.
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sherbert
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Re: Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Reply #2 - Jan 23rd, 2010 at 3:53pm
 
confirmordeny wrote on Jan 23rd, 2010 at 3:07pm:
HMRC has released 5 pages worth of geographic phone numbers for its offices in response to my FOI request.  I hope this is helpful.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/17980/response/66383/attach/3/0845%20Inter...



Looking at that, they have given you 'international numbers'. Are they going to take your call if you telephone any of those numbers from the UK? Undecided
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SilentCallsVictim
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Re: Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Reply #3 - Jan 23rd, 2010 at 8:20pm
 
(I hope that regular readers will enjoy another “epic”. On this occasion I consider it to be unusually suitable to discuss general campaign tactics in public.)

Well done
confirmordeny
. The exchange shows admirable courteous persistence against responses which, although polite and sometimes helpful, were essentially resisting the request.

The issue of these “international numbers” is interesting. Previous adventures have shown that calls from the UK may not be accepted by agents answering these numbers.

The locater information clearly states “If you're calling from abroad please telephone: ”, whereas these numbers are said in the correspondence from HMCR to represent, both on the website and in the re-formatted list that has been provided, “the information requested”.

The request clearly asked for “geographic alternatives” not for the numbers used for some different purpose in the same office. The importance of the relationship of equivalence between the two was made very clear.

If the geo number is only for a specific service, i.e. access for overseas callers, then it is not truly an “alternative”. If the situation remains as previously understood then this information is not what is requested and the response may need to be challenged (see below).

I am not a lawyer, so my beliefs cannot be taken as having any authority, however I would understand that a response to a FOI request does not place HMRC under any direct and legally enforceable obligation to ensure that the information provided is made to be accurate. One cannot demand that the tail wags the dog. FOI requests are only about information that is held, not about how a public body behaves. Indeed, a major purpose of FOI requests is to drag out information that is held so as to show it to be false.

If I am correct, then as things stand, any caller using one of these so called “alternatives” from the UK who is asked to call again on the 0845 number cannot cite the FOI response as providing authority for anything more than them having made an innocent mistake.


That is not however to say that this great achievement is meaningless - far from it. FOI requests can help in raising issues that lead to changes of policy. The dog can, as it were, be led by the tail.

The information has been provided without any qualification about the use for overseas callers (other than the reference to it also existing on the web site). Given this, I see every good reason to encourage callers to use the alternatives (except where the 0845 number would be cheaper or the same cost). It is likely that the media may be interested to run this story.

This could provide help with efforts to press HMRC to consider and adopt relevant policy changes, such as those listed below:

1. Withdraw the privilege of a dedicated line offered to overseas callers, given that this truly exists, by offering the alternative to all. (This simple measure could be implemented on a temporary basis, perhaps forced by wide publication of a misleading response to a FOI request, pending more radical changes.)

2. Provide and publish genuine alternatives to the non-geographic numbers. (This would be a natural continuation of the process of the FOI request. It is however likely to be somewhat fraught.)

3. Replace ALL 0845 numbers with 0345 (or 0300), assuming that there is some genuine benefit in use of non-geographic numbers. Perhaps offer 0845, and other, alternatives for those who may benefit from lower rates from some telephone companies, if such promotion of particular telephone companies is considered proper or necessary. Provide alternative numbers and services for overseas callers, confident in the knowledge that these would not need to be abused. (I see this as the only solution to be applied across HMRC and all other public sector bodies. This may have to wait until more general reviews of telephone access that are currently underway have been completed.)

I would be happy to extend my own engagement with officials and media on these matters, with reference to this specific issue, if invited to do so (please email or PM me if this could be helpful).
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« Last Edit: Jan 23rd, 2010 at 9:06pm by SilentCallsVictim »  
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confirmordeny
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Re: Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Reply #4 - Jan 23rd, 2010 at 9:34pm
 
I rang the first number on the list 0191 203 7178 just now, I wasn't expecting anyone to answer I just wanted to see if it would ring which it did.
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Re: Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Reply #5 - Jan 25th, 2010 at 9:08am
 
SilentCallsVictim wrote on Jan 23rd, 2010 at 8:20pm:
(I hope that regular readers will enjoy another “epic”. On this occasion I consider it to be unusually suitable to discuss general campaign tactics in public.)

Well done
confirmordeny
. The exchange shows admirable courteous persistence against responses which, although polite and sometimes helpful, were essentially resisting the request.

The issue of these “international numbers” is interesting. Previous adventures have shown that calls from the UK may not be accepted by agents answering these numbers.

The locater information clearly states “If you're calling from abroad please telephone: ”, whereas these numbers are said in the correspondence from HMCR to represent, both on the website and in the re-formatted list that has been provided, “the information requested”.

The request clearly asked for “geographic alternatives” not for the numbers used for some different purpose in the same office. The importance of the relationship of equivalence between the two was made very clear.

If the geo number is only for a specific service, i.e. access for overseas callers, then it is not truly an “alternative”. If the situation remains as previously understood then this information is not what is requested and the response may need to be challenged (see below).

I am not a lawyer, so my beliefs cannot be taken as having any authority, however I would understand that a response to a FOI request does not place HMRC under any direct and legally enforceable obligation to ensure that the information provided is made to be accurate. One cannot demand that the tail wags the dog. FOI requests are only about information that is held, not about how a public body behaves. Indeed, a major purpose of FOI requests is to drag out information that is held so as to show it to be false.

If I am correct, then as things stand, any caller using one of these so called “alternatives” from the UK who is asked to call again on the 0845 number cannot cite the FOI response as providing authority for anything more than them having made an innocent mistake.


That is not however to say that this great achievement is meaningless - far from it. FOI requests can help in raising issues that lead to changes of policy. The dog can, as it were, be led by the tail.

The information has been provided without any qualification about the use for overseas callers (other than the reference to it also existing on the web site). Given this, I see every good reason to encourage callers to use the alternatives (except where the 0845 number would be cheaper or the same cost). It is likely that the media may be interested to run this story.

This could provide help with efforts to press HMRC to consider and adopt relevant policy changes, such as those listed below:

1. Withdraw the privilege of a dedicated line offered to overseas callers, given that this truly exists, by offering the alternative to all. (This simple measure could be implemented on a temporary basis, perhaps forced by wide publication of a misleading response to a FOI request, pending more radical changes.)

2. Provide and publish genuine alternatives to the non-geographic numbers. (This would be a natural continuation of the process of the FOI request. It is however likely to be somewhat fraught.)

3. Replace ALL 0845 numbers with 0345 (or 0300), assuming that there is some genuine benefit in use of non-geographic numbers. Perhaps offer 0845, and other, alternatives for those who may benefit from lower rates from some telephone companies, if such promotion of particular telephone companies is considered proper or necessary. Provide alternative numbers and services for overseas callers, confident in the knowledge that these would not need to be abused. (I see this as the only solution to be applied across HMRC and all other public sector bodies. This may have to wait until more general reviews of telephone access that are currently underway have been completed.)

I would be happy to extend my own engagement with officials and media on these matters, with reference to this specific issue, if invited to do so (please email or PM me if this could be helpful).



I know this has been answered elswhere, but can you remind us what is to stop you using one of these 'international numbers' from your mobile? They would not be able to work out where the call originated from would they?
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lompos
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Re: Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Reply #6 - Jan 29th, 2010 at 5:59pm
 
Neither would they be able to work out  where you called from if you prefixed the number with 141, e.g

for Merseyside, given as +44 151 471 8435, you should dial 141 0151 471 8435
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SilentCallsVictim
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Re: Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Reply #7 - Jan 30th, 2010 at 4:28am
 
The matter of calling numbers intended for international callers has been covered at length previously.

If the number is offered as an alternative way of accessing the same service then there should be no great problem. If, as we understanding is the case with at least some HMRC numbers, access is to a special team dedicated to that function then there could be difficulties, or ethical issues raised. The agent may have cause to ask if the caller needs the facilities of a specialist team and may ask them to re-dial if not. The response to the FOI request does suggest that they are "alternatives", however this may be seen to contradict the information on the web site.

One (or both) of two possible methods may be used to technically verify the original of the call. CLI would show the 44 prefix as part of the number (explicitly or implicitly) if this was not suppressed by using 141. I cannot be sure that this would suppress the fact that the call originated on the UK network.

Details of the location from where a call is originated are made available to call recipients on demand. As this does not represent personal data it cannot be suppressed. I have no idea what this gives in the case of calls from mobile networks; it could be the location, according to the cell from which the call was originated, in which case it would presumably be able to recognise that a call was originated from a foreign network using roaming.

My advice would be to openly use the information given in response to the FOI request and see what happens. If the call is refused, then the accuracy of the response to the FOI request must be challenged.

There are two distinct approaches being discussed here. Some are trying to find ways of getting around a problem, which may involve some moderately tricky dialling, or use of an alternative phone, and possibly deceit. Others are perhaps trying to get the problem fixed at source, for the benefit of all. Apart from the moral issues that may be raised, I have no fundamental problem with the former, however my efforts are focused on the latter.
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catj
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Re: Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Reply #8 - Jan 30th, 2010 at 7:25pm
 
I wonder where calling 4.41355E+11 connects to?  Is it their branch on Jupiter?



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NGMsGhost
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Re: Some HMRC numbers released under FOI
Reply #9 - Apr 28th, 2010 at 10:14pm
 
A new thread just started by phantomsteve in the Government and Public Sector section of the forum at www.saynoto0870.com/cgi-bin/forum/YaBB.cgi?num=1272461499/0 may be of interest since it indicates that he encountered difficulty when using one of the International Numbers provided in the FOI Response.  This number was 0161 210 3087   He was told that he should not have called it as he was calling from within the UK.

So a policy based complaint to the Chief Executive of HMRC, Lesley Strathie (lesley.strathie@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk), that they are discriminating against citizens based in the UK who call these "International Numbers" may well be in order along the lines I suggest in the thread started by phantomsteve.

It is interesting to note that the list of International Numbers was formerly published by HMRC on its website three or four years ago and then deliberately removed by HMRC.
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« Last Edit: Apr 28th, 2010 at 10:14pm by NGMsGhost »  

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