Monday, April 1st, 2019 (7:52 am) – Score 7
Surprisingly around a million people in the UK still use premium 118 Directory Enquiries numbers (e.g. elderly users). Last year Ofcom took action to stamp out excessive charges for such numbers, which had seen some operators charging £20 for a 90 second call. But from today such costs will be capped.
The internet and modern AI powered smart assistants (e.g. Amazon’s Echo) have largely killed off the need for old fashioned 118 calls but many people still use them, although the total number of calls continues to fall by around 40% every year. Nevertheless Ofcom’s research estimated that each year around 450,000 people were paying a combined total of £2.4m more than they expected for these calls, with some struggling to pay their bills.
In response the telecoms regulator decided to step in and tackle the most excessive charges by capping the maximum cost a 118 service can charge at £3.65 per 90 seconds. “This will bring prices back to the levels they were at in 2012, and closer to what people have told us they expect to pay for using these services,” said Ofcom. The cap will be enforced from today.
Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy, said:
“Directory enquiry prices had been rising in recent years, and callers were paying much more than they expected. Our evidence shows this was hurting people, with some struggling to pay their bills.
We’ve taken action to protect callers by capping 118 prices. This will significantly cut the cost of many calls, and bring them back to 2012 levels.”
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