If you had servants (almost no one has servants these days, of course,) and you wanted to call your servant to undertake some task for you, you would not expect to pay for calling your servant, because you already pay his or her wages. If your servants instituted a charge which you had to pay for calling them, you would consider this wrong and unacceptable. But this is what our servants, the government in all its agencies and branches and guises is doing right now.
Telephone numbers in the United Kingdom which start with 084 cost 5.6 pence per minute if you ring from a land line and 17.1 pence a minute if you ring from a mobile phone. Normal telephone calls cost 3.4 pence a minute or less (depending on your call plan) from a land line and 1.1 pence per minute from a mobile phone. The only reason why organisations use 084 numbers is that they can enjoy a revenue share with the telephone company: charge the caller an extra amount and share the profits. It is a perfectly legal scam and one adopted by NHS healthcare practices, government departments, banks and many other of our servants. One third of government help lines enjoy this revenue share but that figure is misleading because 63% of all calls to government are made on 084 numbers.
Sometime soon, although it will probably not happen until 2014, the Consumer Rights Directive will prevent the abusive use of revenue share numbers. The European Union Directive Provides
Communication by telephone
Member States shall ensure that where the trader operates a telephone line for the purpose of contacting him by telephone in relation to the contract concluded, the consumer, when contacting the trader is not bound to pay more than the basic rate. The first subparagraph shall be without prejudice to the right of telecommunication services providers to charge for such calls.
This Article only protects consumers in their dealings with traders, not masters (or citizens) in their dealings with servants (or government agencies).
Government’s agencies and departments that use revenue share services are really operating a hidden tax on their electorate. Taxes should open transparent, not opaque or translucent. In the last tax year the government raised nearly £7 million from telephone revenue share, but in doing so cost its citizens an extra £29 million in additional telephone charges. In simple terms, to raise £7 million in tax cost taxpayers £36 million.
These are not in the overall size of taxation big figures, but it is wrong in principle to raise tax in such a hidden and inefficient way. It is not as though this has been done accidentally: in every case where a 084 number has been used, someone has made a decision to raise extra revenue . In the big picture many people have made that decision. Those people reveal not sense of public service, no sense of morality and a frightening inability, on the part of our servants to distinguish what is right from what is just plain wrong.
The EU directive can be found at