Mobile Phones: Fees and Charges
Culture Media and Sport

Photo of Mary Glindon

Mary Glindon (North Tyneside, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport if he will encourage mobile telephone operators to review their charges for (a) 0800, (b) directory enquiries and (c) other non-geographic calls.

Photo of Edward Vaizey

Edward Vaizey (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Wantage, Conservative)

This is an operational matter for Ofcom, the independent regulator.

Ofcom is currently engaged in a review of non-geographic calls, which includes 0800 and directory inquiries and is of the view that regulatory change is needed as the existing market structure does not encourage transparency or competition. This has included detailed discussion with industry to gather support for the changes, minimize implementation costs and risks and identify the full consequence of change.

In February 2012, Ofcom expects to consult on detailed proposals intended to overhaul the regulation of non-geographic calls. The mobile industry will be directly engaged in the consultation process. Ofcom's proposals include the recommendation that 080 should be free from all phones (fixed and mobile); and that there should be clear pricing rules for revenue sharing ranges, including 118, which will allow price comparison between 118 providers and restrict the mobile companies' ability to exploit consumer confusion.

Annotations

David Hickson
Posted on 12 Jan 2012 3:25 pm (Report this annotation)

An uncharacteristically complete and accurate answer from the Minister!

The forthcoming further Ofcom consultation should enable us all to clearly understand the reality of the present position. Mobile companies are indeed exploiting consumer confusion, however they are not alone.

Users of 0845 and 0844 numbers commonly claim that the mobile companies are exclusively responsible for the fact that callers pay more. This is untrue. Callers (from all phones) pay more because of the "revenue share" from which all users of 084 numbers benefit, in some way.


The worst cases, in my view, are HMRC and the DWP agencies, and especially NHS providers including over 1400 NHS GPs (see my database at http://http://tiny.cc/GP084DB).

The Ofcom proposal is for them to have to openly declare the "Service Charge", of between 2p and 5p per minute which they (indirectly) impose on their callers, to their (indirect) benefit.

Ofcom also proposes for telephone companies to declare their added "Access Charge", which extends to beyond 15p per minute in the case of some landline providers and nearly 40p per minute for some mobile providers.


We must have the clarity which this "unbundling" will bring. A lot of this misuse will however end as soon as the current reality is recognised and the exploiters of confusion are disarmed.

HMRC and DWP agencies should currently be declaring the 2p per minute "Service Charge" which they choose to impose on callers, notwithstanding the additional Access Charge of up to 15p or 40p. NHS GPs have been subject to contract changes to prohibit the extra costs which they cause to be incurred by their patients - perhaps they will continue to deny the reality until required to declare their telephone queueing and booking fee of around 5p per minute!


For completeness, it is necessary to point out that in the case of mobile charges for calls to 0800 and 0845 numbers, BT is currently muddying the waters further by trying to take a share for itself of what it deems to be excessive charges. Whilst action in relation to this is being pursued, we are seeing some very strange effects, with utterly perverse temporary charging structures.

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