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2009 Retired Members' Conference
23 June 2009

Conference deplores the increasing use of 0870 and 0871 nos by all manner of organisations as the only means of contacting that organisation by phone. Much of the reason for this is the revenue sharing option these numbers offer which allows the organisation to rake in extra money while receiving calls from customers. Most organisations fail to advertise these costs and seem to believe that it is perfectly acceptable to charge callers using 0870 prefixes anything up to 80p per minute (on certain networks) whilst keeping them waiting on automated answering systems. 0871 nos are even more expensive and are widely used throughout the entertainment and leisure sector, and whilst now subject to greater regulation nevertheless represent a simple and easy means of significant extra revenue to organisations using them.

Conference welcomes the changes introduced last year by Ofcom which addresses some of these concerns and the introduction of 03 nos as a replacement for 0870 and which will not be revenue sharing and will cost the same as a geographic call. All 0870 costs are being more strictly monitored and it is still to be hoped that their costs will be advertised. 0871 nos have been redefined as premium rate lines and are being more tightly controlled, however it is thought that many companies will switch from 0870 to 0871 rather than 03 so their high costs can be maintained.

Conference especially welcomes the announcement by BT in January this year that it would be making calls to 0870 (and 0845) nos free to its subscribers and bearing the cost (some £24m per year) itself. Clearly this will be greatly appreciated by all its customers many of whom are pensioners, however it does not apply to any subscriber whose landline is provided by another company such as Virgin, Talktalk etc. More importantly it does not address the very real issue of the costs of these nos and the willingness of companies using them to rip off their customers in this manner.

Conference is particularly concerned at the impact of calls to these numbers on pensioners, many of whom are on modest or poverty line fixed incomes and can ill-afford the rates charged but recognises that most pensioners have little choice but to use these numbers given their prevalence amongst key organisations such as utilities, insurance companies, Government agencies etc. Conference agrees that every effort should be made to have their use discontinued by all organisations and that UNISON should be at the forefront of such a campaign.

Conference therefore instructs the National Retired Members’ Committee to:

i.Liaise with the National Executive Council with a view to launching such a campaign, including consideration of an exposé of the actual costs charged and the profits made by every organisation using these nos;

ii.Work through all appropriate channels to seek discontinuation of 0870 and 0871 nos;

iii.Publicise through all appropriate channels the website SAYNOTO0870.com which provides geographic alternatives to 0870 (and 0845) nos;

iv.Conduct a survey of retired members to ascertain the impact of using 0870 and 0871 nos on them;

v.Urge members to boycott 0870 and 0871 nos and ask them to write to their MPs on this issue;

vi.Report back to Retired Members’ Conference 2010.