Fianna Fáil TD for Laois and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Seán Fleming, has expressed concern at the ambiguous nature of lo-call and Freephone numbers used by various Departments and State agencies.

Deputy Fleming explained, “Many Government departments and State agencies use numbers with the prefixes 1800, 1850, 1890, 0818 and 076. They do so under the premise that this is for the consumers benefit, however, from what I have found this is causing high levels of confusion among the public.

“The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) confirmed to me by way of a Parliamentary response, that many consumers do not know the cost of a call to these numbers and are unable to differentiate between them. As a result, a significant number of consumers are deterred from phoning the numbers and are actually incurring high tariffs when they do.

“Members of the public are not necessarily aware that it is costing them a large chunk of phone credit or that they are running up a sizable bill to avail of Departmental services by using these phone lines. The tariffs are dependent on the caller’s service provider and according to Money Guide Ireland; a 30 minute daytime call to an 1890 number from the Three ‘Pay As You Go’ Network would cost €10. That is not ‘Lo-call.’

“In today’s age of technology, we are primarily encouraged to visit a website or make contact with these agencies by email but in many instances that is just not feasible. Government Departments and State Agencies should stop using these numbers or at the very least ensure there is clarity and consistency for the consumers who do use them,” concluded Fleming.