“Is it tough to appear on programmes with 0870/71 or Premium Rate Numbers?”

I’ve been a huge supporter of the crackdown on 0870 numbers for a long time. I wrote one of the first main newspaper articles about it (in the Sunday Express) a number of years ago and my current article (Say No To 0870 ) is a stalwart of the site. So as I’ve been appearing on the Wright Stuff this week, which has an 0871 call in number, a few people have asked “how can you?”

My main issue with 0870 is the lack of transparency when it’s called a ‘National Rate’ number. It most certainly isn’t a national rate, it’s a much more expensive call that isn’t included in your free minutes. These numbers can often raise revenue for the call company. In fact I’ve always preferred premium rate numbers, because a. they have to tell you how much it costs and b. they can’t keep you on hold unnecessarily.

Yet while the Wright Stuff uses an 0871 number, it doesn’t call it a ‘National Rate’. The lovely Corinne who reads out the number always says “which costs 10p a minute from standard lines or more from a mobile.” This means people are aware of the true cost and can make the judgement about whether they’re willing to pay it themselves.

In the past some famous shows I’ve been on have used these numbers. Every time behind the scenes I have made a fuss. I once had a special meeting set up with a very well known show, that should’ve known better, which got rather heated as an Executive tried to justify it. He claimed “we make no money from using this number”, I retorted “yes but they give you a free call handling system that you’d otherwise need to pay for and are thus profiting”, which he admitted but said wasn’t the same thing at all. That programme thankfully no longer uses an 0870 number.

Yet I’ll be honest, I didn’t go public as it would’ve meant I could’ve lost a lot of air time, meaning less people would hear about MoneySaving (and less altruistically, I would personally have lost important work to me).

So the key rule for me is “is it transparent, are people aware they have to pay?” If so then calling TV programmes is like any other product, if you don’t want it, need it or can’t afford it, don’t do it. Yet when the numbers are disguised and people think its either cheap or in their free call package – that is out of order!

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