From next week, most people using their mobile phones to call the Department for Work and Pensions about state benefits won't be charged for their calls. The DWP has reached an agreement with O2, Orange, Tesco Mobile, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone to end mobile charges to many of their 0800 helplines. Around 70 helplines are covered by the agreement; they include numbers used by people making initial claims for benefits & pensions and to request emergency payments.
Generally, calls to 0800 and 0808 numbers are free from standard UK landlines but are chargeable from most mobile phones although there are some exceptions for mobiles calling charity helplines.
The DWP estimates there are around 60 million phone calls to its 0800 numbers each year, with 15% (9 million) coming from mobile phones. Approximately 12% of UK households don't have a fixed-line phone.
The Rt Hon Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 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."
Customers of O2, Orange, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone will receive free mobile phone calls to the DWP helpline numbers from 18th January 2010; T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile customers will receive free calls from 25th January. The free call agreement will remain in place for at least two years, with DWP contributing to the costs incurred by the mobile operators for the calls.