CHARLES GRAHAM - Phone bill woe

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I’M dreading our latest phone bill.

We had an absolute nightmare trying to get some minor details changed on a car insurance policy which saw our hitherto reliable insurers draw up and send out no fewer than five inaccurate documents.

Each time a new one arrived in the post - incorporating the corrections we had asked to be made on the previous one but then incorporating new gaffes - we would spending seemingly interminable lengths of time negotiating automated switchboards and waiting on hold.

It was almost as if they didn’t want us to get through, especially as the number we had to ring didn’t come cheap either. Comparisons sprang to mind of the pounds signs spinning round on a petrol pump.

And while that was finally resolved our telecommunicational woes were not at an end as we also had no end of trouble sorting out our daughter’s university loan and grant.

It should have been simplicity itself, just filling in an online form with plenty of weeks to spare. But no, all sorts of problems arose with the password and then we had to ring numerous times more as we became increasingly concerned about the whereabouts of the money as freshers’ week loomed.

Again infuriatingly long periods were spent on hold and numerous dead ends ensued on a high cost phone line to the Student Loans Company. Naturally each time you rang you got a different person handling your call and more often than not they seemed to have no record of our previous inquiries.

Start all over again, new promise that everything was sorted this time ... but until two days before Emma arrived at uni, it wasn’t.

After all that palaver it emerged this week that the Government has coined a fortune - £56m in fact - charging the public to telephone its advice lines. Of that total, £26m was estimated to have been generated by the time people were raging impotently on hold. From a personal point of view it is a bit rich to be charging the parents of future students up to 41p a minute when they are already facing a whopping student loan bill and hatfuls of other taxes too.

And other folk will be equally aggrieved about having to pay over the odds to sort out issues with everything from universal credit to HM Revenue and Customs.

Of the 208 million public calls to central Government departments in the financial year 2012 to 2103, three out of five were to higher rate numbers. What a swizz.