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Ofcom UK Impose Cost Cap on Calls to 118 Directory Enquiries

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 (8:56 am) - Score 1,704
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The high cost of contacting 118 numbers (Directory Enquires), which can sometimes reach up to £20 for an average 90-second call, is not a new concern but Ofcom has now finally decided to clampdown on the problem by imposing a cap on the cost of calling such services (effective from 1st April 2019).

The popularity of the internet and smart AI voice assistants, as well as declining call volumes, has naturally meant that 118 services are significantly less popular than they once were. The number of calls made to 118 numbers has reduced from 7.14 million in Q3 2014 to 1.95 million in Q2 2017 (average annual decline of 38%). Nevertheless 1 million+ people in the UK still use them and many of those are elderly.

Of those consumers who use directory enquiry services, 8% experience affordability issues as a result, either cutting back expenditure on other items, borrowing money from friends or family to pay their bill, delaying payment or defaulting on their bill altogether.

Put another way, Ofcom has estimated that around 450,000 consumers a year are paying £2.4m in total “more than they expect for these calls.” In response the regulator will next year cap the maximum amount that a 118 service can charge at £3.65 per 90 seconds. This should help to stop some of the extremes seen below.

118 uk call prices

Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy, said:

“Directory enquiry prices have risen in recent years, and callers are paying much more than they expect. Our evidence shows this is hurting people, with some struggling to pay their bills.

We’re taking action to protect callers by capping 118 prices. This will significantly cut the cost of msny calls, and bring them back to 2012 levels.”

Margot James, UK Minister for Digital, said:

“It’s about time that this horrendous ripping off of customers was brought to an end. The new price cap will go a long way in protecting consumers from astronomical fees, and is part of a series of measures we have worked with Ofcom on to secure a better deal for consumers.”

Check out the full statement for more details.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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10 Responses
  1. Avatar TheFacts

    118004
    We’ve got an answer for everything
    Call today and we’ll connect you to any service you require
    Calls cost £15.98 per call plus £7.99 per minute plus your phone company’s access charge
    This service is provided by Telecom2 Ltd. Customer Service 03030311002

    Ouch!

  2. Avatar Grant T

    The first three examples are scandalous and are aimed at the most vulnerable in society. Ofcom should have acted long before now and this whole area is a failure created by them not having a price capping agreement in place when the directory enquiry service was fragmented years ago. I know Age UK have argued for this action for years. Too little too late Ofcom.

    • Avatar SimonR

      Yep – still seems high to me. An interview this morning on 5 Live raised the point when Ofcom raised this, the initial cap was going to be £3.10. The lady being interviewed skirted why it was raised to £3.65; looking at the tables, I’m wondering whether BT had something to do with it…

    • Avatar Joe

      You could argue it was a failure of the original idea. When BT did it it didn’t cost that much the ‘free’ market diud what it did and ppl are only to blame if they pay the idiot prices.

  3. Avatar Gedfan

    My parents paid (79 and 85) for the ‘idiot’ prices once. Don’t be so quick to judge the vulnerable Joe. Not everyone is savvy in this world.

    • Avatar wireless pacman

      Ofcom certainly aren’t at times!

      This is a classic example of competition uber alles – ie it is more important that we “enjoy” competition than reasonably priced services.

  4. Avatar BT

    Another rip off by BT

  5. Avatar chris conder

    In this case it isn’t BT’s fault, they just charge the customer for the call, the service you’ve dialled charge the rip off prices and bt have to pay them and charge the customer. I have a friend on a voip phone and 5 calls one week to 118118 cost them £200.

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