Government efforts to prevent NHS GPs ripping off patients through use of revenue sharing telephone numbers have failed
- this must now change!
From: David Hickson - campaigner for the NHS
It is simply a matter of determining that some patients will be using tariffs on Lists 1 and 2 in that document, and that not all are using tariffs on List 3. It can be seen that the former tariffs include those from Talk Talk, the actual provider of the telephone service used by NEG and its customers.
In a recent publication, Talk Talk confirms that NHS GPs using 0844 numbers can change to 0344.
It refers to existing customers being able to “Move to another number range”, noting that “Ofcom has reserved 034x numbers for customers with matching 084x numbers”.
This facility is provided by Talk Talk, which claims to offer “flexibility and understanding”. Those who have signed up since January 2008 were warned of the possibility of having to make some such change.
It must ensure that it happens
The guidance from the GPC of the BMA suggesting that practices should obtain undertakings from their telephone service provider regarding the cost of calling their number is essentially unsound.
The fact that its agent, NEG, is not a registered provider of telephone service, and therefore charges nobody for making telephone calls, makes its assurances about its call charges look somewhat hollow (if not deliberately intended to deceive).
- The Talk Talk Group trades as “Opal Telecom” when providing services to businesses.
- All users of 084 numbers benefit from a “revenue share” paid by the call originating telephone company to their telephone company. This additional cost is naturally generally passed on to callers in premium charges.
- Call charges for callers are not set by users of numbers, their system providers or their telephone service provider.
- BT is alone in being regulated in the rate per minute it must charge for calls to the various sub-ranges of 0844 numbers. It cannot therefore include them in packages.
It’s call set-up fees are not regulated, nor are its charges for calls to geographic numbers when outside the terms of a package.
BT charges are based on selection of the appropriate call plan for the times when calls are made. Penalty charges apply when calls are made outside these times.
As these penalty charges are unregulated, the penalty on a call to a (non-revenue sharing) geographic number may exceed the revenue sharing “premium” applied to a call to a 0844 number.
Pending possible action by Ofcom in the near future, this is one of a number of perverse effects currently seen with charges for 084x numbers.