Ofcom announce cap on 118 calls

Ofcom has announced it will cap the price of calls to directory enquiry services at £3.65 for 90 seconds.

The £3.65 cap brings prices back down to where they were in 2012.

450,000 consumers in the UK are paying £2.4m in total more than they expected to pay for 118 calls, which can lead to some then struggling to pay their bills.

woman typing number into phone at home

With Google and many other free search services being so readily available on your mobile phone, the number of calls to directory enquires has continued to drop every year.  It was more than seven million back during July to September 2014, dropping to less than two million over April to June 2017.

But more than a million people in the UK – many of them elderly – still use them.  40% of users said they had no alternative options to using directory enquiry services at the time they made the call.

118118, those men with moustaches, is the most popular service, they currently charge a whopping £11.23 for a 90 second call.  There are cheaper services available but 118118 has proved the most memorable, partially due to those men in moustaches constantly on TV.  Some providers charge more than £20 for a two-minute call.

The six-digit 118 numbers launched in 2002, replacing the previous 192 system.  At the time it was said it would drive costs down due to competition but costs have continued to increase.

The Ofcom-imposed cap comes into affect in April 1 2019.

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 many calls, and bring them back to 2012 levels.”

How can I reduce costs before the cap comes in?

118 directory enquiry services can be useful but as you can see, they’re very expensive.

One of the easiest ways to reduce this cost or not have to use the service is to use the internet to look up telephone numbers for free.  Most of the time, if the number is available on a 118 service, it’s also available on the internet, just head to Google.co.uk.  Search by typing in what you’re looking for or use one of the voice services such as Siri on your iPhone.  If you do need to call someone, The Number offers a free directory service on 0800 118 3733 although you’ll have to listen to a short advert.

If you are unable to hold or read a telephone directory because of your sight loss or other disability, you can sign up to the 195 service which also offers a free directory enquiries service.

Do you use any of the 118 services? Let us know in the Comments.

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