Passport information line to be cheaper

By: NATASHA SMITH

natasha@the-resident.com

IN THE wake of widespread criticism about the introduction of a premium rate information line for British passport applications and renewals, Abtran, the company responsible for this service has said that it is endeavouring to reduce charges for UK citizens in Portugal.

At the moment, British citizens in Portugal must pay 1.72 euros per minute to call the premium number, while British citizens in Spain are charged 1.16 euros per minute.

Director of Client Services at Abtran, Pat Ryan, said each country has a different telecoms operator that sets the tariffs for premium numbers, which is why the charges in Portugal are 56 cents more per minute that call charges from Spain.

All callers must also provide a credit card number before being connected to an operator for assistance.

Fair system

However, the Ireland based company has applied to the national telecoms regulator to have a line in Portugal, which will make calls cheaper and credit card details will not be needed.

The caller will be charged as normal via their telephone bill.

At the moment, calls made from Portugal must be made from landlines, while the information line can be called from both landlines and mobiles phones in Spain.

A spokeswoman for the British Embassy in Lisbon said that this may be due to the fact that Portuguese mobile phone companies bar calls made to premium rate numbers.

Charges for calls from Portugal appear in US dollars on credit card statements as the existing process can only transact in dollars but once the new line is up and running, callers should be charged in euros, according to Mr Ryan.

Abtran was hired by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to take over the information line for British citizens in Spain in 2005, and last year in Portugal when the passport services were amalgamated on November 2.

“We had limited resources available to deal with the amount of enquiries,” said the embassy spokeswoman, which is why Abtran was hired.

Mr Ryan told The Resident that he has requested an update on the process from the Portuguese telecoms regulator but it may be months before the line is up and running.

He added that Abtran was working towards providing a more fair system for all British citizens in Portugal.

To call the information line for passport applications or renewals, please call 800 813 877.

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