The DVLA has been criticised by consumer group magazine "Which" for using an expensive 0870 helpline number without providing a cheaper geographically bound equivalent.
Other firms criticised in the report include Tiscali, British Gas and Barclays - all of who are accused with profiting from customers who call the 0870 helplines simply looking for advice, to make a complaint, or to get help with their bills.
Consumer activist group "Say No to 0870" maintains a list of geographically bound numbers which correlate to expensive 0870 number counterparts. Consumers can look up the companies who use costly 0870 numbers to find a cheaper alternative.
Abusing the System
0870 numbers were originally introduced to allow companies to "port" telephone numbers if they moved premises. The "Which" report clearly highlights abuse of the system - the DVLA made £3.4 million profit from its 0870 number in the last financial year, earning more money the longer the customer stays on the line. 03 numbers were introduced to fulfil the need of companies to port telephone numbers, yet no companies have taken up this option.
Freedom of Information Act
Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, customers have the right to query the government body as a "public authority" regarding their telephone practices - the DVLA web site features various requests from customers regarding the alternative number. Anybody can view this information or put questions to the agency: you can view all of the questions on the DVLA's web site.
Information "already in public domain"
In a letter dated April 2008 and published on its web site, the DVLA admits the use of 0870 numbers generate income for the DVLA, but argues that the information customers most commonly call for is already in the public domain - and so it is not unreasonable for the DVLA to expect the general public to foot the bill for 0870 numbers.
National Numbers and DVLA
Being a DVLA recognised reseller, National Numbers wrote to the DVLA on this issue three years ago, stating that the practice was unfair on dealers - not to mention the public - and could dealers at least have a cheaper alternative number to call to allow them to pass this value onto customers. However this request was denied.
The DVLA has remained tight-lipped about their geographical equivalent telephone number - as yet there is no equivalent and the government body will not be specific regarding the date of introduction of such a number.