“Outrageous” cost of calling Government – TYLER

Lib Dem Peer Lord Tyler this week (Thursday) branded charges made for calls to government telephone numbers “outrageous”.  

Speaking in a debate about private companies making money from providing official services like passport applications and European Health Insurance Cards he asked if the responsible Minister was aware of occasions “when the Government make money out of services that should be free?”

“Surely, what is right for the private goose should be right for the government gander,” Lord Tyler continued.  The Peer first started a campaign against the use by government of high-rate 0870 telephone numbers in 2005, when he tabled a motion in the House of Commons.

In 2007, the then government began to introduce “03” numbers, which telephone providers are obliged to include in their packages of free calls from landlines, or of free minutes from mobiles. 08 numbers continue to attract additional charges for the caller, with even “freephone” 0800 numbers incurring a fee on some mobile networks.

New figures this week revealed that citizens were still paying out £56m a year in unnecessary phone charges, because government departments and agencies were sticking with “08” numbers rather than moving to “03”.

Lord Tyler has now tabled a further question in the Lords, asking whether any part of government is profiting from these charges or whether all the money is now going to telephone providers.

Commenting, Lord Tyler said:

“Whoever this money is going to, it’s quite wrong that citizens should have to pay simply to interact by telephone with their government.

“Telephone companies now offer free calls in all sorts of packages, from just weekend calls, to unlimited all-day, everyday tariffs. So for a limited monthly fee, you can ring anyone you like at any time at no extra cost. The only numbers it costs to ring are those to 08 prefix numbers. That’s why every arm of government – national and local – should move to the new 03 prefix numbers instead.

“Under Labour, government was raking in millions each year in so-called “revenue-sharing” schemes where the phone company gave departments part of their inflated profits. These have now been largely curtailed to save callers money, but I want to know if any of them still linger in government today.”

ENDS

1. Paul Tyler’s first Commons motion on this subject is at: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/print/2004-05/602
2. His latest question to the Government is:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether any of its Departments or Agencies receive revenue from calls made to non-geographic telephone numbers, via revenue-sharing schemes or by any other means.
3. The full exchange is available at:  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/131121-0001.htm#13112188000846

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