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FCA hits out at premium rate phone lines

The FCA has hit out at providers running premium rate phone numbers for consumer calls and says it will consult on the problem later this year.

Consumer group Which? had called for the Consumer Rights Directive to be applied to financial services firms, meaning premium lines would be dropped.

In a letter responding to Which?, FCA director of policy risk and research Christopher Woolard says: “It is not fair that customers often have to use expensive phone lines when calling firms to ask for help or to complain.  

“At difficult times the last thing people need is the added stress of worrying about how much calls are going to cost.   We would welcome companies looking again at the rates they charge for phone calls ahead of our consultation.”

The regulator has also announced it consult on proposals to improve complaints handling by financial services firms, including complaints reporting processes. 

The consultation will propose standard rules so that charges for consumer support and complaint lines are capped at the cost of a basic rate call.

Current FCA rules require firms to have a ‘free’ communication route, although this can be via another channel such as post or email.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: “Some of the biggest banks have already dropped costly calls so there is no reason why others should not follow their lead. We would like to see all financial services firms change to basic rate lines as soon as possible, and not wait until new rules come into effect.”

Money Marketing reported last week on lenders’ use of telephone support lines charged at premium rates for certain types of business, a practice which has come fire from brokers.

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