This long overdue announcement was made today. The National Audit Office found the numbers, often starting 0845 or 0870, cost callers
a staggering £56 million last year. On July 18, the NAO published two documents concerning this practice that can be downloaded from its website
. According to Charges for customer telephone lines
"The most vulnerable callers face some of the highest charges.
Vulnerable and low income households rely disproportionately on mobile pay-as-you-go telephone deals. These incur high charges for Freephone and higher rate lines. Cabinet Office guidance states that it is inappropriate to use higher rate numbers when dealing with people on low incomes or vulnerable groups."
At least 59 of these numbers served these vulnerable groups; it is interesting to note that according to the same document, callers spent nearly half their time on the line waiting before being put through. A report which covered inter alia
premium rate lines was published
as far back as July 2006.
While it will doubtless be comforting for people to learn that in future their own government will not be ripping them off when they dial for assistance, other scams cannot be banished by executive order. Earlier this month, a research group found
a particularly nasty piece of malware called Mouabad which allows phishers to hijack Android phones in order to run up massive bills by dialling premium rate numbers. Their advice is to be careful what apps you install. There is a UK website
dedicated to combatting phone fraud; there are also plenty of anti-scam sites and boards for you to access freely. Don't be shy about doing so.