Dearne MP fights against rip-off charges

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, campaigns in Parliament against rip-off 0845 numbers.
Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, campaigns in Parliament against rip-off 0845 numbers.
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Dearne MP John Healey has stepped up his fight against rip-off 0845 phone lines more than a year after he received assurances they were to be banned.

The Wentworth and Dearne member’s two-year campaign against what he termed “rip-off Government phone lines”, which cost callers up to 41p per minute, reached a milestone in 2013 when Government guidance ruled they should not be used for public helplines.

It came after Mr Healey’s research found hundreds of 0845 and 0844 phone lines – including 87 per cent of those run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – were in use, costing the public millions.

Now, more than a year after the ban, there have been reports that people are still being advised to call high-cost lines.

The MP said: “It is completely wrong that rip-off 0845 numbers are still being given out when a cheaper alternative exists, and it is completely wrong that the Government haven’t got their act together and scrapped every single one of these numbers, more than a year after they were outlawed.

“It seems the Government are still intent on ripping off some of the poorest people, by forcing them to run up big phone bills making essential calls to government services. This is unfair, unjust and against the Government’s own rules. Any remaining numbers need to be scrapped immediately.”

The DWP started using cheaper 0345 numbers a year ago in March 2014 as a result of Mr Healey’s campaign.

But he was also told at that time by the Secretary of State that Ministers would keep the 0845 numbers “as long as industry charging make this necessary.” Mr Healey’s campaign continues.