Banks and energy firms charge a premium for customer calls

Many of the big banks, energy firms and insurance companies are charging existing customers a fortune for phone calls while new customers can take advantage of freephone numbers, an investigation has revealed.

large firms charging existing customers premium rates for phone calls

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The report by consumer group Which? found that many large firms are guilty of luring new customers with the promise of free phone calls while existing customers are forced to fork out up to £8 for a 20-minute call to a premium rate 0845, 0870 or 0871 number.

Of the 34 banks investigated, 27 were found to be using the practice.

Perhaps even more galling for loyal customers, a sizeable proportion of the firms investigated were charged premium rates for complaints calls.

Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, told The Telegraph: "It is unbelievable that companies would add insult to injury by charging their customers a premium to make a complaint. It's even worse when they offer new customers access to 0800 numbers while leaving loyal customer to pay more."

Among the big names charging forcing existing customers to pay through the nose were HSBC, Scottish Power and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

In response to the Which? investigation, an HSBC spokesman explained that there were "multiple ways" to get in contact, including via the internet, and insisted the bank made a point of trying to keep the cost of customer calls to a minimum.

But a spokeman for the British Bankers' Association said: "Calls to UK banks are subsidised by the individual bank and no one should need to pay more than local rates to get in touch. There are also many other ways for customers to contact their bank from face to face in a branch to free online."

What do you think? Should banks and other large firms provide freephone numbers for all customers? Leave you comments below...