Several high street banks have announced that some of their call centre staff have been getting call centre jobs so that they can talk to their family in England for free.
"We noticed that we were getting a large number of calls to the call centres from a small number of people," said head of Call Centre operations for HalloydsWestSB bank, Rob Steele. "Over a short period the same people do tend to ring the call centres a lot to sort out particular problems. These calls tail off though. We noticed that some continued. Additionally, some of these calls lasted for up to an hour."
Investigations by the bank discovered that people with relatives in Mumbai were ringing the bank's call centre to call their aunties, cousins and other relatives who still lived in Mumbai.
"Listening to the recordings of the conversations," said Steele, "we discovered that they weren't talking about banking issues, but marriages, the weather and travel plans."
It further transpired that most of the staff in the call centres had taken the job there not for the great rate of pay, or the jovial atmosphere, but instead because it allowed their relatives to ring the free phone number and chat to their hearts content to their relatives.
"HalloydsWestSB is a family friendly bank," said Steele, "but this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. And this is the reason that we have taken away the free phone number and replaced it with a fifty pence a minute premium rate number."
Oftel spokesperson, Julie McHoolie, was unimpressed with HalloydsWestSB's reasoning. "Yeah, right," she said. "That's the stupidest reason for introducing charges I've ever heard."