Friday, May 25, 2007

Has Gillian Merron misled Parliament?

The Labour MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, Mark Lazarowicz, seems to be rather busy at the moment tabling questions to each department about what 0870 and 0845 numbers they have under their control, and whether alternative geographical numbers exists.

I'm not quite sure why he's chosen to include 0845 in questions as that is a non-geographic guaranteed local rate call number so is not particularly controversial. However, the 0870 prefix is important because it costs consumers a national rate charge to call.

What's interesting in the responses are the departments that claim there are no alternative numbers for some of their 0870 services. This is nonsense. Non-geographical phone numbers are always mapped across the PSTN to geographical ones, so if a department states they don't exist they're either lying, or they're simply unaware of what the mappings actually are.

Take for example, a response from the Transport Minister, Gillian Merron. She stated yesterday that the Driving Standards Agency has four 0870 numbers and that there were no alternative geographical numbers available. This is simply not true.

If you want to book a test with the DSA, the call centre number is 0870 010 1372. However, you could just ring 0161 8557421 and get the menu, or you could call 0161 8557410 and be dropped straight into the queue. For all the other stuff you could call 0115 9012500 and then wait for the operator to transfer you.

So, is Gillian Merron lying, or is it just the fact the she doesn't know? Either way her response is misleading. All you have to do is Say No to 0870, I'm surprised the civil servants that draw up responses didn't use it.


Anonymous said...

10 years in Government and they still come up with Ministers no one has ever heard of and they still have not yet understood that a statement has to be true - New Labour still believes , as did Lord Hutton, that if a Minister says something that is sufficent to make it true.

Scary Biscuits said...

I suppose New Labour spin doctors would argue that she hasn't lied, merely been economical with the truth.

That is, she meant 'no alternatives we want people to use' as we're especially fond of stealth taxes like these that hit the poor hardest'.

Anonymous said...

0845 costs considerably more than a real local number. They parted company several years ago. What's more they are never included in those "inclusive minutes" packages that are becoming increasingly common.

dizzy said...

Depends on the Telco really.

dizzy said...

you're right re: inclusive deals not having them included in their packages.

Anonymous said...

Its to do with the Telco that they have outsourced the service to.

In order to meet the KPI's they need to monitor and report on the 0870 numbers, otherwise they would fail and be penalised.
It is also matched against the statistics of the receiving agency, to ensure that the Telco is not overcharging them.

If callers began to use the geographic numbers, these would not be registered against the Telco's KPI's.

Therefore, if they have an outsource agreement, it is probably written into that agreement that all concerned would only publish and publicise the 0870 numbers.

Anonymous said...

Although you're correct that NGNs are mapped to geographic numbers the issue here is that the the numbers are dynamically allocated for each call.

Telco's now provide contact centre virtualisation products which allows business to link multiple call centres together in the PSTN.

This means each time you call the NGN the Telco's network finds the most opperate group of call centre agents and routes the call via. a normal PSTN number.

So although you're technically correct that there are geography numbers associated with the NGN if you gave them out the Contact Centres would collapse without the Telco's dynamic routing engines.

dizzy said...

Yep, this doesn;t change the fact that the Department of Transport said "none" for the DSA when it is simply not true. It should be noted that they didn't say "none" for all their 0870 numbers.

Anonymous said...

From your blog what she said there were no 'alternative' numbers which is technically correct. Because as the numbers are dynamically allocated there is no guarantee that calling that number would route the call correctly.

dizzy said...

Errr it's not technically correct at all, there are alternative numbers, I posted them. Ring them see what happens.

dizzy said...

In fact, you're making a wild assumption about the nature of the call routing that has been configured. Unless of course you;re telling me you configured it. They have two call centres. bookings are in the Newcastle area code of 0191, the rest is handled in Nottingham.

Anonymous said...

0845 numbers are bad for most people on all-inclusive packages. As a Virgin/telewest talk unlimited customer I can call 01 and 02 numbers for free 24/7, but 0845 cost me 5p a minute. That is why say no to 0870 also gives you alternatives to 0845.

If you are a Virgin/telewest pay per minute customer the cost of a 0845 number is more than an 01 and 02