UK Firms Slammed for Taxing Phone-in Tech Support

Dennis Faas's picture

A leading consumer group has condemned the high cost of phone-in technical support offered by British technology firms. At least 70% of the firms studied charge more than a standard phone call, with Internet service providers rated as the worst offenders.

"Which? Computing", a magazine produced by the Consumer Association, looked at 45 firms in the country to test the price and response time of their telephone support. It found that 32 firms only offer phone support through numbers which cost more than a standard call, with the firms themselves taking a cut of the revenue.

Four firms use premium rate lines equivalent to a 900 number in the United States. Supermarket giant Tesco, which offers broadband services, charges 50p (roughly 70c in the US) a minute. They are joined by Internet provider Supanet and disc-burning software producers Nero and Roxio.

Profiteering Is 'Galling'

Sarah Kinder, editor of Which? Computing, said it was "galling" to see a firm as large as Tesco making extra cash in this way. Almost 15% of all money spent in British shops goes to Tesco, so Which? argues that it could easily afford to follow the lead of six other firms in the survey currently offering 'free phone' (the equivalent to an 800 number) support lines. (

Tesco responded to the reports by saying it had already been looking into the issue and plans to switch to a service where customers pay the equivalent of a local rate call. (

The magazine reported that other firms charging premium rates argued that the revenues from such calls paid for the costs of providing the technical support.

Which? also found that the average waiting time to get a response when calling tech helplines was 1 minute 33 seconds, down from previous studies. One firm, Plusnet, put callers on hold for an average of almost eight long minutes.

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