The European Court of Justice advocate general warns of the illegality of these numbers

FACUA prepares a series of complaints against companies that use 902 numbers for customer service

The association says that they violate State and European consumer protection legislation. It urges companies to swap them for numbers with area codes or mobile numbers.

FACUA prepares a series of complaints against companies that use 902 numbers for customer service

FACUA-Consumers in Action is preparing a series of complaints against companies that use 902 and 901 numbers for customer service. The association warns that the use of these numbers, which inflate users' bills, violates State and European legislation.

FACUA urges companies that use these numbers to proceed immediately with substituting them with fixed area codes or mobile numbers. As well as imposing a much higher price than calls made from mobiles to conventional lines, calls starting with 902 or 901 are not included in bonuses or flat rates of fixed telephone or mobile contracts.

Banks, insurance companies, airlines, telecommunication companies, big department stores, food companies, transport companies, water suppliers...There is a long list of sectors that use these numbers, which the telecommunications regulations define as "special pricing". In many cases, they do this because they receive remuneration from telecommunications companies for calls they receive, a fraudulent practice which is clearly prohibited by legislation. In February 2015, FACUA reported 16 companies for this practice to consumer and telecommunication authorities, which have not informed it of any actions taken in this respect.

FACUA warns furthermore that, whether they profit from them or not, the companies that use these numbers contravene the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users. With relation to customer services, this law establishes in article 21 that, "if a business owner gives consumers and users a telephone number which they can use to call them about their contract, the use of said number will not cost the consumer or user more than the basic rate". The document transfers the European directive for consumer rights to Spanish courts of law (Directive 2011/83 from 25 October 2011).

The advocate general of the European Court of Justice warns of misconduct

This week the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) Maciej Szpunar announced that he considers the use of this type of high cost phone line illegal. He confirmed this after the Regional Court of Stuttgart (Germany) put forward a preliminary question to the European Court to determine whether consumer rights regulations prohibit the use of customer service numbers whose rates exceed those for calls to fixed area codes or to standard mobile numbers.

In his conclusions, read on the 10th November, the Advocate General proposes that the European Court of Justice responds affirmatively to the question posed by the German court. Szpunar reminds people that according to law, when a company provides a telephone number for consumers to get in contact with them on regarding their contract, Member States should ensure that they should not be made to pay more than the "base rate".

This means, according to the Advocate General, that the costs to the consumer should not be more than a standard call. Therefore, the costs billed to the consumer should not be more than the normal costs that they would have been billed for a call to a fixed area code or standard mobile number.

So if the customer is charged more than they would be for a call to an ordinary phone line, the additional costs generated could dissuade them from getting in contact with the company for issues such as delivery date, billing or guarantee.

According to the Advocate General, the Directive states that the customer service phone number is included in the price paid by the consumer in a way that the use of a number subject to special tariffs would be the same as making them pay additional costs for the same service. The Advocate General adds that the question of whether or not the company receives a part of the price that the consumer pays for the call, something which is expressly prohibited by Spanish legislation, is irrelevant.

The conclusions of the Advocate General are not binding to the Court of Justice. It is the role of the Advocate General to propose to the Court, in complete independence, a legal solution to the cases for which they are responsible. The Judges of the Court of Justice are now beginning their deliberations in this case.