back to article The cheapest calling plan of all: Friends and Family on the company phone

British workers are spending around £400m a year on personal calls using company mobile phones, according to research from Aurora Kendrick James (AJK). Employers who mistakenly claw back VAT on personal calls could land themselves in hot water with HM Revenue and Customs. So says AJK, of Chatham Kent, which, you will be …


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  1. Chris Miller

    Don't get me started on data!

    On most plans, the cost of personal calls is fairly minor and the company can always use itemised billing to control abuse. The real problem is data. If it cost you 25p or 50p to check the cricket scores, how many times a day would you do it? But on a company mobile it's free, innit, so I can check the scores once or twice an over.

    Data plans are stupidly expensive (OK, I know they've got to make back the cost of their idiotic 3G purchases somehow), and there's very little way of distinguishing legitimate use from taking the piss.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pub at 8am on a Sunday?

    Geez, El Reg must be higher pressure than I ever imagined if you're arranging a trip to the pub at 8am.


  3. Pete

    Would this be

    The same that manages to get people to work massive amounts of UNPAID overtime every week?

    penny pinching b'stards

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not this old chestnut... == hypocritical tight-fistted bar stewards. so far they've taken my final salary pension, my share schemes, my bonus and of course having to train my replacements from the sub-continent. now they are after my company mobile. fine. of course the flip side of this is that they won't be able to get in touch with me next time that mission critical application goes tits up outside my contracted hours. In fact I think I'll give it back to them tomorrow. A plan with no drawbacks.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's scan those bills - and break the Data Protection Act

    Unless an employer has had the foresight to have a member of staff sign for this data to be accessible, any employer trying to enforce this may find themselves on the wrong side of the Data Protection Act. It amounts to surveillance, and staff needs to agree to that explicitly (you can't agree to this implicitly, say, as the result of agreeing to something else).

    So, implementing this may require another round of signatures. The cost of that will wipe out the savings in Q1 of implementation. The loss of productivity because staff has to go outside for a call or will simply not stay late because they can't tell their family they may take a while longer is, of course, not visible in a 'savings' spreadsheet..

    And a court case for DPA violation will zap any remaining profit :-).

  6. Mike

    "employees should cough up to this taxable benefit"

    What a crap story, is this supposed to be news or just some press release rehashed to try and make it look like a story? You really should just write "Advertisment" at the top of the piece and be done with it.

    You need to get your facts right first though - a company mobile phone is not a taxable benefit for the employee and hasn't been for many years.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give and take

    So, as has already been said, AJK (AKJ?) would rather my employer swap £80 on my phone bill for the thousands of pounds of unpaid overtime they already get?

    Wankers. I know which i'll go for if those tosspots get their way...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Taxable benefit for employees - don't blame the writer

    A mistake made in editing, now rectified.

    Drew Cullen

    El Reg

  9. Thomas Martin

    What about those dialing plans?

    What about those dialing plans where you buy 400 minutes a month let's say. If you don't use them they are wasted. Might as well use them instead of throwing them away. Anyway, I never wanted a company phone.

  10. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Where's the problem?

    This is a bad story. Every employee has a contractual obligation to use company materials for company business and company business only (ie. it is a breach of contract to take a company pen home or use the photocopier for invitations to a party, etc). Obliging employees to indicate (and pay for) private calls on a monthly basis is entirely legal and reasonable. If the savings are only £80 per employee per year then it's not necessarily economical to hound employees when weighed against any good will that might be lost in the process. However, as Chris Miller points out, the costs of "value added services" can quickly get much higher and people are much likely to accept a clampdown on this if they understand that the costs are significant and they know it isn't them: ie. if someone in the company is ringing up a bill of several hundred quid a month.

  11. Nìall Tracey

    Reasonable Costs Incurred

    My bosses' "working away from home" policy says I can be refunded any reasonable costs incurred when working away from home.

    At home, most of us now have calls to our nearest and dearest at no charge over line rental (BT's Friends and Family rate and equivalent). Calling from a hotel is then a "reasonable cost" to claim as I wouldn't have been charged it at home. So why not use the company mobile? It costs the company less than using a hotel phone.

    So a blanket ban wouldn't work.

    What about itemising?

    Well, if I have to spend a day individually justifying calls in an expense report, it's going to cost the company more than just paying the bloody bill.

    VAT liability? Well, the answer is for the government to waive it. Please. For efficiency and sanity's sake... please!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sales pish

    LMAO, totaly unenforceable, i defy any company over 1000 drones strong with spilt office locations to know every single company owned number, and that is before, knowing customer and supplier numbers!!

    mind you i got a panic on when i saw my April bill for £1k+ spoke to team bean counter who laughed and said welcome to the club!

    I wonder how HMRC view personal calls made while away on company business? 9/10 times the employee has not made a choice to go away, the company has sent them, it would seem unreasonable to expect them to use thier own phone to call home, esp if abroad. obviously the fairuse policy would kick in to stop a 4 hour telephone call every day

  13. Chris Miller

    Data Protection??

    I don't see how the DPA is applicable. Itemised bills belong to whomever owns the phone, there's no personally identifiable data involved and no data is being disclosed to a third party. It would obviously be different if the call content were being monitored or recorded.

    Very few organisations will have a problem with a reasonable amount of personal use, but there will always be those who try to abuse the system. Any telecoms manager that simply forks out for an unlimited amount of calls without checking on those with 'unusual' usage patterns isn't doing their job.

  14. Harry


    "Itemised bills belong to whomever owns the phone, there's no personally identifiable data involved "

    An itemised bill might not identify the person *making* the call, but it identifies the person that was called. If it didn't do that, but lumped all called destinations together (which it would have to do to prevent identification of the called person) lit would NOT be an intemised bill!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Longest hours in europe

    Since we work some of the longest hours in europe, its only fair to use work mobiles given that otherwise we would be using our own home phones.... if we were there.

  16. Peter Bowyer

    Every employee?

    "Every employee has a contractual obligation to use company materials for company business and company business only (ie. it is a breach of contract to take a company pen home or use the photocopier for invitations to a party, etc)."

    1. Are you an employment lawyer?

    2. Have you read all these employees' contracts?

  17. Chris Miller

    Phone numbers are not personally identifiable data

    Sorry Harry, but unless you work in law enforcement or for a telco, you can't associate a telephone number with an individual.

    No-one (certainly not me) is suggesting that reasonable personal use should be banned or even recharged, it's the small minority of folks taking the piss that need a quiet word in their ear. And any business that simply nods through an individual spending over £10K a year on phone calls (which may well all be perfectly legitimate) without even a cursory glance ain't going to stay in business very long.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call costs

    The call costs of company mobiles is tiny. I used to regularly phone contacts in Switzerland and Italy, and once made a phonecall (to my boss) that lastedmy whole 75 minute drive home, and the biggest monthly bill I incurred for that company was £15.

    With smart management of call plans, and things like O2's overseas calls bolt-on call costs can be managed in such a way that as long as phones are not abused the personal calls aspect of a mobile bill would b miniscule. As an example, the owner of my last company spent most of his time in Spain and the Netherlands, and his mobile bill was always huge, because he would be charged for receiving calls from the UK office. After adding a £5 O2 bolt on he stopped being charged for receiving calls and his bill dropped to two figures.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wouldn't keep the phone either..

    I'm with Mr. "not this old chestnut...". Now my job was even cheaper; at one point, the boss just started giving everyone that rang in my cell # and telling them to call it instead. It hadn't occured to him this would be a problem....(he's an alright boss, but pulls some real boners once in a while..) After having the phone ring off the hook for like half an hour, shutting it off, and finding I'd missed like 20 calls in the next hour, I finally figured out what was going on and told him to cut that shit out right away. He was like "I'll reimburse you" but I pointed out

    a) overage came to $42/hour (I'm in the US so I had 450 minutes included, but overage was $0.70/minute or so)

    Also b) (More importantly to me) I'm an hourly employee, and since these guys don't work in my building, they would not know if I'm at work or not, and would inevitably phone me at home. Even though standard hours are 9 to 5 and sometimes the place I work runs 10 to 6 instead, I've been at work as early as 7AM (only once or twice) and as late as 8PM and the phone would ring on and off the entire time. Generally I haven't answered after 6 o'clock since the place is supposed to be closed; my favorites were when people would call, hang up, call, hang up, like 20 times in a row. Invariably if someone gives in and picks up after 10 or 15 times, the person is calling to ask if the place is open (!). You'd think they could guess "no" from noone answering the phone the first dozen times. (The boss and guys I work with can call my phone, but they know they don't like being called at home either, and only call if they really need to.)

    Anyway, indeed if I were given a company phone, it's unwieldy to carry two phones, and I'd probably leave it at work if I wasn't actually allowed to use it. Personal calls are a small price to pay for having someone on call, typically on call without compensation.

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