Shoppers Pay Over the Odds to Call Big Brands28th July 2020
Recent news suggests that, despite the age of premium rate lines having calmed down hugely over the years, some customers and callers are still paying through the nose to connect to big brands. Specifically, Plus que PRO SAS, a connection proxy service, charged customers £2.50 per call just to get through to high street retailers.
Some of those brands and stores listed on the proxy’s website include Apple, the technology giant, and H&M, the clothes retailer. The connecting website reportedly listed direct lines to helplines and services with hefty fees attached.
However, following a tribunal into such charges, the Phone-Paid Services Authority advised that the service misled visitors, and that advertising was not clear as to how much callers would expect to pay just to connect.
As a result of such regulation concerns, Plus que PRO SAS faced fines of £250,000. This comes as a result of a tribunal finding that the website failed to advise and prepare their visitors for the default call charges expected of them.
Contact number directories are still hugely popular with the wider public. As a result of switchboards and call maps growing more complicated, and as a result of some helplines being expensive to call, many people are looking for convenient, quick, and cheap ways to get through to the support they need.
However, as this news shows, it seems there are still companies out there which are failing to prepare people for connection rates.
What’s more, the tribunal confirmed that the website did not advise numbers listed were available elsewhere at a cheaper cost. Some of the numbers, it emerged, may even have been may available for free.
A further issue raised in the tribunal was the fact that the company and website still charged customers for calls even if they were of extremely short durations, such as less than ten seconds. Therefore, many people may have found themselves paying £2.50 per call just to find that their connections dropped. These charges may not seem like a drop in the ocean to some people, but they can all add up.
Thankfully, those who called through the service will be able to claim refunds as a result of the tribunal’s findings.
The PSA’s Jo Prowse advised that actions taken by the website were ‘totally unacceptable’. Specifically, the PSA and other regulatory bodies work hard to make sure that consumers are protected when it comes to calling corporate and commercial numbers.
This side of the communication industry is tightly regulated, more so than ever before. However, that does not mean that consumers can rest easy. It’s also clear that businesses may need to do more to show their callers that there are quick, easy, and cheap ways to speak to advisors.
What Can Consumers Do?
The best thing callers and consumers can do right now is to stay alert. It is often likely to be easier than many imagine to actually call a brand or high street service directly! People use number directories online when they want to get through to specific departments, or if they are having difficulty finding free or cheap numbers to call.
However, there are companies and directories out there which seek to make money from this convenience. Therefore, anyone looking to call a major helpline must either carefully read the terms and conditions attached with each directory they call through or must go directly to the brands and services they wish to call.
However, it’s easy to see why so many callers and consumers have felt uneasy about approaching brands and businesses about this directly in the past. Over the years, premium rate lines have fallen under tighter regulation, which means that it should – in theory – cost less for callers to connect and speak with advisors than it may have done in, say, 2010.
Businesses and brands need to support their customers and callers in this regard, too – but how?
How Businesses Can Help
To help fight against the rise in unscrupulous contact number listings, businesses of all shapes and sizes can make sure they offer a clear, affordable call centre service. This means offering a virtual switchboard, for example, to ensure that callers know exactly where they are going. It may also be worth setting up a call answering service if no agents are available, so that callers can at least rest easy knowing that someone will return their calls.
Call centres for businesses should also make sure to set up affordable helplines, or at least should ensure that charges and rates are clear to read and understand. This is, after all, a regulatory requirement! There are a variety of business lines and numbers which can still generate revenue for firms, without them leaving customers completely out of pocket.
For example, many businesses use 0345 numbers. These are flexible and charge at national rates. This means that while charges will apply, callers won’t have to expect to pay huge fees for the privilege. In fact, in many cases, these calls will be covered through inclusive home phone or mobile minutes.
Some companies may even choose to set up 0800 numbers – completely free for customers to call. This means that they are fighting directly against extortionate services which are demanding high connection rates from customers.
Want To Help?
As a business owner, it may be time you started thinking about giving your customers and callers, direct, efficient, and affordable routes through to your call centres. Why not consider setting up with Planet Numbers? We offer a variety of business services to help enhance the customer experience. From switchboard services to memorable business numbers, we support many businesses as they strive to offer customers the support they demand.
Running a business means being available for your customers. Never let things get so complex or so expensive that your callers have to use expensive directories! Call us now to find out more or do make a point of looking at our packages and rates online. Take initiative and show your customers a real difference!