Bill to curb premium phone rates backed

‘No reasonable argument’ for premium charges: Jonathan Edwards

PLAID CYMRU MP Jonathan Edwards is backing a parliamentary Bill aimed at curbing the premium rate costs of phone calls to government agencies such as the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Government Services (Telecommunication Charges) Bill will be presented to parliament on Tuesday, February 21.

The scope of the Bill, which started out with a purpose to reduce costs for phoning the DWP has since been expanded to cover all UK Government Departments and agencies after it was revealed the Home Office Spousal Visa helpline charges callers £1.37 a minute over and above network rates.

Carmarthenshire’s Jonathan Edwards MP, who is co-sponsoring the Bill, said the high costs of calls impacts primarily those most vulnerable in society who are seeking assistance from the state.

Commenting ahead of the Bill being presented to Parliament, Jonathan Edwards said: “It doesn’t sit right with me that those who need to seek assistance from the state are the ones primarily affected premium rate phone call charges.

“In many instances a person is contacting a government agency because their circumstances have changed or they are in need of support. Premium rate phone numbers can act as a barrier to people accessing assistance.

“The Universal Credit helpline, for example, can cost up to 50pence per minute from mobile phones. A long wait on hold, being passed from assistant to assistant or, as many have experienced, having to call back several times to get things sorted can cost people a small fortune that they simply don’t have.

“I see no reasonable argument for premium rate charges. I’m sponsoring this Bill so that calls for help from the most vulnerable in our society do not cost the earth.”

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Jon Coles

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