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FOI response, HMRC (Read 21,471 times)
derrick
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FOI response, HMRC
Jun 26th, 2013 at 10:40am
 
A bit academic now that HMRC are moving to 03 numbers, but on 03rd June 2013 I submitted an FOI  for the geo number under 0845 3000627, the request and reply are below:-



Dear Mr *****

I refer to your request, which was received on 3 June 2013, for the following information:

I wish you to supply to me the geographical telephone number that lies beneath the 0845
3000 627 number under the Freedom of Information Act, as I am fed up with being charged
rip off charges for this type of number, we pay taxes to run HMRC and should not be
covertly charged extra for contacting you via the phone system there is a geographical
number and I do want it.



The information that you requested is exempt under section 43(2) of the Freedom of
Information Act as it would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of HMRC and its
preferred telephony provider.

We acknowledge that disclosure provides transparency and there is a public interest in
knowing that public money is being used effectively, that HMRC is getting value for money
when purchasing goods and services, and that the department’s procurement processes are
conducted in an open and honest way.   

However, there is also a public interest in withholding information where disclosure would be
likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the Department by affecting adversely its
bargaining position during contractual negotiations which would result in the less effective
use of public money.   

Having taken into account the arguments for and against disclosure we believe at this stage
that the public interest lies in maintaining the exemption.   

However, to be helpful outside of the act, I will explain how and why we are moving away
from 0845 numbers.   

HMRC recognises that the 0845 numbers have increasingly disadvantaged customers
particularly on mobile tariffs, and as a result we are moving to 0300 numbering.  Calls to 03
numbers will cost the same as calls to geographic numbers (starting 01 or 02), and be
included as part of any inclusive call minutes or discount schemes in the same way as
geographic calls.  So 0845 3000 627 has now become 0300 200 3300.   

If you are not happy with this reply you may request a review by writing to HMRC FOI Team,
Room 1C/23, 100 Parliament Street London SWIA 2BQ or email
foi.review@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk. You must request a review within 2 months of the date of this
letter. It would assist our review if you set out which aspects of the reply concern you and
why you are dissatisfied. 

If you are not content with the outcome of an internal review, you may apply directly to the
Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner will not usually
consider a case unless you have exhausted the internal review procedure provided by
HMRC. He can be contacted at The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF. 


There is no point in seeking a review then an appeal to the ICO, but the last time I did this, about 4 years ago, I did receive the numbers after requesting a review.


.
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derrick
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Re: FOI response, HMRC
Reply #1 - Jul 31st, 2013 at 12:50pm
 
Further to my post above, I did decide to ask for an internal review just for the hell of it, (as the 0845 number I requested a geo for is now an 0300 number), and finally received the following, (still refusing): -

Thank you for your email of 29 June 2013 requesting a review of HMRC’s response of 25 June 2013 to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

Your request

On 3 June 2013 you asked for:


"I wish you to supply to me the geographical telephone number that lies beneath the 0845 3000 627 number under the Freedom of Information Act, as I am fed up with being charged rip off charges for this type of number, we pay taxes to run HMRC and should not be covertly charged extra for contacting you via the phone system there is a geographical number and I do want it."

Our response

HMRC replied on 25 June 2013 refusing your request under section43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act as disclosure would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of HMRC and its preferred telephony provider. 

Request for review

You wrote on 29 June 2013 asking HMRC to review our response to your request. The purpose of the internal review is to provide a fair and thorough review of how your request was handled pursuant to the FOIA. 


The Act gives applicants two rights in respect of information held by a public authority:

(1) a right to be told if the information is held (known as the duty to confirm or deny); and
(2) a right to have that information communicated subject to any exemptions that might apply.


Your original request was received on 3 June 2013 and HMRC responded on 25 June 2013, within the statutory 20-working day limit required by section 10(1) of the Act.  HMRC’s reply of 25 June 2013 also provided information about your right to request a review and how to
complain to the Information Commissioner if you remained dissatisfied, in accordance with Section 17(7) of the Act.

The fact that you may object to the information provided or feel that it does not have the effect you want is not a matter that needs to be considered under the Act.  So, on this basis, my reply is confined solely to how we handled your request.

I will deal with your points in the order you have raised them for clarity.


a) In your review request of 29 June 2013 you said
“I see no reason for this information to be "likely to prejudice the commercial interests of HMRC and its preferred telephony provider.", yours is a government agency funded by the taxpayers and as such should not have any commercial interests, the phone number and associated hardware are
properties of the tax payers, i.e. me, so I require you to supply said number(s) under the FOIA.” 

Section 43 FOIA exempts information, disclosure of which would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person. Under section 81 of the Act, a government department counts as a person for these purposes and as such we are entitled to rely on this exemption.

Although we were able to confirm we held the information you had requested, it was withheld because disclosing it would harm the commercial interests of HMRC. Having reviewed the information we hold in relation to your request, I am satisfied that disclosing it would have a harmful effect on this department.


Whilst it is always in the public interest for contracts between a government department and a commercial entity to be open and transparent, when disclosure of the information would prejudice the commercial interests of HMRC, that would not be in the public interest.  The costs of HMRC's telephony contract are dependent on usage levels so disclosing a geographical number would be detrimental to the terms of that contract. I have therefore concluded that the balance of the public interest favours withholding the information.

b) “I requested the same a few years ago and was in the first instance refused, I requested a review and was then supplied with the relevant numbers and an apology for not supplying them in the first instance, these numbers do not work now, even using the one "to call from abroad" is met with a message that as we are calling from the UK we should use the 0845 number. 

The 0845 number is a non-geographic number, meaning that it is not attached to any particular location or assigned to a specific telephone line.  There are in fact several geographical numbers that underlie the 0845 number and depending on the nature of a customer’s query their call is automatically routed to any one of our Contact Centres across the UK.  These geographic numbers can be changed or closed without impacting on the 0845 number.
 

c) Why are people abroad treated better than people in the UK?”


Customers who telephone from outside of the UK are routed to the same set of advisers as those customers telephoning from within the UK.  The 0845 number is not always accessible abroad which is why a geographic number is used.

continued............

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derrick
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Re: FOI response, HMRC
Reply #2 - Jul 31st, 2013 at 12:51pm
 
............................


Conclusion


I have now carefully considered your request dated 3 June 2013, and our response dated 27 June 2013.  In conclusion, I am satisfied that HMRC dealt with your request for information correctly and uphold the decision to rely on section 43(2) of the FOIA.   

Outside of the Freedom of Information Act you may find it helpful to know that a report by the National Audit Office into the customer service performance of HMRC was published on 18 December 2012 and this includes information about our Telephony.

http://www.nao.org.uk/report/hm-revenue-customs-customer-service-performance/

As advised in our previous response the 0845 3000 627 has now become 0300 200 3300 and calls to this number should cost the same as calls to geographic numbers.  It may also be helpful if I explain that it is better for our customers to use the 0300 number rather than a geographical number as this allows us to route our customers to the most appropriate helpline with the shortest queue and some customer
questions can be answered by our Interactive Voice Response (IVR) messages. 
   
The Ofcom link below gives more information about 0300 numbers.


Ofcom | What are 03 numbers?


If you are not content with the outcome of an internal review, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision.  The Information Commissioner will not usually consider a case unless you have exhausted the internal review procedure provided by HMRC. He can be contacted at The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely

Edited:
Name removed by Dave

Freedom of Information Officer
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« Last Edit: Jul 31st, 2013 at 2:37pm by Dave »  
 
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