/ Technology

If you want a cheap bill, who you gonna call? Not 118

118 118

If you’re looking for a phone number, you may be tempted to call directory enquiries. Although these heavily advertised 118 services can be useful, they could leave you with a hefty bill…

Calling 118 numbers is much more expensive since we last investigated in 2009. Back then it cost just £1.08 a minute to call 118 118 or 118 500 from a BT landline.

It now costs at least £4.45 to call these 118 numbers from most landlines, with every additional minute costing a further £2.46.

Charges are even higher for mobile phone users, who can end up with an incredible £10 bill for a 61-second call.

The 118 rip-off

Perhaps you think that’s pricey enough? However, you can expect much more if you let the service connect you to your chosen number. That’s because you’ll keep paying the premium rate for the entire length of the call.

One Which? member told us that they’d had to pay £27 on three separate occasions for calls he’d made from his mobile phone. He’d asked the 118 provider to connect the calls for him, which was especially infuriating as they would’ve been covered by the free minutes in his phone package had he dialled them himself.

Clearer prices for directory enquiries

Although providers have to include pricing information in their promotional activities, they don’t have to tell you when you call up unless you opt to be connected to your requested number. Even then it’s not always clear how much you’ll pay, and it’s easy to see why so many people end up with horrendous bills.

In the summer Ofcom will introduce a new system to make prices of 118 services clearer, which will make it easier to shop around. But we don’t think it goes far enough. We want providers to do more to set out their costs when you call, and then let you end the call without charge if you are not happy.

Avoiding high 118 costs

In the meantime always search online for phone numbers if at all possible. If you have to use directory enquiries then opt for a cheaper service. Some of the phone providers offer their own directory enquiry numbers. Even 118 118 and 118 500 run cheaper alternatives that offer a more basic service. Oh, and never agree to have the call connected for you.

If you’ve been hit by high charges for using 118 services, or have thoughts on what can be done to stop others being affected, tell us in the comments below.

angela says:
2 August 2017

My broadband was down so dialled 118118 to get sky phonenumber was on phone fpr 1min6sec they said cost of callwould be £4.70 which I thought was terrible? Just looked at phonebill on sky & I was charged £11.72..How do they get away with this? Can I get in touch with 118118 to query the cost?Without being charged yet again or is there another number anyone know pls? …ty

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Just been ripped off by 118118 for £9.10 for a 7 second call. Sky were also complacent in that it doesn’t offer a 1## call barring facility. This is more than a premium rate call I think so just as they have 09 call barring they should offer 1 prefix call barring….not interested…a matter for
OFCOM also seem impotent in this matter as does advertising standards as I’ve never noticed the rip off call charging on tv as one does with for example Rip off loan nterest rates. 1000% +
I shan’t be using sky or 118 ever again. Legalised theft is becoming rife. …what is society coming to.

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Richard says:
22 August 2017

As a pensioner, I try to save money so i use Vonage (Voice Over Internet Protocol or VOIP) to make calls using my Broadbanc connection, My wife rang 118118. It cost £10.57 each for two one minut calls and £17.74 for a three minute call (July & August 2017). I have now stored 0800 118 3733 in the handset’s phonebook, which are free calls. She will have to listen to the adverts as a form of retribution!

stephen kennedy says:
6 September 2017

Rang 118 118 to get a number for Santander Bank, They provided a phone no, which had ceased being used, O rang them back, got a second number which just rang out, rang again for another branch tel no.
£ calls lasting a few seconds each, cost £34

I usually look up such numbers on-line rather than use a directory service. On the rare occasions when a person’s number was not available on-line I have used BT’s 118 500 service which has always been very fast and reliable. I don’t allow them to put me through because they charge extra for that.

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A very useful site is:

Typing santander into the Company Name gives a long list of free and landline numbers.

These numbers won’t always work as they are entered by the public when they find an elusive number but they are definitely worth a go. Some companies don’t want you to have free or cheap numbers and frequently change them.

If a number doesn’t work or you find one of the unverified numbers lower down in the light blue section does work, you can report it at Contact Us and select Correct/Incorrect Number Report from the drop-down selection.

118 has been a rip off ever since it started I have never used it or thought about using it There are other cheaper ways of finding phone numbers I would rather listen to adverts than pay a fortune for a few seconds of 118 I pay for nothing if I can get it free elsewhere I would rather walk some distance than pay to park my car mean B*****d maybe but a sensible one

john youngman says:
26 September 2017

Yes I too got ripped off , this afternoon I switched on my Talk Talk mobile to a txt from them saying my account had been suspended because I’d gone over my call limit, I had no idea until I contacted them that the cause of this was down to making a 2.45 call to 118118 I had absolutely no idea that I’d be charged a whopping £17.50 taking me way over my limit & the only way I could continue my mobile service was to pay them there and then over the phone, I’m surprised I’ve not seen them on BBC1 /watchdog if I had I’d of been pre-warned.
The fact that 118118 is all over the ITV2 Film Sponsorship It’s beyond me why they haven’t been drop.

I thought premium rate meant £1.50 per minute perhaps how can they justify charging virtually £6.00 per minute that’s disgusting!!

Dave Webster says:
28 September 2017

i tried to find a number on Yell.com but wasnt on there so i called 118 118 they told me the company had changed there name and told me the new number then asked if they would like them to put me through i said yes. i was never told that them putting me through would cost me the same rate as it cost to call them i later looked at my call log and it said i was charged for 10 mins 12 seconds at a cost of £50 how do they get away with this they never once told me about the rate of my call after they had put me through its a big rip off

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Michael Powers says:
11 November 2017

ive just had my bt bill and have been charged £9 for 2min call to 118500, im fuming at it, !!!!

Jade says:
4 January 2018

I think we should just call 118 250 it is just way cheaper and better service.

Adriana says:
6 March 2018

On 26 February I called 118118 asking for a locksmith number.

My elderly neighbour had locked himself out, it was snowing and very cold. I had to go teaching and couldn’t leave him alone in my house as he has dementia. I called the firemen to see if they could help and they told me to call a locksmith; I had no locksmith number and the only number that came to my head was 118118 because of ads I had seen.

I had always thought it was a public number (I never make these kind of calls, so I was not updated). I had no idea of the disproportionate amounts of money that they charge per minute. I have received now a bill in which that call is costing me over £23 and it appears as a call for a personal loan, which it was not.

I can’t understand why or on what pretense these people can rip callers off such a huge amount of money for giving us a telephone number. It amounts to something very much like theft. I consider their charges immoral, catching people unawares in an emergency. They should inform the caller what the cost will be and give them the chance to refuse to connect if they find the cost too high. I have seen other comments here and I’m astounded that this is considered legal and is not regulated. It is theft, quite clearly.

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peter says:
11 March 2018

Phoned 118500 last week and horrified to get a bill of £10.60 despite the operator being unable to find a number for me. No mention of charges beforehand. Also rang up this morning to get call charges explained, and it transpires that I will also be charged £2.65!! After haggling with BT chatline have got a £10/- refund. It really is a disasterous system. The idea of splitting directory enquiries was to make it more competitive, and thus cheaper. Yeh.

John Ingle says:
9 October 2018

Away from home, I asked 118118 for a number using my mobile phone. It cost £13+. it turned out it was ex-directory so no number.

David Colyer says:
12 August 2019

Aren’t they supposed to tell you there’s an extra charge of £X if they connect you to the number?

In olden days, we used to look numbers up in the Telephone Directory or in Yellow Pages. These days, I seldom ever use resources like that, instead I tend to use internet searches. I can do those from my PC and from my smartphone, so I cannot ever remember having used 118118.

I checked that my name appeared in the phone book after moving home in 2016 but have not used any directory for at least five years. I take off the plastic wrapping and put them in the recycling bin. Maybe we can opt out of having them delivered, so they are delivered only to those who use them. Another directory arrived yesterday…

I have never used any of the 118 numbers.

Yellow Pages no longer produce a print edition and it is some time since I saw a Thomson Local directory. We still get a BT directory but it is very thin now as so many people no longer have a landline or have gone ex-directory. This change is making telephone and on-line directory enquiry services less and less useful.

We no longer have any directories in the house as we gave them to a friend who wanted to do some flower pressing and found them to be the ideal shape and form. Out of refuse comes forth utility.