Homecall (Pipex) and call charges on premium numbers

I really should have posted about this months and months ago! I unlocked my phone a while back. My phone call lasted 5:35 minutes so I was expecting to be charged less than £8.20, since the charge for the premium number is £1.50 per minute. However, I was charged about £14! Several calls to Homecall’s customer service (I spent more than an hour in total on the phone with them), one call to ICSTIS, and a fax to Homecall’s billing department revealed the following:

  • Premium services are obliged to tell you the charge “from BT landlines”. In this particular case “BT landline” means that your service provider is BT. I pay line rental to BT but Homecall is my service provider, i.e. I don’t have a “BT landline”.
  • Service providers regularly add charges to premium services, since that is considered a “non-essential” telephone service.
  • Homecall negotiates charges with premium services on an individual basis. This means that there is no simple formula to calculate what Homecall will charge you to call a premium service.
  • There is no simple way to find out how much a call to a premium service will cost you with Homecall. Their customer service can’t tell you, there is no web site, there’s nothing! That this prevents their customers from making informed decisions doesn’t seem to bother Homecall the least.
  • ICSTIS can’t help you either. Their website only tells you the charge to a “BT landline”.
  • Homecall is one of the worst offenders (according to ICSTIS) when it comes to charging for premium services.
  • Only Homecall’s billing department know, but you can’t ring them directly. The only way to find out, it seems, is to ring Homecall’s customer service and ask them to forward your question to the billing department. They will then get back to you about 24 hours later. This pretty much prevents Homecall customers from voting in any of the many shows on telly.

The only saving grace is that there is a prefix Homecall customers can use to “get away”. By dialling 1280 followed by the phone number you’ll make that individual phone call using BT rather than Homecall. At least that works if you are paying line rental to BT, I don’t know if it still works if you pay line rental to Homecall.

Homecall was bought by Pipex but I doubt that any of this has changed. So, remember that prefix, 1280. If you’re using another provider I’d encourage you to find out how they operate.

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