19.50 euros for 11 minutes! Phone home at your peril

18 Dec

It should have been a straightforward phone call, though I knew it would cost me perhaps a couple of euros. I was going back to the UK for a short while and needed to upgrade my RAC breakdown cover.

So I called the number on my membership package, 0844 8913111, from my Guardamar home, knowing full well that this was a UK Premium Rate number, though a pretty cheap one to ring from within the UK (5p a minute, I’m told).

By the time everything was sorted I’d been on the blower for 11 minutes. No problem there, I thought. Even if the call cost five times as much as from the UK, that would still amount to less than three euros. And as my Spanish phone package with MyBubble provides me with free calls to UK and  European landlines, I figured the cost would be less than that.

So imagine my reaction when I discovered the call had cost me an unbelievable 19.50 euros! The best part of 20 quid, for heaven’s sake. Shock, horror - I’d been robbed!

Armed with my battle axe, I called MyBubble, ready to pull the plug their service after just a few months. I’d previously run out of patience with Telefonica’s stubborn unhelpfulness (seemingly like most of the people I know) – but I couldn’t believe even they would have been party to such a blatant rip-off.

Most of the cost, MyBubble assured me, was down to the 0844 subscriber, not them. So how much did MyBubble charge me for the call, I asked, and who actually pocketed the 19.50 euros? Despite several subsequent requests, I’m still waiting for an answer. And also to discover why a seven-minute call to 02 on the same bill cost me a princely 10.80 euros.

Suffice it to say that when I contacted the RAC in London (by email this time – once bitten, twice shy), they insisted they charged only 5p per minute to callers from with the UK but had no control over charges levied by providers in other countries.

Before every subscriber goes out and bursts his or her MyBubble contract, I still do not know who actually usurped that 19.50 from my savings. And I do in fact owe the company a big thank you for pointing me in the direction of www.saynoto0870.com, an invaluable website that provides landline alternatives to most UK Premium Rate numbers.

It’s particularly useful to people booking with airlines like Monarch and Ryanair, who have become frustratingly used to waiting interminally at their own (considerable) cost to book, amend or cancel flights. Or just to vent their fury over the way those particular sky-boys turned into prize pillocks over the volcanic ash fiasco.

Bubble’s advice to anyone planning to call a UK Premium Rate number for whatever reason (which includes any number beginning 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871) is to first check the company’s website or ask them directly if they have a standard landline number you can use.

If not, www.saynoto0870.com lists alternative numbers for many companies that have premium numbers. I’ve looked at it and you’d be amazed how useful it is.

Last week, I needed to call the Halifax in England about account security and with the website’s help, managed to circumnavigate the Premium Rate minefield and another potential mega bill.

It’s just a shame MyBubble’s welcome pack didn’t tell me about www.saynoto0870.com before I became the victim of the Premium Rate scam.

I’m still waiting to hear into who’s pocket my 19.50 euros went because neither the RAC nor MyBubble are owning up. So is there a third party out there raking in the rewards of fleecing unknowing pensioners like me?

Answers (and refunds) to Donna773@aol.com

Published in Female Focus magazine, 2010 (www.female-focus.com)

You can read more of Donna’s tales and grumps at www.eyeonspain.com/blogs/donnagee.aspx and also at http://www.donnagee.blogspot.com

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