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Thursday, July 18, 2013

On hold

We have all experienced it, long waits to get through to government or local council officials whilst listening to musak or even worse an automated voice telling us that we are important to them. Now the National Audit Office has put a figure to what it costs us to sit around twiddling our thumbs, especially when the relevant department is using a higher rate phone line.

According to the Independent, callers to government departments paid £56m on higher-rate phone lines last year despite a drive to reduce their use,. The figures show that £26m of this figure was spent waiting to speak to an adviser, with callers spending a total of 402 million minutes on hold.

The Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and HM Revenue and Customs have the highest proportion of higher-rate numbers, they say:

The head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, called on government departments to protect vulnerable and low-income callers. “Callers do not receive a better service from higher-rate numbers and many callers are put off calling government phone numbers altogether,” he said. “The most vulnerable callers, such as low-income households, face some of the highest charges.”

The report pointed out that some departments have successfully switched from 0845 to 03 numbers, which are charged at a standard rate. The Department of Health has ruled out the use of any numbers costing more than the geographic rate.

Some changes needed here I think.
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