If you're calling customer service helplines to complain, you soon won't be faced with costly premium rate numbers under a Government crackdown.

From June 2014 the new Consumer Rights Directive, which is due to come into force in June 2014, will end expensive premium 084 and 087 numbers for customers calling airlines, train operators and major high street and online retailers.

Meanwhile the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will consider whether it could introduce similar measures for those calling banks, insurance companies and investment brokers.

Many firms already offer freephone or basic rate numbers but consumers can find that some traders provide an 0800 or freephone number for pre-contract calls to attract new customers but then only offer expensive premium rate numbers when the product or service has been paid for (see our Free 0800 Calls From Mobiles and Say No To 0870 guides for tips on cutting costs).

Consumer Affairs Minister, Jo Swinson, says the Government "believes it is inappropriate for callers to pay high call charges for accessing vital public services".

The move comes as only yesterday telecoms regulator Ofcom announced that 0800 numbers will be free to call from mobiles in 2015, while new rules to make the cost of calling businesses and services clearer are also going to be introduced (see the 0800 calls to be free from mobiles MSE News story).

Martin Lewis
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Cut costs now

In the meantime, if you can't beat the fees using your inclusive minutes there are other nifty tricks you can use to cut costs. Here's what you can do now to cut costs:

  • Check whether the number you need is part of your inclusive package, or is free to call before ringing it.
  • Use the website SayNoTo0870.com to search for an alternative, geographic number for many 08 numbers.
  • If you've a landline, use an override provider. This is a special phone company you can access without changing your home phone provider, 'overriding' the network. You can usually undercut the big providers.
  • If you have to use your mobile, you can cut costs to 0800 numbers by using the 0800Buster or the 0800 Wizard, which provide alternative access numbers.

MoneySavingExpert.com's Guy Anker says: "This is positive news as costly premium rate numbers have been a scourge for unsuspecting callers and a backdoor way for companies to profit at their expense.

"But the crackdown is limited and a few months off, so if you're faced with a premium rate number, always look for a geographical alternative, such as 020 or 0161, which are often included in inclusive minutes so don't cost anything to call."

Premium rates crackdown

Swinson says: "For too long, some businesses have been trying to extract every extra penny from their loyal customers.

"From next year, if something goes wrong with a cooker, or commuters want a refund on their season ticket, they will now pay the same to phone a helpline as they do to call friends or family.

"We want consumers to be confident to shop with a range of traders. The new rights announced today will mean consumers are entitled to the same level of protection whether they are purchasing goods or services online, at home or in a shop."

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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