When Kiran Patel rang me in mid August it was to complain that his ADT alarm bill for his business (Coulsdon News, Coulsdon, Surrey) had gone up, well, alarmingly. He had been paying 16p per routine telephone call to ensure his system was working properly (four calls per day) but in July this was whacked up to 70p on a premium phone line. He worked out that the increase meant that he would be paying about £900 a year more, including Vat, on top of his £325 standard yearly charge.

He says that consumers don’t have to pay these extra charges as they go to a free phone (he’s right –  I have an ADT alarm on my house and I don’t get charged). He wanted to know why he couldn’t be switched to a free phone number.

I put this to ADT and the initial suggestion was that it was down to Kiran’s telephone provider. Meanwhile Kiran had tackled XLN and managed not only to get a refund of £75 but also got switched to a telecom package costing £41 per month with free mobile calls anywhere in the UK, free international calls and a free number with ADT.

Kiran thinks it is primarily Ofcom’s fault for allowing companies to charge premiums.

His advice to others finding themselves in the same boat: “Ring ADT’s customer service and ask to be switched to a free phone number. They will do it.”

Indeed they will. ADT sent me their official response which goes as follows:

“ADT is committed to providing excellent customer service. We sent Mr Patel a letter via Royal Mail detailing the options available to him and have followed up with several telephone calls to ensure that the customer is happy with the outcome.

“Mr Patel’s intruder system daily tests the alarm system Digital Communicator and phone line, which is aligned with industry standards. This ensures that, in the event of a real emergency such as a fire or burglary, the alarm signal will be transmitted to the ADT Customer Service Centre and ADT can respond fast – providing the customers with peace of mind.

“ADT selects the lines from a provider at a set price; for example, the 0906 is set at 60p per minute charged by the second and the data signalling should take typically 7-13 seconds therefore approximately 13p per signal. If our customers are receiving higher charges it is possible that their  telephone provider is charging an additional connection fee.

“We have introduced the 0800 free phone number offering, which is available to existing and new customers. Should the customer change their telephone provider and are experiencing increased call charges or are using a 0871 local premium rate phone number and wish to upgrade their system to the free 0800 phone number, they can call our Customer Service Centre on 0344 800 1999 and request that the change to be made to their system’s set-up.”