Free phone calls for most people using their mobiles to claim benefits and pensions are announced by the Department of Work and Pensions today. From next week, six of the biggest mobile phone network companies will no longer charge their customers for calls to the Department’s 0800 Benefit Claim lines. Currently 12% of UK households use only mobile phones and do not have a land line.
Calls to claim benefits and state pension use 0800 numbers which are already free to customers using BT land lines and mobiles. But currently people calling 0800 numbers from other mobile phone providers are charged for these calls.
The Department has now reached agreement with O2, Orange, Tesco Mobile, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone to end charges to their customers for mobile calls to around seventy of its 0800 numbers. These numbers are used by people making initial claims for benefit and pensions and to request emergency payments, such as crisis loans.
Together the six companies with whom the Department has now signed agreements cover over 90% of the mobile market in the UK.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Yvette Cooper, said:
"We don't want people who lose their jobs or the poorest pensioners to be penalised when they need to claim benefits just because they call from a mobile phone. Lots of people need to use mobiles rather than landlines.
“That's why we've been working hard to get this deal to make sure people don't lose out."
The DWP estimate that there are around 60 million phone calls to its 0800 numbers each year, and around 15% (9 million) are from mobile phones.
Notes to editors
1. The Department announced on 30 April 2009 its intention to seek to enter into agreements with mobile phone operators to deliver calls without charge to their customers claiming Pensions and Benefits through its key 0800 numbers. Calls are currently charged at various rates by operators. Calls from BT land lines and mobiles are free.
2. The 0800 numbers that will be included in the scheme are used to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, State Pension, Pension Credit and the Employment and Support Allowance. The initial agreements will last for two years.
3. DWP does not receive any revenue from customers using 0800 numbers. Under the terms of the agreements reached it will make a contribution to the costs incurred by the mobile operators in respect of the calls in question as it already does to BT in respect of 0800 calls from its landlines.
4. Customers of O2, Orange, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone will receive free mobile phone calls to these numbers from 18th January; those with T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile from 25th January.
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department