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 in 2012
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."
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Ellen DeGeneres leads Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany in revealing game of Never Have I Ever
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...