As reported a lot in the news, the leader of the opposition raised questions of the Prime Minister over the 55p/minute universal credit helpline number.
There have been many stories on this, that 55p/minute is a rip off.
But what is going on? Is the helpline set up on some super expensive premium rate number?
No it is not.. It was on an 0345 number. This is a number charged at normal rates - the same as calling a normal landline. It is nor premium rate, no money from calls goes to the recipient. It is no different in cost to the millions of normal landline numbers in the country.
You would be hard pushed to find which tariff has the 55p/minute charge, and apparently there is one, a mobile package that, when calls are out of bundle, does actually charge 55p/minute for calling normal landline numbers and so for calling the helpline.
The issue is a stupid issue blowed out of all proportion. It is not an expensive number it is an expensive mobile phone contract which is expensive for all numbers.
Pay as you go mobile SIMs are readily available charging a few pence per minute, and in fact most mobile and landline contracts have an "inclusive minutes" package which includes such calls at no extra cost at all. If someone chooses a mobile contract that charges 55p/minute to call normal numbers, that is their look out - there are a lot of alternatives.
What really annoys me about this is that I would love to get the Prime Minister discussing loads of things, real issues that cause problems, but instead we have parliamentary time wasted on a contrived news story like this.
Some poor telecoms manager will be over budget now after being forced to quickly change it to a freephone number, so will be paying a surcharge for incoming calls from mobiles, when previously they did not have to pay for incoming calls and 99% of callers were not paying either as it was in their call bundle.
Is the country now run purely on news stories, even made up ones?
P.S. I have had some interesting comments on this (here and irc). Basically, if the criticism was valid it would surely equally apply to say, my Doctor's surgery, who have a normal Bracknell landline number which would also be 55p/minute on that tariff. Should everyone that could possibly be called by someone on low income be forced to run 0800 numbers?
P.P.S. Holy crap, there are scammers with web sites quoting 0844 (very expensive) numbers that presumably simply call through to the actual number...