They add up to the 20 airlines reported for using high-cost customer service lines

FACUA reports eight energy suppliers for breaking the law by having paid customer service lines

The association calls on the Competition and Consumer authorities to apply fines in the event of a breach of the law, which forces them to offer free phones to consumers.

FACUA reports eight energy suppliers for breaking the law by having paid customer service lines

FACUA-Consumers in Action has reported eight energy suppliers for breaking the law by managing their customer service services with 902 prefix lines or with geographical numbers that imply a cost to users. Three companies only have payment numbers, one only offers a free line to users who are already customers, another does not take handle faults from its line 900 line and three others provide both pay phones and free, but do not highlight these on their websites.

The association has detected the irregularities following a survey of 30 electricity and gas suppliers. In this sector, the legislation forces companies to provide free phone lines for both commercial information and attention to queries, incidents and complaints raised by customers.

FACUA has filed complaints with the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC, according to its initials in Spanish) and the consumer authorities of the respective autonomous communities in which the energy companies are registered.

902 and geographical prefixes

The most serious offences are those from three companies that force users to call payment phones with geographical prefix for customer service, despite the fact that the sector legislation states that they must be free. Som Energy offers 972 218 33 86, Clidom Energy (which operates with the brands HolaLuz and HolaGas) on 93 001 11 10 and Scandinavia of Electricity on 93 396 74 71.

Besides, Electric Lighting Company (Ceuta) obliges customers to call a payment telephone line (956 522 080) for those customers who suffer blackouts or failures. For all other issues, it advertises three telephone lines: two which cost money (956 511 900 and 956 511 901) and one that’s free (900 103 306).

Pepeenergy discriminates consumers based on whether they are customers or not. According to this, they redirect customers to either a free line 900 49 49 80 if they are paying customers or the high cost phone line, 902 78 70 16 if they aren't, which is against the law. FACUA emphasizes that both Article 81.2.n of Law 34/1998, of the 7th of October, on the Hydrocarbon sector, and 46.1 of Law 24/2013, of the 26th of December, on the Electricity Sector both state that suppliers have"the obligation of offering a free telephone service and a free telephone number" to resolve any incidence or request for information "related to the service offered or hired". This means that the service should be free both for customers and non customers.

Other three suppliers offer a free line, but they do not make this clear on their website, which can cause confusion for the consumer. Axpo Iberia has the free number 900 10 13 11, but the one offered in their "contact" section of their website is the payment number 91 594 71 70. Meanwhile, Nexus Energy indicates both its numbers online, 93 299 33 32 and 900 81 85 33, but without distinguishing which is actually the free one. The same thing happens with Gesternova who shows both numbers on their website (free of charge 900 37 31 05 and the payment line 91 357 52 64).

The above-mentioned law from the electric sector also adds another nuance: the option of diverting a call is also not legal. "The supplier will not be able to divert calls made to free telephone number to numbers that charge consumers, either by telephone, by text messages or similar services or for complaints and incidents in relation to the offered or hired service, in addition to requests for information on aspects related to hiring and supply or communications. The consumer service will in no case provide additional income to the company at the expense of the consumer", says Law 24/2013.

FACUA also appeals to the Catalog of Best Practices for the customer services of the electricity and natural gas traders produced by the Competition authority (CNMC). Among its recommendations, it is stated that "free customer service telephone numbers should be obvious, on the website, on the invoice, on the contract and on any space available for customer service, compared to those non free services, specifying what services consumer can have in each of them. It is also recommended that in any means where the non free phones are advertised, should also have a free one included too".

Complaints in other sectors

FACUA has also recently reported 20 airlines for using 902 and other high-cost lines for customer service. In the upcoming days, the association will submit new complaints for similar irregularities against companies in the telecommunication and banking sectors, insurers and retail establishments.

The association have created the campaign #Stop902 to call on consumers to fight this type of abuse on costumer services. Consumers can join in on the website FACUA.org/Stop902.