Public Pay premium charges for Government Calls

Public Pay premium charges for  Government CallsA Public Accounts Committee report said that more than 100 million calls by the public to Government departments were charged at premium rates and took too long to answer. It found most departments have no targets at all, despite a normal industry benchmark demanding calls be answered within 20 seconds.

The committee also reported an estimated cost of these phone calls to the government departments were about£56million.

Around 63% calls were made to higher rate numbers with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which receives 100 million of the calls and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) taking 68 million calls.

Margaret Hodge , the Committee's  chairwoman said: "Customers of Government services should be able to contact those services easily and cheaply. Charging customers higher rates by making them use 0845 or other high rate numbers is not acceptable, especially when the customers are often vulnerable people.

"We found that one third of customer telephone lines across Central Government used higher rate numbers. Half of those lines serve the poorest people.''

A Government spokes man mentioned that, The Cabinet Office is now running a cross-departmental group to consider customer telephone lines. Involvement of this group has made good progress in drafting guidance on prefix number selection and establishing best practice. This will definitely provide guidance and benefit the public.