There should be considerably increased regulation about the use of premium telephone lines.

A great many people do not realize that they are calling a premium line, which can cost up to 40p a minute. And they are especially expensive from mobiles. What is particularly awful about many of these premium lines is that it gives an incentive to the business or organization to keep the caller hanging on; either listening to irritating music or to unnecessary messages. These premium lines are used by many government organisations that should be offering a free public service.

According to the Sun, of the 208 million calls made to the services in the last financial year, 131 million cost up to 41p a minute (the Mail says 35p per minute). Of the 365 customer phone lines for central government services, 120 use expensive numbers. Only the Department for Work and Pensions gives a WARNING that the callers are being charged (often for staying on hold).

The travel industry has in particular been given freedom from most regulation about premium lines. Recently I rang a travel company, and was kept waiting for 20 minutes. All the while they were profiting from the length of telephone call. Apart from a reduction in the types of organization that can charge for premium calls (any health organization would be a good example), there is one simple reform that could be made. When a premium-line call is answered, there should be a legal obligation for the caller to be told that it is a premium line, and also be told the cost per minute.

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