As posted on Ofcom to probe high cost of directory enquiry calls

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Telecoms regulator Ofcom says it is “very concerned” about the rising cost of calling directory enquiries and plans to examine the situation.

One popular enquiry service – 118 118 – recently increased its prices to a minimum of £8.98.

But Ofcom says some firms charge even more than that – up to £10.50 a call.

In a previous enquiry the watchdog decided against imposing a price cap on such charges, but it could now review that decision.

Operators charge a flat-rate connection fee, which Ofcom says is “typically up to £7”.

There is then a per-minute charge of up to £3.50. However, Ofcom says some providers “may charge significantly more”.

In addition, there is an access charge of up to 50p a minute from the telecoms operator.

“Ofcom is very concerned about the rising prices of some 118 numbers, and we are already planning to review this market to ensure prices are transparent and fair to consumers,” an Ofcom spokesperson said.

It said it would announce further details soon.

£150 bill

Some 118 services are much cheaper. Verizon UK charges a flat rate of 35p a call.

Many services are actually free on the internet.

However, Citizens Advice said the current system leaves elderly people particularly vulnerable to high call charges.

It said one client had called them after receiving a £150 bill for calling a 118 number.

“Often it is unclear just how expensive a call can be,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“Elderly people who aren’t confident using the internet are most at risk of shock 118 bills because they use these services to find information instead.”