Official: Government to stop using premium rate 0845 lines to access key public services

Callers including crime victims and the bereaved spent £56m on calls to departments

The Government is to stop using premium rate phone lines for its key public services, it has been announced.

New guidance issued by the Cabinet Office admitted that it is "inappropriate" to overcharge the public for key public services.

A damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found that callers, including victims of crime and the bereaved, spent £56million on expensive calls to government departments last year.

Calls from landlines to 0845 numbers typically cost between 1p and 11p a minute. From mobiles, the cost is usually between 14p and 41p per minute.

The new guidelines state: "It is inappropriate for callers to pay substantial charges for accessing core public services, particularly for vulnerable and low income groups.

"01, 02 and 03 numbers are all charged at standard geographic rates and are always included in available minutes within call packages.

"Departments should therefore first consider whether a non-geographic number is required, and if not, use a 01 or 02 prefix.

"Where a non-geographic number is needed, departments should treat the use of the 03 prefix as a default policy position for the provision of key public services."

When 0845 numbers continue to be used, an 03 alternative should also be offered, according to the document.

Departments will have to explain themselves to Cabinet Office ministers if they do not abide by the rules and provide numbers with 01, 02 or 03 prefixes.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, said: "This guidance is a step in the right direction but it's disappointing no deadline has been set and public bodies will still be able to use expensive 0845 numbers.

"People should not be left out of pocket when calling essential services so we need to see these new rules brought in as soon as possible, so that every government department plays fair."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee CAD Technician

£12800 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee CAD Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000+

£15600 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This renewable energy installat...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Liverpool - up to £28,000

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This is a large multi-site operation...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a lead...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss