The UK’s Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays have been shamed into promising to drop premium rate customer service lines.
The banks made the pledge after consumer watchdog Which? revealed that a staggering 73% of banks, building societies and credit card companies use premium rate customer service or complaint lines. 177 out of 242 customer service or complaint lines were listed as expensive 084 or 087 numbers.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, urged other banks to follow RBS and Barclays’ lead. He said: "Millions of us prefer to deal with our bank on the phone, yet we are expected to cough up for a costly call when we do.
With two of the biggest banking groups now leading the way by offering freephone or geographic numers, we hope this is a tipping point for the banking sector. There’s really no excuse for other providers not to follow suit."
RBS has said it will introduce basic rate numbers for general enquiries and a freephone number for complaints by December, while Barclays has promised a freephone or basic rate number for all customer enquiries.
Rumour has it that insurer Legal & General may follow the banks’ example.
Paul Clark, CEO of complaints management software maker Charter UK, said: "Premium rate enquiry lines are a clear sign of a customer service strategy that is fundamentally flawed, and of a business that doesn’t value the voice of its customers.
"By directing customer complaints towards premium rate phone lines and email contact forms, many companies have been missing out on a vital, free source of feedback that could be used to improve the business."