Financial Sector Banned from Using 0845 Numbers for Customer Services

The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) have announced their UK-wide ban on premium rate numbers and other non-standard numbers for financial services firms.

Some banks, insurance companies and other financial organisations have already made the switch to 03 ‘standard rate’ numbers for customer services lines. But the FCA’s ban, to be introduced on the 26th October, is an attempt to clean up bad practice for good. There are still many firms gaining revenue from their customers who call up to complain or to ask for help. They do this by using revenue sharing or premium rate (084, 087, 09) numbers. Some firms in fact, will advertise a free phone number for new customers, but then use a premium rate number for existing customers, forcing them to incur unfair charges when they need to make contact.

The FCA has stipulated that “consumers contacting a firm by telephone, regarding contracts already entered into with the firm, must not be bound to pay more than a ‘basic rate’ (including mobile numbers)”. As far as the numbers that may be used, geographic numbers (01, 02 and 03), freephone numbers (0800, 0808) and mobile numbers (07) all fall under the ‘basic rate’ umbrella, and are safe to provide for customer service lines.

The FCA have also kept things simple by applying the ban to all post-contractual calls made by consumers. This means that any call regarding current contracts between the consumer and the financial firm, whether it’s making an insurance claim or accessing telephone banking services, must not incur any extra charges above the basic rate.

The FCA’s new ban would be described by some as overdue, but it’s an excellent step forward that makes things fairer for consumers.

Martyn King, Managing Director at Nexbridge
mlk “We wholeheartedly support the FCA’s ban on 084 and 087 numbers for all existing customers. It seems many businesses are still unaware of the changes to call charges that took place on the 1st July. Many are not updating their marketing information in relation to the access/service charges, or worse still, are ignoring the rules altogether. We can fully understand the FCA’s position with regard to customers of financial institutions being subject to high call charges, and suggest that a move to an 03 number range is the best option. It’s definitely the most palatable option for the caller.”

The FCA’s ban comes somewhat as a response to the earlier (2013) Consumer Contracts Regulations, which had already made it illegal for traders to provide other than basic-rate numbers for customer helplines. But the financial sector has until now been able to use more expensive numbers for the same purposes. The new ban from the FCA means there are very few businesses now permitted to charge consumers non-standard call rates for general telephone contact.

Nexbridge had foreseen the move away from premium rate numbers, and encourages its customers to use the 03 numbers in all its number packs. This is also why we use an 03 number for our free conference calling service. It’s important to understand what consumers value, and its certainly not high call charges, which they may not realise they have incurred until they receive their next phone bill.

Useful Links

FCA Consultation Paper on Improving Complaints Handling
Department for Business and Innovation Skills: Consumer Contracts Regulations