oUCh! BT accused of ‘shameless profiteering’ over Universal Credit helpline

Last Updated: February 29, 2016By

Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats said that the Universal Credit helpline should be free [Image: James Gourley/Rex/Shutterstock].

Fair play to Farron for raising this issue – albeit after the Trussell Trust and the Labour Party had raised the wider issue of DWP helplines generally.

It’s just a shame he didn’t lay the blame where it is due – on the Conservative Government that has allowed BT to make such a huge profit from people who are extremely poor.

The DWP has put out the same excuse as with other benefit helplines – that people can ask to be called back.

This Writer wonders how long the wait would be if they did.

BT has been accused of “shameless profiteering” after official figures indicated that the telecommunications giant has generated more than £1m from a phone line designed to help people struggling with the new universal credit system.

Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said it is wrong to charge some of the poorest people in Britain who are simply seeking advice about the new universal credit which integrates six benefits.

In a parliamentary written answer last week the employment minister Priti Patel said that 2.2m calls have been answered by universal credit agents manning an 0345 helpline. Farron estimates that this has generated a minimum of £1.49m for BT – and possibly as much as £6.6m – because Patel said in her written answer that each call lasts an average of 7mins 29 secs. Calls to 0345 numbers from landlines cost up to 12p a minute and up to 45p a minute from mobiles.

Farron told the Guardian: “Charging millions of pounds for some of the poorest people in the country to get advice on universal credit is shameless profiteering. The move to universal credit will prompt questions from people and the government should be able to offer advice and reassurance without taking even more away from those on the tightest budgets. Helplines like this should be free.”

Source: BT accused of ‘shameless profiteering’ over universal credit helpline | Society | The Guardian

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  1. laurence293 February 29, 2016 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    This article is very misleading. The cost of calling an 03 number is the same as calling an 01 or 02 number – in other words, it costs the same to call this helpline as it does to call your mother. BT – or any other phone supplier – are not “profiteering”, they are charging the correct rate for a standard number. The choice of number is with the people who run the helpline.

    • Florence February 29, 2016 at 11:42 pm - Reply

      Lawrence, official DWP documents show that the UC helpline charges 12p per minute on land line, and 45p per minute on a mobile. Other sources say that being kept queuing for 30 minutes or more to speak to an adviser to request a call back. This is why there is an outcry about it.

  2. Jonathan Wilson February 29, 2016 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    All this goes to show is how inept and clueless Tim Farron is. BT is a private company (thanks to either Thatcher or Major). Private companies are in business to make a profit.

    Even if the numbers were 0800, or local rate BT, would still make money as it would be charging the DWP for the difference… admittedly it might make less; I’m not sure the rates of billing/share of the various options.

    As you point out, the DWP is solely to blame for choosing the option that costs more and that BT may make some extra profit from the rate charged is neither here nor there… the DWP chose an expensive option, and also makes money from the calls. The fault lies with the DWP and IDS.

    As for getting a call back;
    1) I doubt very much they will openly advertise it, or have it mentioned in the call answering software.
    2) The DWP has a rotten reputation for call backs, often saying they will and then not doing so.
    3) If you are waiting on a call back, which never happens, multiple times, I’m sure the DWP will use this as a way of cancelling your claim by saying “you failed to provide….” or some such excuse.
    4) Does anyone really expect the DWP to call back when to do so will cost them money, that is why they removed the phones from JCP+ – to save money. 5) As JCP’s are now moving/have moved to “appointment only” you can’t even drop in to one to ask them questions; you must use the premium rate number.
    5) Its pointless them saying “its all on line”, “the intention is to have it all on line” when the reason you are ringing a premium rate number is because something is unclear “on line” with UC.

    • laurence293 February 29, 2016 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      The DWP do not make money from the calls. Revenue sharing on 03 numbers is expressly prohibited by Ofcom.

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