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New laws covering Customer Service telephone lines in UK and Europe.

 8:29 pm on May 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure where this belongs on WebmasterWorld, if anywhere, as it's not exactly a webmaster-related issue.

On 13 June 2014 new consumer laws come into effect in every EU member state based on an EU Directive published in October 2011. If you're doing business in the EU these new laws will probably apply to you. There are many changes concerning various details that must be stated before sale and many changes to the return and refund rights for goods and services.

One important aspect concerns telephone lines offered for post-sale customer services. Any such line must henceforth use a "basic rate" telephone number.

In the UK that equates to a telephone number beginning 01, 02 or 03, and, from 26 June 2015, also telephone numbers beginning 080. Numbers which do not and will not comply begin 084, 087 and 09.

Ofcom has reserved matching 034 and 037 numbers for all users of existing 084 and 087 numbers to migrate. This process can often be completed in a matter of days. That's handy, because the new consumer law takes effect in just under three weeks time.

Some UK-specific information:

The compliant prefixes vary from country to country, but the same "basic rate" principle applies right across the EU.

Some businesses have said they haven't been given enough warning. However, the EU Directive was first proposed in 2008, and finally published in October 2011. The UK Government held a lengthy consultation on the contents in mid-2012. The draft legislation was published in August 2013 and the final version in December 2013. The 03 numbers that most businesses appear to be using as the solution first became available in 2007.



 8:48 pm on May 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

What does "basic rate" mean?

Where I live, there is a somewhat short-sighted law that says state government offices have to answer their phones within x number of rings. Result: instead of listening to the phone ringing for minutes on end-- which is annoying but at least doesn't cost you anything-- callers are promptly put on hold-- which costs money if it's a long-distance call. Maybe it's not so short-sighted after all; it makes callers more likely to hang up and forget the whole thing.


 9:11 pm on May 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

In the UK a "basic rate" call is defined as a call to a geographic number beginning 01, 02 or to a geographic-rate number beginning 03. The caller pays for the call but does not incur additional fees.

On the other hand, calls to 084, 087 and 09 numbers involve an additional charge for the caller such that the running costs incurred by the called party are subsidised by callers. In many cases the additional fee is large enough such that the called party also receives a revenue share payout. It is inappropriate for these types of numbers to be used for customer service lines and doing so will soon be unlawful.

There's some confusion over 080 numbers. These are free calls from landlines. However they will not comply with the new consumer regulations until they also become free calls from mobile phones. That isn't due to happen until 26 June 2015. Users of 080 numbers are advised to run an 03 number in parallel for the next year or so.


 8:32 am on May 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

OK in most cases, but for businesses who charge extra for telephone support this prevents the use of a reasonably convenient way to pay for it.


 9:51 am on May 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

If it is a specific technical support line then it is exempt from the regulations. However, it must provide no complaints facilities and must be clearly labelled as a chargeable technical support line.

There must be a separate "basic rate" telephone number for complaints and queries. Sales lines can continue using high-rate numbers but from 26 June 2015, Ofcom require the Service Charge be explicitly declared wherever an 084, 087 or 09 number is advertised making it clear the business is making money from the call, and how much.

Many businesses are currently swapping both their sales and their complaints lines over to "basic rate" numbers. This can only be good for the consumer.


 11:09 am on May 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

@graeme_p Given the full cost of answering telephone calls and supporting customers, does an income stream of 3p to 4p per minute (on an 084 number) or 6p to 8p per minute (on an 087 number) actually "pay for it"? Does it "pay for it" if the caller is placed in a queue for perhaps half an hour to an hour before they actually get to speak to someone?


 11:14 am on May 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

As a consumer, this surely has to be welcomed. There are far too many "customer service" lines devised to incur additional charges, especially where the consumer caller is only phoning because of a problem with the service or equipment supplied. The impression is that many businesses see it as a way to squeeze more money from the callers.


 4:00 pm on May 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

If I'm calling to get a problem with a service I am paying for solved, which is a company failure, I do not expect it to cost me very much, if anything. In those circumstances, I'm not a happy bunny when I'm heavily charged for the call, since, I feel, it is down to the company to keep their services running, without my call.
Here in spain, Telefonica held the record for highest number of customer complaints, for many years. And, guess what, you paid top price when you called customer service......... :(


 6:14 pm on May 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

From 13 June 2014 those high call prices should be a thing of the past.

I have linked to the UK legislation above. It would be interesting to know if the equivalent Spanish consumer legislation differs in any way.

Some stuff about the original EU Directive is here: [ec.europa.eu...]

The instructions on that page lead you to this list: [eur-lex.europa.eu...]

Pre-ticked selections on web forms are also banned: [europa.eu...]


 8:29 pm on May 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

Nothing in the Spanish news about any of this, but, that's not anything new.... LOL.
I'll keep my ears open....... 8)


 12:21 am on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

It appears the Irish version of the legislation failed to ban "shared cost", "lo-call", "national-rate" and other misnamed expensive non-geographic telephone numbers. These are numbers that have fairly low rates from landlines but are not included in call packages and bundles (and therefore every call further pushes up the caller's phone bill even if they are on an unlimited package) and are expensive to call from mobile phones. These are numbers where the caller is unwittingly subsidising the additional non-geographic running costs incurred by the business. The UK decided these types of numbers do not meet the "basic rate" definition.


The Irish lawmakers also failed to remove the optional exemption for passenger transport. The UK did remove it.

Compared to the UK implementation, the Irish version seems to be weak and doesn't appear to fulfil the original goals that the EU set out to achieve. Irish consumers are still going to be ripped off when phoning the customer service lines of some businesses.


 3:46 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

I remember once having to call Telefonica because my Internet connection had failed, even though my landline was working. Of course, I had to listen to their product spam for several minutes (I'm paying for this!) before I was put through.
I was told to contact their on-line service...... :o

I laughed so much, I couldn't get angry.... LOL


 6:42 am on May 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

@g1smd, OK, that sounds reasonable enough.

does an income stream of 3p to 4p per minute (on an 084 number) or 6p to 8p per minute (on an 087 number) actually "pay for it"?

I was thinking of 09 numbers, but even 8p a minute will probably make a small profit is you send that calls on to a call centre in a low cost country, and even cover a significant chuck of the cost of a UK call centre with low paid staff - you are up to 8p a minute better off even it it remains a net cost.


 12:26 pm on May 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks graeme. Yes, on an 09 number the revenue can be enough to run a business. The maximum "enhanced termination charge" is currently around £1.50 per minute. Once Ofcom's reforms are in place in June 2015, making 080 free from mobiles (albeit at increased cost to the user), introducing the "unbundled tariff", removing the "NTS Retail Condition" from BT's 084, 087 and 09 call pricing, and so on, the maximum Service Charge (as it will be known) is being increased to £3.60/min (including VAT). That's the maximum level, it doesn't mean to say that any of the existing prices will rise.

I am still intrigued to find out how the new measures have been applied in the rest of Europe... There must be WebmasterWorld members in most EU states...


 1:13 pm on May 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

Please don't forget the pre-selected web form options. Especially important for webmasters designing forms.

3) Banning pre-ticked boxes on websites

When shopping online – for instance buying a plane ticket – you may be offered additional options during the purchase process, such as travel insurance or car rental. These additional services may be offered through so-called ‘pre-ticked’ boxes. Consumers are currently often forced to untick those boxes if they do not want these extra services. With the new Directive, pre-ticked boxes will be banned across the European Union.

 1:21 pm on May 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

A whole lot more there as well, engine!

Increased disclosure to consumers, extended refund rights, etc. Any one selling anything (physical goods or content) online in the EU needs to check what they need to change.


 2:16 pm on May 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

Under the new law, if a courier attempts to deliver a package and the recipient is not there and the courier simply leaves it on the premises, the risk (of it going missing) will remain with the seller.

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