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Which? challenges banks on customer call costs

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Which? is claiming that many of the UK’s leading banks are making existing customers pay to call them, while offering new customers access to free phone numbers.

An investigation by the consumer group found that the majority of banks, insurers and energy companies are operating a two-tier system, offering 0800 numbers for new customers but an 0844 or an 0845 number for existing customers.

Worse still, 20 of the 34 companies surveyed make their customers call expensive 0845 numbers to complain about bad service.

In addition, consumers are faced with a baffling number of different charges depending on the number they call, with call costs for a typical 20 minute peak time call from a BT landline ranging from just over 50p to call 0845, to over £1 to call an 0844 or an 0870 number, to over £2 to call an 0871 number.

Costs rocket when calling from a mobile, with the same typical 20 minute call from an Orange pay monthly phone ranging from £2.50 to £8 depending on the telephone number prefix.

Which? is calling for greater transparency and easy-to-understand information from companies on call costs, as more than half of the 34 companies looked at failed to give adequate details about typical call costs on their websites.

However, according to Which? banks that already provide clear and comprehensive information included Smile, The Co-operative Bank, Santander and Barclays.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, comments: “It is unbelievable that companies would add insult to injury by charging their customers a premium to make a complaint.”

He adds: “It’s even worse when they offer new customers access to 0800 numbers while leaving loyal customers to pay more.”

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