Premium rate phone services

What to look out for when you text or call premium rate numbers. And how to dodge fees from supposedly 'freephone' numbers when calling them on your mobile.

Girl looking impatient on mobile

£1.50 a minute to be kept on hold

Premium rate phone services give information and provide entertainment over the phone. They can cover almost everything – from the weather to competitions, voting in TV talent shows, horoscopes and porn.

Premium rate calls cost more than ordinary phone calls and can be especially expensive from mobile phones.

The phone numbers of most premium rate services start with ‘090’, and adult services start with ‘0909’. On mobile phones, text shortcodes prefixed by 2, 6 or 8 that are 4 or 5 digits long are premium rate services. Directory Enquiry services which begin with ‘118’ are also premium rate numbers.

It’s easy to end up with a large bill if you call premium rate numbers, so it’s worth checking how much your call is likely to cost. The Which? website has a guide to the different numbers, including 0870 and 0845 numbers that many companies use for their customer support and service lines.

Sometimes the call will last longer and cost you more than you expect. Check before you call to see if they state an average call length and cost.

Complaining about a premium rate number service

If you have a problem with a premium rate telephone service, you can call the premium rate services regulator Phone-paid Services Authority on 0300 30 300 20 (9.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday).

They have a number checking facility on their website which allows you to find more information about premium rate numbers that appear on your telephone bill and can advise you about next steps if you have a complaint.

Unsolicited text messages

Sometimes premium-rated services send text messages you haven’t requested and charge you for them. If you don’t want the service they are offering, you should text back with the word ‘stop’.

If that doesn’t work, try phoning the company’s helpline number and tell them you want to stop the services.

You can also call your mobile phone company to ask for their help. If you have been charged for services that you have not requested you might be eligible for a refund.

If you receive a text message and don’t know who it’s from, don’t delete it. Call your mobile company to see if they can give you any information about the sender and whether it cost you anything to receive it.

If you were charged for the text and don’t think you signed up to receive it, call Phone-paid Services Authority on 0300 30 300 20.

Another user on your phone

If someone else has called premium rate numbers on your phone without your permission, you should call the company providing the service to explain.

They might not be obliged to offer a refund, but if you feel the service was misleading and the person using it didn’t realise how much it would cost, then you can get help by calling PhonepayPlus on 0300 30 300 20.

Premium rate scams

Fraudsters sometimes use 090 numbers to make money from scams. It might start with a letter, text or telephone message claiming that you have won a prize or missed an important delivery and asking you to ring a particular number. When you call, you will be made to wait while the call charges build up and then, in the end, you will get some worthless prize or perhaps nothing at all.

Never call a premium rate number unless you know what you are being charged and know something about the company you are contacting. If in doubt, call PhonepayPlus on 0300 30 300 20 to check them out first.

Complaining to your phone provider

If you have a complaint about your mobile phone service provider relating to premium rate calls (or any other aspect of their service), ask about their customer complaints process – all providers are required to have one.

If you have made a formal complaint to the service provider and this hasn’t solved the problem, you can try using the company’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. Your service provider might belong to one of two ADR schemes which have been approved by Ofcom:

  • Ombudsman Services or
  • CISAS (Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme).

You can call Ombudsman Services on 08450 501614 and you can call CISAS on 020 7520 3827.

All service providers are required to have an ADR scheme. They are breaking important consumer protection rules if they don’t. If your service provider won’t tell you about its ADR scheme, you can call Ofcom for details on 0300 123 3333.

Numbers that are free on landlines but not mobiles

Some numbers, like 0800,0808, 0845, or 0844 numbers, might be free on landlines but not included in your mobile minutes or expensive on pay-as-you-go. They can cost up to 40p a minute. The easiest thing to do is simply call from a landline but if you don’t have one, there are alternatives:

  • You can use 0800Buster or similar websites to call 0800, 0808 and 0500 using your mobile minutes
  • There’s quite a few websites, like Say no to 0870, that list alternative numbers for big businesses, you can find your cheapest option on there
  • Do your research! Some websites will have two numbers on their website, one that will charge and another that won’t
  • All 0800,0500, and 0808 numbers are free if you call from Skype, and tariffs for other numbers are explained here.

If you need further support on this, give us a call on 0808 808 4994. We’re unable to give specific money advice but can guide you to the best places for expert support.

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money rights

By Tom Green

Updated on 29-Sep-2015