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Pensioner runs up 'ridiculous' phone bill trying to check on husband in hospital

By Leatherhead Advertiser  |  Posted: April 30, 2012

  • BT directory enquiries' call charges were criticised as 'absolute robbery' by Lionel Joseph, whose wife Joyce ran up a 'ridiculous' phone bill trying to check on him when he was taken to hospital

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A PENSIONER ran up a "ridiculous" phone bill with directory enquiries while trying to check on her husband who had been rushed to hospital.

Lionel Joseph, 89, of Horsham Road, Forest Green, was taken to East Surrey Hospital in Redhill suffering from chest pains.

Three days later he was transferred to St George's Hospital in Tooting, where he underwent open heart surgery.

Mr Joseph's wife, 89-year-old Joyce, called BT's directory enquiries line to find a phone number for the London hospital, but was kept waiting for several minutes, running up a bill of more than £10.

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Mr Joseph said: "My wife just wanted to ring the hospital and they charged her £10.43 to just give her the number.

"It's ridiculous. I think the phone call lasted about five minutes. It's stupid, it is absolute robbery."

A spokeswoman for BT says Mrs Joseph was put straight through to the hospital, but Mr Joseph says this was not made clear.

"She never knew whether she was talking to a person or a recorded machine," he said. "It's this so-called modern technology, us older people can't always keep up with the times."

Mr Joseph spent more than a month in hospital but is now back home recovering well. However, he says the phone bill has made a big dent in the couple's finances.

"It might not seem like a lot of money, but we are both on state pensions. She couldn't get any other money, she was relying entirely on her £50 to pay all the bills, and they really rise in this sort of situation."

He added: "Other people's relatives should be informed that they can expect to be charged this much.

"I think there should be a list, a page in the local phone directory of all the hospitals they transfer people to from East Surrey."

The BT spokeswoman said: "We have spoken to Mrs Joseph to explain what happened.

"She chose the service where she was connected to the number rather than taking the number and re-dialling.

"The cost of doing this was explained before the call was connected."

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  • 1stephen  |  April 30 2012, 2:16PM

    A further 'benefit' of near-essential services being privatised under the guise of offering choice. If there's money to be made then exploit the innocent by not be very clear about the cost of subsequent and linkred services.