Of the many irritations of modern life, the words “calls may be charged from mobiles” must rank pretty high. Like the banks and the energy companies, the mobile phone operators have long treated their customers with contempt, as anyone who has inadvertently received a punitive bill for “roaming” calls while abroad can testify. Only recently has action been taken on that particular scam.
Almost as bad is the bill for anyone calling an 0800 number, fondly imagining that this “freephone” call would indeed be free. In this case we discover an unholy alliance of our most hated corporates. Thus, if you ring an 0800 “customer helpline” for an energy company from a mobile, you will wait so long to be connected to a human being – that is, if you manage to navigate the automated switchboard – that the bill for the phone call would exceed even the inflated cost of your gas or electricity. And that’s before you start arguing with them.
Then the charges and interest the bank levies when the bill plunges your current account into overdraft is but the final humiliation inflicted by this corporate gang bang.
So the news that “freephone” numbers will also be free from mobile networks has a certain air of liberation attached to it. Something is clearly stirring in the nation’s regulators, with the Financial Conduct Authority being ready to fine the banks large sums, and now Ofcom taking some action to protect the consumer against the rapacious mobile phone firms. All the political parties are agreed that “something must be done” about the energy companies, and that ought to include doing something radical to Ofgem.
The only complaint we can make over this change is that it will be so long in coming. The changes are not due to take effect for another 18 months, and we can discount the possibility of any mobile phone firm volunteering to implement change before then. As so often with an 0800 number, they just keep us hanging on for what seems like an eternity.