Calls to the 118 118 directory enquiry service now cost a minimum of almost £9 - DOUBLE the price from just two years ago.
In June 2015, MoneySavingExpert.com found that 118 118 call costs from a landline were a minimum of £4.50 made up of £1.88 per call plus £2.57 per minute (minimum 60 second charge).
Now the firm’s product information states that “calls to 118 118 cost £4.49 per call plus £4.49 per minute”.
And this is just for the service charge. You will also pay an access charge per minute by your phone provider that bills you for your calls.
So, a call will cost a minimum of £8.98 before you even begin talking to the person at the end of the line for the number you are accessing - and if you go to be connected directly to the number from the 118 service and make a lengthy call, it'll be even pricier.
A three-minute long call to 118 118 now costs around £18.32 from a landline or £19.61 from a mobile.
The Sun reports that “anyone asking for the number of their GP, for example, would be billed more than £140 if kept holding for half an hour".
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A service that was supposed to promote competition and cut prices
Today's near-£9 minimum charge is more than 20 times the cost of the 40p BT 192 number that was used for this purpose in 2003, when 118 numbers were introduced by then regulator Oftel to increase competition and cut prices for consumers.
Other suppliers of the 118 118 service including BT themselves, Yell and Maureen all charge at least £5.50 for a 45-second call.
In 2014, the regulator, Ofcom, fined 118 118 £80,000 for not clearly explaining the costs to users. This led to the separation of service charges and access charges, so customers can clearly see how the bill is made up. However, it has not made the calls cheaper.
The service is predominantly used by older people or consumers who don’t have access to the internet and consumer groups have slammed the prices saying the elderly are being targeted because they are not comfortable using the internet to find numbers, which can be done for free.
However, 118 118 also offers a much cheaper version of the service called 118 811. It is a slower, simplified and lower cost version of 118 118’s directory service. Calls to 118 811 cost £1 per call plus your telephone company’s network access charge.
What can you do to cut costs?
- Use the internet to look up numbers and then call from your own phone using your own price plan.
- If you have no option but to use one of the 118 services, just get the number and make sure you are not connected by the 118 provider to that number. Call it separately.
- Use The Number – 0800 1183733. This provides the same service for free. The only snag is you’ll have to listen to a pre-recorded advert.
- If you are visually-impaired and can’t use a phone book you can call BT directory enquiries on 195 for free to get the same service.
- Use the MSE guide to cheap home phone costs
We contacted 118 118.com to ask about the rise in prices but they have yet to respond - and will update this story when they do.