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.