Premium Rate Government Numbers Screw the Poorest People out of £56m a Year

By Gary Cutlack on at

Research by the National Audit Office has found that we spend around £56m a year phoning various government departments, with the rise in use of the premium 084 numbers costing us dearly.

In the 2012/13 year, the NAO reckons we spent a total of 880 million minutes on calls to government departments, with 402 million of those being wasted while sitting there on hold waiting to speak to someone. So we all spent £26m on being angry while listening to classical music, plus the likelihood is that it's people struggling with bills and benefits that will incur the greatest costs on the line to the suits.

The NAO's outlined the inconsistencies in the government's approach, too. Some departments use premium numbers and some don't, and there are no extra features or reduced waiting times on lines that do charge more. Some just charge more for a laugh and because they can.

Meanwhile, HMRC has emerged as the most complained about department and the one that tops the 'phone rage' charts for wasting our time, although it does at least use cheaper 03 non-geographic numbers for many calls -- and we know that Ofcom's planning on tidying the system up and making call charges a little clearer in future. [NAO via The Register]

Image credit: Waiting on the phone from Shutterstock