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Phoney phone number ban

September 14, 2009 10:51 PM

Today's Government announcement that the use of premium rate telephone numbers to contact the NHS is to be "banned" is very confusing.

The Dept. of Health do not intend to "ban" 084 numbers but to amend legislation and issue supporting guidance to the NHS to make sure that patients do not pay more than the equivalent cost of a call to a geographic number, regardless of the number dialled.

It is the phone companies themselves who set the charges for calling these numbers and any attempt to "fix" rates via legislation is likely to fall foul of EU competition law.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Julia Cherrett said:

"Whilst I welcome today's announcement it still does not go far enough. Extensive public consultation showed that the public were against the use of 084 numbers to contact the NHS. Government should recognise that the only way to ensure that people only pay normal call charges is to actually prohibit 084 numbers. The so called "benefits" of 084 numbers are equally available on the new 03 numbers which are charged at standard national rates. Further, I would like to see this "ban" extended to all public services such as Job Centres, Tax Credits offices etc. where those people on low incomes have no choice but to contact these numbers".

The University Hospital of North Tees abandoned its 084 number after protests from Cllr Cherrett.