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Travel companies charging sky-high helpline rates

Investigations into phone helpline fees charged by leading travel firms have led to the discovery of yet another attempt to fleece customers.

Reports show that seven in ten leading travel firms are using premium rate phone numbers in their customer service departments, leaving customers with important enquiries little choice but to pay high rates in order to contact the companies in question. Chief among the culprits are Ryanair, Monarch, National Express, Jet2.com and First Great Western. Their use of high rate numbers was exposed by consumer watchdog Which? in an investigation that looked at a variety of different transport groups.

Interestingly, travel firms were largely ignored in the recent government move against premium phone line practices. Whereas businesses like Argos, PC World and Phones4U have been forced to charge normal rates for customer service numbers, travel firms were exempt under the Department for Business’ (BIS) proposals. Why this was the case largely went unanswered, though blame was attributed to EU legislation at the time. This exemption also extended to banks, leading critics to ponder exactly why such a loophole has been left open to these two industries.

In light of these revelations, Jet2.com has already announced that they’ll be changing their general enquiries number to normal rates, as part of a “wider review”. While most travel firms have refused to comment any further on the matter, it may be the case that a number of businesses follow suit soon and revert back to regular enquiry numbers.

While customers and the general public take the brunt of such practices, the Government has refused to take any action just yet, arguing that it needs to be sure any measures would be ‘in the interests of UK consumers and businesses.’

A spokesman for BIS yesterday said: "The Government recognises the detrimental impact of expensive call costs on customers. "We have made no final decision as to whether to include the UK transport sector in our proposals as we want to make sure it is in the interests of UK consumers and businesses.

"That is why we have asked them for their comments on the draft regulations by tomorrow." If you are heading on holiday, getting the best deal on your travel insurance is one way you can make savings.

Date Created: 14 October 2013

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