By Daniel Hunter

A new Which? campaign is asking for a ban on costly calls, as new Which? research finds that two-thirds of people (67%) think companies use high-rate numbers to discourage people calling them.

Three quarters (75%) would be put off phoning customer services if they had to use a high-rate number, and three in five (63%) would be put off making a complaint. Two thirds (66%) have taken other actions, like emailing, to avoid calling a high-rate number when they wanted to complain.

Consumers should not have to pay a premium to make a complaint, or be faced with a high phone bill if they want to speak to a company. The Which? Costly Calls campaign wants all companies to provide a basic, local rate number for all customer service and complaints telephone lines.

Under recent changes to the EU Consumer Rights Directive (CRD), calls to customer helplines must be charged at no more than the basic rate. However, financial services and public bodies are not included in this legislation, and the Government is currently consulting on whether to include travel, timeshare and package travel in the ban.

The Which? Costly Calls campaign is asking:

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to clarify existing rules to stop financial services companies from using costly numbers on complaints lines, and change the rules so this also covers customer helplines.

The Government to extend the CRD ban to the travel industry as soon as possible.

Public bodies to lead by example and ban costly numbers across the board in a consistent way, overseen by the Government.

Which? is calling on consumers to support the Costly Calls campaign.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said:

“It’s outrageous that consumers are faced with a high phone bill just to ask a question or make a complaint. It’s no wonder that people think companies do this deliberately to deter them from complaining.

“We want an end to all costly calls for customer service and complaints, and new rules so that all companies have to provide a local rate number. There should be no exceptions.”