Monday, 14 September 2009
NHS TO BAN USE OF PREMIUM RATE CALL CHARGES - 1
NHS TO BAN USE OF PREMIUM RATE CALL CHARGES
Evidence needs to be taken from Ofcom and from telephone service providers to support the assertions that I make.
The minister declares a desire to “reassure the public that when they contact their local GP or hospital, the cost of their call will be no more expensive than if they had dialled a normal landline number”.
That is something I must applaud and celebrate.
The consultation to which he is responding was on a proposal to “prohibit the use of 084 numbers in the NHS”.
Such a prohibition would be necessary for this reassurance to be delivered, whereas the announcement states that use of 084 numbers will not be prohibited in the NHS.
The cost of placing a call to any 084 number is, and will remain, more expensive than to a normal landline number. This is generally reflecting in a higher charge to the caller. Nothing that can be done by the Department of Health, any single GP, or even Ofcom (under existing competition law) will change that fact.
All users of 084 numbers benefit in some way from revenue sharing. Some telephone companies collect this money from callers indirectly and impose premiums when charging for normal calls outside the terms of a package. Others, quite reasonably, collect it through premium charges to those who call these numbers, thereby excluding them from packages.
A detailed analysis of the proposal and other comments will follow.
The Minister must confirm that he stands by his assurance and will not allow it to be undermined by ineffective implementation of the ban.
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