118 Rip-Off Merchants Bring Pricing Cap Down on Their Own Heads

By Gary Cutlack on at

Young people like us* have no need for directory enquiry services any more, since we can jack into the nearest available screen and search for anything our minds can desire, then usually have it delivered on a bike within the hour. But older folk, who may not even have a terrible Samsung smartphone from 2011 to call upon for help, still phone the UK's many 118 directory enquiry services when looking for a plumber or a number to contact the satellite dish man; and they've been quietly getting seriously ripped off.

Ripped off to the tune of as much as the £19.98 charged to make a 90-second call to the 118 004 enquiry services offered by Telecom2 these days, with even the formerly trustworthy national TV advert meme superstars of 118 118 asking for a staggering £11.23 for the average 90-second information request. And people don't shop around when it comes to directory services, using only the ones that they can still remember from their massive TV advertising campaigns in the early 2000s, when BT lost its monopoly on running telephone number helplines and loads of 118s cropped up.

This shameless cost escalation masks some good news, though -- the fun's coming to an end for these shameless exploiters of the elderly. Call volumes to such services have been falling by as much as 40 per cent each year anyway as people realise they can look up stuff for free on their telephones and even grandad's convinced himself he needs an iPhone XR in order to be seen as a better person now, and communications regulator Ofcom is in the late stages of introducing a price cap of £3.65 per call.

There are still some non-exploitative directory services out there today, though, as the likes of the Post Office and its 118 855 service currently only charge £1 per 90-second request. That's what happens when you have a unmemorable number like 118 855. The price cap for the more expensive providers kicks in next April. [Ofcom via BBC]

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